sports

10 Things I Love About Football Season

A very well-known fact about my family is that we love sports. (See here and here and here) Not only do we have shirts, jerseys and hats of our favorite teams—and that’s just for our dogs—we are constantly watching or attending or talking about any game we can get our eyes and/or ears on.

For the last few months, our attention has mostly been on baseball, as our team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, have been inducing casual bouts of extreme anxiety in our lives as they try to secure a spot in the playoffs. Yesterday, however, football made its grand return to television, and we are HERE. FOR. IT.

So, in honor of the NFL being BOT (you know, “back on television”) I decided to list some of my favorite parts about football season. It’s truly a wild ride, and I’ve already buckled my seat belt.

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1) Lazy Sundays

Aside from one on Thursday and two on Monday, every other football game is played on Sundays. This means that each week, starting at 10:00 a.m., football is on all day on multiple channels. So basically, once football season starts, every Sunday is pretty much booked. And by booked, I mean full of sweatpants and couches and “accidental” naps during the 1:00 p.m. game—unless of course the New York Giants (our favorite team) are playing at that time, in which case naps come into play right before the 5:00 p.m. game.

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2) Carrie Underwood

I don’t care what anyone says about Carrie Underwood’s Sunday Night Football theme song. I also don’t care that it’s slightly cringy and corny and fully of over the top graphics and multimillion dollar athletes walking around in slow motion. The song is just plain catchy, and it’s the perfect way to both solidify the delirium you’ve slipped into over the last seven hours of football, and give you the fuel you need to finish off the last three. Plus, Carrie’s legs will forever be #goals.

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3) The Introductions

After Carrie sings her heart out and more than a few superstars have waved at green screened crowds of screaming fans, the camera cuts to the field, where we see two teams warming up, talking, and often walking around in beanies and jackets that are comically large, both to account for all of the padding the football players have on, and to keep them from turning into popsicles when it’s -2 degrees with wind chill in Green Bay. Then, after the kickoff, we are introduced to these men one by one, in a series of five second video packages that pop up in the corner of the screen. Each player is little more than a floating head with statistics and fun facts surrounding them, and they smile or grimace or look totally and completely lost as they say their name and the college they attended. Oftentimes I’ll quiet the entire living room to ensure I can hear them.

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4) 4th and Inches

This is arguably my favorite part of football all together, as it’s both exciting, nerve wracking, and hilarious. If you’re not a football fan, this phrase is used to describe a point in the game when a team is essentially given their final chance to move the ball over a designated line, and they are so close to it that it can no longer be noted in yards and must instead be measured in INCHES. Whenever this pops up on the screen, I make sure to announce it so that everyone watching the game can fully grasp the INTENSITY. Then we watch the men slam into each other and sometimes the ball crosses the line and other times things get thrown at the TV.

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5) Nervous Whispering

Speaking of things being thrown at the TV. My mom and I spend a good amount of football season huddled next to each other on the couch, whispering back and forth (often about dinner, or a movie we recently watched or which player has longer, skinnier, legs than us) as my dad and sister scream angrily at the television. The two of them are far more die hard than us, and have often been known to hurl a variety of expletives at the television and, especially after a loss, sit quiet and frustrated for long periods of time after the game.

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6) Trying to Understand Encroachment

Even though I love football and football season as a whole, I would never consider myself an expert by any means. There are still rules I don’t quite understand and many instances when I have to ask my dad and sister questions about what is going on. For example: encroachment. It’s defined as “a penalty in which a defensive player is positioned in the neutral zone at the start of a play.” Which, you know, sure. That makes sense, I guess. But when it comes to watching the game and actually being able to notice when that happens—yeah, no. So, most of the time when I see a penalty called and it’s not one I can otherwise identify, I just yell out “encroachment!” figuring I’ll occasionally be right. As of now, I think my right to wrong ratio is about 2/40, but hey, that’s better than nothing.

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7) Talking to the Coaches

While I’m not one to usually yell at the television during football season—I reserve most of my lung capacity for baseball and hockey—I still do my share of talking. For example, when a coach throws down a challenge flag that I think was a bad idea, I’ll make sure to the let them know—from my couch—informing them that the ball was in fact secured or the player did in fact keep both feet in bounds. I just want to let them know that, according to me, they’re making a terrible decision.  I’m a helper like that.

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8) Talking to the Players

I also like to talk to the players. Mostly it’s in a positive manner, saying things like, “nice one” or “good for you” or “great try.” But I also throw in the occasional “get up, you’re fine” or “stop complaining” or “does he have any idea what he’s doing?!” These comments are often given in between bites of ordered in Mexican food, which I definitely think adds to their credibility.

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9) The Rivalries

If you watch enough football to claim a team as your favorite, it is your civic duty to also claim their rivals. As a Giants fan, our main rivals are the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. We also aren’t fans of the Redskins and have a thing with the Patriots (and by thing, I mean continually beating them in the Super Bowl) and then Chargers fans also don’t really dig us because of drama with our quarterback, Eli Manning, way back when. But you get the point. Since we’ve dubbed the Giants our favorite team, we are physiologically inclined to roll our eyes, stick our tongues out, enlist figurative hexes upon, and just plain dislike teams that are considered our rivals, as well as hold grudges against their fans, even if we’ve never met them, or have no real reason to dislike them otherwise. To be fair though, we expect them to give us as much disdain in return…at least until the season is over.

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10) The Anticipation

Like any other sport, football is chock-full of moments of anticipation and anxiety. There’s the Hail Mary passes that you watch fly through the air, wondering, hoping that they will find the right hands on the other end of the field. There’s the field goal formation taken on a zero-ed out clock, putting all the pressure on the kicker to win the game. There’s the floundering quarterback with eyes darting around the field for an open man as opposing defensemen charge wildly looking for a sack. There are the onside kicks with less than a minute to go, the deflected passes that threaten a turnover, the fumbles that turn into a dog piles, and the running plays that make you jump up and down in hopes that it can make your man move faster. To put it plainly, football is exciting and terrifying and heartbreaking. It’s also stressful and infuriating and for some, seemingly life shortening. But at the end of the day, football is just, well, football, and I’m happy it’s back!

Go Giants!

Thank You, Dodgers. Thank You, Baseball.

When I was little my grandparents had season tickets to Dodger Stadium. There were four tickets, two for my grandma and grandpa, and then two for the lucky duo they brought with them. Oftentimes I went with my cousin, Spenser, or my sister, Natalee. Other times the tickets were given to my parents and my whole family would go.

We’d always get there early to watch batting practice, and then we’d grab a Dodger Dog right before game time so it could digest before we got chocolate malts in the 6th inning. I loved sitting next to my grandma and keeping score inside the program and always tried to catch the beach balls bouncing around the crowd so I could hand them off to our favorite usher, Ilene, to make her job a little easier. The sounds of the stadium, of Vinny, of Nancy Bea on the organ, all became lyrics to a song I could sing in my sleep.

As I grew up, my grandparents eventually gave up the season tickets, but this did little to lessen my passion for the game or the team I grew up watching. If anything, it deepened. With a better sense of baseball and all it entailed, I started to really get to know the boys in blue, no matter what variety a season would present them in. I began keeping track of stats, giving commentary on recommended lineups, and most importantly, dreaming of the World Series.

In my 27 years as a Dodger fan, there have been many seasons when I’ve had that feeling. The one that keeps quiet in public, but at home whispers, maybe. Maybe this is the year. Maybe this is the team. But year after year, at some point that maybe would turn into a no. It always hurt, but come April, the hurt was always replaced by possibility, by a new maybe.

This year, I got that feeling. Even at the first night game I attended in April, I felt like there was something special about this team. That night I scanned my ticket and grabbed a Dodger Dog and a beer and took my seat, anxious for another April, hopeful for another October. Six months later, I was scanning another ticket, taking another seat, and ordering another Dodger Dog, but this time it was Game 6 of the World Series.

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For weeks I had rushed home from work and drove over to my parents’ house to watch the Dodgers climb their way to the Fall Classic, and suddenly I was there, in the flesh. My sister and I walked up the stairs in a sea of blue. Friends and family hugged and strangers high fived and everyone smiled in anxious anticipation.

When we won the game 4 hours later, the stadium erupted. Friends and family and neighbors and strangers and hugged and high fived and cheered and teared up. The crowd moved in waves of blue and white, singing and chanting and smiling. I thought of my grandma and grandpa and the first game I could remember attending and I felt that same feeling of pure magic.

The next day, as I sat on my parents’ couch, watching the last few outs of Game 7 tick off the scoreboard, submitting my Dodgers to a season just shy of the ultimate finish line, I tried my best to remain solely heartbroken. The loss hurt, but there was something else stirring inside me that I couldn’t quite shake.

As I watched the sea of blue and white (and orange) file up the rows and out to the parking lot, I saw families and friends like mine feeling the same heartbreak we felt in our living room. And suddenly I realized how many other living rooms and bars and hotel lobbies and restaurants held other families and friends either mourning or celebrating. This game, these teams, my team, had brought us all together. And with all the bad going on in the world, we were able to find something to root for.

When my sister and I stepped inside the gates for Game 6, I felt the weight of where we were, but in many ways felt the same way I always do when I walk up the stairs to Blue Heaven: at home. I heard the same sounds, smelled the same smells and looked down at the same view.

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After Game 7, when the confetti started flying and it wasn’t the color I was hoping for, my stomach sank. After the most exciting season of my life, this year’s maybe had officially turned into a no.

When I got home that night, I got a text from a friend, “see you next season.” And even though the wound was still fresh, I couldn’t help but smile. “Always,” I thought, “there’s always next season.” And I know come April I’ll be there, with a ticket, a Dodger Dog, and a maybe.

When Your Brother Plays Lacrosse…

I have a very sports oriented family. We’ve all played a sport, and we all love getting together to watch sports. Any sport. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, soccer, golf, you name it.

“Lacrosse.”

What?

“Lacrosse,” my brother, Troy, said after school one day, “I’m going to try out for the lacrosse team.”

Oh.

My mom, dad, sister, and I exchanged a glance and shrugged our shoulders. “Okay, lacrosse it is. We know lacrosse.”

We didn’t know lacrosse.

Watching Troy’s first few games, I felt like someone walking into a mall on Black Friday for the first time. Wow, I thought, this seems chaotic. And complicated. And violent. I love it.

But even after we found ourselves glued to the “this is Sparta-esque” charging and slicing and dodging, we still had absolutely no concept of what the rules were. As a result, my family and I often yelled inappropriate (and by inappropriate, I mean probably undoubtedly frowned upon) things from the sidelines.

Some too innocent: “Hey, don’t do that!”

Some too violent: “Chop his damn legs off!”

And some Troy (understandably) vetoed: “Poke him with your stick!”

Over time however, we’ve learned (most of) the rules and have spent long days sitting on turf in fold up chairs, fully capable of having discussions about different calls or strategies, while still remaining fully invested in, and attracted to the violence. (TBD on whether you should be worried)

My brother’s school season is set to start up again next week, and though it is still a relatively new sport to the west coast, it’s growing fast. So, if you are someone like me, who likes to have all the knowledge about all the things, here are 5 things I’ve learned, both about the game and about myself as a fan:

 

1) Lacrosse is essentially the love child of field hockey, football, soccer and aggressive butterfly catching.

Pro tip to get your kids training early:

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2) Girls lacrosse is non-contact.

Which is a bummer, but would have come as a relief if I ever played, because I know myself well enough to be sure that the second an opposing player rammed into me in an attempt to get the ball, I’d undoubtedly go into self-defense mode and probably be dragged off the field for “unnecessary roughness” or “attempted murder.”

 

3) The necessary hand-eye coordination is real.

I played softball for 7 years, but the moment I tried to play catch with my brother using his lacrosse sticks, this became a moot point, and remains one to this day. I’ve honestly never felt less coordinated in my life than when I try to toss a lacrosse ball two feet in the air and then catch it. I always end up feeling like…you know those chefs who cook in front of you in Japanese restaurants and can crack eggs on the side of their spatula? Yeah, I feel like one of them, if they showed up to work completely and totally hammered. (Or you know, what I look like dead sober trying to do any of those tricks.)

 

4) There is more to the equipment than meets the eye.warrior-lacrosse-complete-stick-evo-universal-color-chartIn short, I look at my brother’s lacrosse stick the way he looks at one of my makeup brushes. It seems good enough to do its job and could probably make a great substitute microphone if the right song came on. On the reverse side of that, my brother looks at his stick the way I look at waffles. Honestly, I think he would 100% consider trading me in for a new stick, head, or pair of gloves if the opportunity arose. (As I would him for an authentic Belgian waffle) (Just kidding, Troy) (Kind of)

 

5) Bucket hats are the new black.

My brother and I went to the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) All-Star Game last year, and upon arriving, I quickly noticed and awed over the intense amount of bucket hats worn by the fans. It’s not that I have anything against bucket hats, I just feel like, you know, I missed the mark on popular lacrosse fashion. Had my baseball hat at a lacrosse game been the equivalent of a guy wearing shoes at the beach? Again, TBD. Though if my brother plays in college, I’m totally buying one, because history proves I can ROCK one:

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A true style icon.

 

Oh, and one more thing, “lacrosse” is often abbreviated to LAX, like in laxative, which works, because it moves quick…

 

…Come on, Troy, that was a good one.