I have a secret. A secret that weighs on me each year around this time, and that only my close family and friends know about. And after all of these years, I am finally tired of running (or, let’s be honest, walking) away from it. I am not a football fan.
College. Pro. Canadian. I just don’t really care. I don’t know stats or standings and your Fantasy Football conversations may as well be in Esperanto.
I don’t begrudge anyone for their love of the sport, but my Dad did not watch football when I grew up so, consequently, I never watched or understood the game. Ninety percent of the football related programming that I watched in the ‘80s probably consisted of the Bears “Super Bowl Shuffle” video or secretly tuning in to HBO’s “First and Ten,” to hopefully catch a glimpse of some “Brief Nudity.” (For my Spanish-speaking readers, I am even less interested in Futbol.)
Since not liking football pretty much labels you as a nerd in our society, I have done my best to try to pass. When ensnared by a stranger into a conversation about football, I am generally able to string together enough overheard comments to get away unscathed. As long as there are absolutely no follow-up questions. I am like a chameleon, slowly adapting my survival skills. If things get too serious, like they did with a close call at Super Bowl party in 1999, I just tell people that I am from Saskatchewan and that I don’t know anything “aboot” American football.
My uneasy relationship with the sport began at an early age. As a husky child, I was frequently asked by friends of my father, barbers, and anyone else making awkward conversation with an 8-year-old if I was going to play football. I was asked so much that I just assumed that I would play when I reached high school, despite the fact that I had never thrown a football or learned the rules of the game. And the less said about my athletic cup purchase the better.
When I showed up for football try-outs the week before high school began, I quickly realized that I was not going to be hoisted triumphantly on anyone’s shoulders or given a nickname like The Big Mac Attack (at least not for reasons related to sports). While some of the other kids trying out were a good foot taller than me and already had a favorite shaving cream, my physique could generously be compared to a tube of uncooked Pillsbury crescent rolls.
The next three days consisted of three of my least favorite things: running, 90+ degree heat and more running. Considering the fact that my results in my grade school’s Presidential Fitness Challenge were just a few points shy of my parents receiving a letter of apology from Ronald Reagan, I should have probably realized that I had made a poor choice.
After getting called out by the coach for my neon colored Ocean Pacific board shorts (or, jams, to use the parlance of those times) and nearly hitting the assistant coach in the head with the football while his back was turned, it did not come as a huge shock when my name was called as one of the first kids cut from the team. And while the kid on the payphone (that really dates this story) next to me cried and cried, I could not have been more excited to call my brother to come pick me up. It stands as one of the happiest moments of life, right behind my wedding and this one time that Pantera’s forgot to charge me for my pizza.
In stark contrast to me, my wife (and her family) love football. So maybe going forward, I will have to become a fan. But until that time, I am going to have to try to continue faking my way through it. Quick, does anyone know if Dick Butkus is still playing?