The Yearly Football Post

Today is the most important holiday in the state of Alabama.*

College football officially started Thursday (and all the world rejoiced), but the Crimson Tide plays their first game today. Grocery stores have chicken wings on sale, men are re-organizing their closets by color (so that the crimson shirts are more easily accessible), and women are showing their newly houndstoothed** toenails off on Facebook.

In our house, this day rivals Christmas (which is a big, big deal for my husband). He has been gearing up for this for weeks… however many weeks it has been since Alabama’s last game, in fact.

If you live in the south, care at all about sports, OR spend more than 36 seconds watching ESPN each day, you know that the SEC network was launched recently. THAT day was, to Jonathan, like Christmas, his birthday, and a bowl of ice cream all rolled up in a circus burrito. We*** have spent hours in the past week watching Tim Tebow, Greg What’s-His-Face, and their buddies scrutinize every coach, every quarterback, and every blade of grass in SEC territory.

Judah has been groomed for this day for months now… and he is only 6 weeks old. He was learning the fight song while still in the womb. He was watching hype videos to soothe him at 2 weeks old. And he’s been educated on the magic of College Gameday.

In the last few years, I have learned to appreciate college football (and it’s coverage), to an extent. I enjoy watching Alabama play, though sitting still through an entire game is still asking A LOT. I enjoy following the interesting storylines of certain players (it’s amazing, the level of like or dislike you can feel for someone that you don’t know at all in real life). I have a fondness for Paul Finebaum. I spent some time a couple of weeks ago trying to explain to my mother why watching a radio show about football on TV can actually be amusing (I think she was aghast that I was capable of having such an opinion). And if I ever got the opportunity to meet Kirk Herbstreit, I would look like this:

BUT. I will never have a love for football like my husband does. Most recently Jonathan has been preparing for a fantasy football draft. I know less than nothing about fantasy football, partly because it has to do with a whole other beast called the NFL. I know that in our house, we like the Saints, and that is all I know. My understanding of fantasy football drafts was that you pick a couple of players, keep track of how they do in real life, and if you win, awesome. If you don’t, sad.

“Preparation” had no part of it in my mind. I was so wrong. I did not know that you can spend hours sitting at the computer waiting for it to beep at you so that you can quickly make a life-altering decision about which tight end to select. I did not know that magazines have entire articles devoted to fantasy football drafting techniques. I did not know there were fantasy football drafting techniques. I did not know that there are whole TV shows where people sit around and talk about how, who, or why to draft (which Jonathan watches intently while muttering “mmhmm,” “oh yes,” or “no way” like an old lady in church). The decision about whether to draft a good running back or a good quarterback first is a decision that must be properly agonized over, for it can make or break your team and therefore your life.

Last night men came to our house. They sat at our table and ate chips and drank drinks and stared at their beeping computers and asked “so what do we think of (insert name here)?” I tried to watch and learn, and here are my observations:
I learned that a “sleeper” is not necessarily what I dress Judah in at night.
I learned that there is a man named Megatron (you can’t imagine my relief when I discovered that that isn’t the name on his birth certificate).
I learned something about someone running the ball a lot and injuries and rain.

And I concluded that while I like the game of football 1,367% more than the game of basketball, March Madness is 439% more fun than fantasy football.


*I stand corrected. After proofreading this for me (because I can never remember if “running back” is one word or two), Jonathan reminded me that the Iron Bowl is actually the most important holiday. Today is #2.

**Yes, that is a real word in the south.

***”We” means that Jonathan watches while I either listen from the kitchen (where I am baking something involving peanut butter or basil), sleeping on the couch beside him, or reading a book.


A shocking approach to bracketology.

Out of all the sports in the world, I probably know or care about basketball the least.
Well, that’s not all true. I know less about lacrosse and care less about golf.

What I do know is this: every year, something called “March Madness” happens. The finale of it actually occurs in April, which confounds me every time I think about it. There are a lot of basketball games involved, and people fill out brackets and then compare their brackets and then wig out when one team loses and ruins their bracket.

Last year, I dipped my toe into the bracket frenzy. I filled one out. And I did alright… all the way through the Sweet Sixteen, after which I got bored. Somewhere between the Final Four and the actual championship game, J sat me down and said, “we have to catch this up… now!” He then attacked my paper with a pen, drawing slashes through names and circling other ones like a madman. I sat beside him and smiled and nodded (as I do so often now when sports are involved), and then jumped up and went to do something more interesting.

This year, I decided that since our TV will be constantly turned to basketball games for the next couple of weeks, I might as well stick my whole foot into the water.
I would fill out a bracket, and put effort into it!

So, J printed our brackets out. He brought them home. We sat down at the kitchen table, and I began using my highly scientific approach to filling out my very own personal winning bracket.

“J, what is this team’s mascot?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s the Wichita State Shockers… playing the VCU Rams.”
“Shockers” was by far the coolest name. So they went on my bracket.

“J, where is Gonzaga?”
“On the west coast somewhere.”
Who cares? Gonzaga sounds like a far cooler place than West Virginia. They won, in my book.

I’ve been to Louisville, and I like it a lot. They definitely beat Davidson.
Marquette is a really cool name… it sounds like a really fancy dessert. I wrote them down.
Georgetown Hoyas? What on earth is a Hoya? I looked it up. Their mascot seems to be a bulldog. I pointed out how illogical this is.

“Well,” said J, “The Ole Miss Rebels have a bear for a mascot.”
“And the Alabama Crimson Tide has an elephant,” I reasoned.
“Exactly!” he said. “And they all have stories behind them, I’m sure. Except the rebel-bear thing. There’s not a story there. And Auburn has both an eagle and a tiger. I don’t know what’s going on with that.”

The Hoyas went on my bracket.

I worked my way through it steadily, asking J’s opinion occasionally on who he thought would win a match-up… so he could feel included, of course.

“You’re lucky,” he told me. “You can just fill out the bracket and not even care about who wins. You don’t know stuff about basketball already, so you don’t have any previous knowledge to affect your decisions. It’s much less stressful for you than it is for me.”

J has been updating me all day on how my bracket is looking so far. “You’re doing alright,” he told me. “But the rams beat your shockers.”
I was aghast. “Why didn’t they just shock them to death?” I asked. “That’s what I was counting on.”
He looked at me like I’d grown a third arm.

As of now, I have lost about 8 of my games. I don’t know if that’s good or bad… I don’t know which games they were, or when they were played today, or what the scores were. I do know that J said my bracket stinks… but he also said his bracket stinks. He may just be trying to psych me out… he can’t accept that I am far more knowledgeable about bracketology (I don’t care what says, bracketology is a word). I can’t blame him, really. It must be hard to have your thunder stolen out from under you like that.

*EDIT: J just informed me that I have actually only lost three games. My system has just proven even more effective than even I knew!

Touchdowns are sweeter with chocolate.

My Grandpa Miller used to say that the rules of football were simple: all the guys went out on the field, smelled each other’s butts, and then tackled whoever smelled the worst. (excuse my language).

I grew up in a bubble where football did not really exist. It was just a passing thought, and even that only when someone else mentioned it. I was vaguely aware that the game existed, that it was on TV every Fall, and that people held something called “Super Bowl Parties” once a year where you could see good TV commercials and eat lots of food.

And then I met Jonathan.

We met in a Public Speaking class, and one of his first speeches was about Alabama Football. You’d think I would have clued in then… he was a little bit passionate about it. As we got to be friends, I realized that he was VERY passionate about it.

And then we started dating.

And I realized that he was VERY, very, extraordinarily passionate about it. I watched a few games with him, trying very hard to understand. I would watch everyone around me and just get excited when they got excited, and get upset when they got upset. It was a decent strategy. Things were going pretty smoothly, until I committed the ultimate crime and fell asleep during the 2010 Iron Bowl. After that, it was go big or go home, and I had to start caring.

And then we got married.

And he wore a houndstooth vest for our wedding, and people shook Alabama pom-poms as we left and yelled “Roll Tide.”

And now I really know how deeply this passion runs.

The good thing about it is that he is very willing to teach me about it. I don’t like not understanding things- especially things that I am around a lot. J is very patient in explaining various aspects of the game to me. His dad once told me, “If you really want to learn the game, you have to listen to it on the radio. Once you can just hear the game and understand what’s going on, then you can really appreciate watching it.” So, I tried to take advantage of the many games we listened to on the radio while driving to Alaska. I asked a lot of questions, and got a lot of answers. I asked a lot of the same questions twice, actually… for some reason, I struggled with converting the new information into long-term memory.

When we first got up here, we spent several afternoons in the yard with a ball, acting out different plays so that I could understand them better (I am a very kinesthetic learner). We have spent evenings covering papers in x’s and o’s so that I could memorize different formations, and I have been quizzed extensively on the various positions. By now, I still know very little. But I DO know the difference between an “ace,” an “I,” and an “offset I” formation. I know that the “pocket” isn’t something on the quarterback’s pants. Also, I know that when the quarterback is in the “shotgun position,” it doesn’t mean he’s about to shoot someone, and a “blitz” doesn’t have anything to do with colorful, numbered playing cards (there’s the Mennonite in me!).

There is only one rule that prevails over this whole process: Do not ask questions during an Alabama football game.

I have just enough competitiveness in me that I can feel myself sinking into the mire of Crimson Tide Fan-dom… someone, save me please.
I still do not care enough to leap around the room and scream like a banshee, but I do squeak with excitement occasionally. At the very least, now I know WHEN to squeak with excitement.

So, that is why today I found myself leaving work early, coming home, and changing into my super warm pajama bottoms and my Alabama shirt (no, they do not match). I piled onto the couch with my yarn and crochet hook, a bowl of popcorn, and four Hershey’s Kisses. I settled in to watch the game, and I did just that… while J hopped around and yelled and said things that made perfect sense to him… but just sounded like a bunch of random words to me. Things like, “I would love for them to get Trent to do some runs and grab some strings along the bubble gum back space and put some new spheres with the drum!”
I smile and nod and say “me too!” and eat my popcorn.

Then, when we won, there was a lot of yelling and jumping around, and fist pumps and clapping and texting of other rabid Alabama fans. For Jonathan. I ate popcorn and finished a row on my Granny Stripes blanket. =)