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Hog heaven

September 27, 2010

I’ve always been a lousy football fan. I was the 12-year-old who sat next to Emmit Smith on a plane and asked if he liked the Cowboys. My high school didn’t have a football team, so I stood on the sidelines in the next town over to cheer for theirs (read: socialize) and watch my friends in the marching band (which my school also didn’t have). In college, I rarely lined up at Razorback stadium, preferring to listen to the game through an open window, where I could hear the important parts – that is, the only parts I understood: the cheers and hog-calls.

In grad school I made a new best friend, who loves football even more than my husband does. All season, we’d have watch parties every Saturday. I’d all but given up on understanding the quirks of the game (like why the clock is always running even when it looks like the game has stopped?), so I focused on the drinks and bean dip.

So, I’ve maintained a reputation for being impressively out of touch when it comes to football (Tonight, in trying to explain to me what a safety is, Don just called the other team “the bad guys.”).

But last week in Arkansas, between our rankings and Alabama’s, even I got it. All week, it’s all I heard about at work, in meetings, over lunches and dinners and checkout lines, at home and on the road. There was the buzz of excitement, worry and hope. On Friday, I could see the Goodyear Blimp from my office window. That night, we drove by the stadium to see the tents lining the sidewalks and the tailgaters lining parking lots, all getting ready for over-nighters. It was a happy excitement, full of eagerness and unknowns. We were hoping for an upset.

Even I was interested and a little bit nervous.

On Saturday, Jack put on his favorite Hog hat and a Razorback windbreaker and we went to the farmer’s market, where everyone else was decked out the same way. We watched the blimp circling the stadium, and we parked on a hill to see the U.S. Army Silver Wings parachute in, trailing red smoke. After kickoff, everyone left on the road drove with the windows down and communed with the radio broadcast and car horns and hands in the air (early touchdown!).

I’ll use these to replace, happily, my other memories of big Arkansas games, all of which were against Texas. That’s a scorching rivalry with its own gestures, T-shirts and license plates. An angrier kind of excitement grew to greet those matches. I heard “FUCK TEXAS!” as much as “Woo, Pig Sooie.” I stood in an hours-long line to get into a Texas game, and while waiting I saw some guys in red give the bird to an 80-something-year-old woman wearing a Longhorns sweatshirt.

Not so this weekend. Good thing, since we chose it to expose Jack to real football frenzy. He’s already a bit more literate in the F-bomb than I would like.

This Saturday, I was moved to listen to an entire football game for the first time in my life. We lost, but it was a good game. And that could be the first time I’ve ever really thought so.

Before this, my last transformative moment in sports competition was a hula-hoop contest at a sixth-grade lock-in (I won a Sony Walkman!). What about you? Do you spend your Saturdays glued to the game?

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 27, 2010 1:08 pm

    I’ll admit that I’m a fair weather fan. If the Hogs are doing well, I pay attention, otherwise I don’t. Except for the Hogs when they are doing well and, on occasion, the Super Bowl, I do not watch football. Same thing for basketball, except that, for that, I don’t watch the professional championship game. And that’s about the only sports I watch, other than the Olympics.

    I love this weather!

    • September 28, 2010 2:42 am

      I’m with you as a fair weather fan, Mike, in both respects. It takes quite a tremor to turn my interest to football, even here at home. Last weekend, between Fayetteville’s nervous energy and the suddenly seasonal temps, I felt it.

  2. September 27, 2010 2:43 pm

    I love football!! But…only if my husband is watching with me. For me, football is about hanging with my husband. We laugh at the refs, scoff at the players, and poke fun at the announcers. Um, ok, that sounds so lame but its fun for us. : )

    P.S. Arkansas is one of the teams we watch on a regular basis.

  3. September 27, 2010 7:32 pm

    Huge sports fans over here. I didn’t grow up watching college football, but we’ve lived the past three years in solid college football territory so we’ve kind of caught the bug. (Suffice it to say, the folks in my neck of the woods would have appreciated y’all knocking off Alabama. Would have given us a mighty nice ranking.) 🙂

    • September 28, 2010 2:37 am

      I may not know what a safety is (though the “bad guys” part of the demonstration was really unnecessary!), but I know all about the underdog. One of the upsides to being one is that it gathers us passionate, if fleeting, fans from all over!

  4. September 27, 2010 7:38 pm

    I usually just catch the fever when my city’s involved in playoffs, so yes, admittedly, I’m a fairweather fan – and it has to be REALLY fair weather at that.

  5. September 29, 2010 1:50 pm

    You sat next to Emmitt Smith? Oh my goodness. I was born and raised in Dallas, TX and the Cowboys are my favorite team. I love to watch football on Sunday, as I am more an NFL kind of girl. My husband enjoys Saturday college football.

  6. September 30, 2010 4:56 am

    Man, I love college football. It’s the only time of the year where I really wish we had cable … so we could get ESPN’s 27 channels or whatever they’re up to now. And I’m an SEC girl, as you know, so the Arkansas-Alabama game was definitely on my radar. I’m not a big Nick Saban fan, though, so I sure would have loved seeing the Razorbacks win. Instead, I got to see the Hogs lose, the Horns (my adopted team) lose, and my beloved Dawgs lose. That was enough to make me reach for another rum and Coke (a tailgate staple in my neck of the woods). There’s always next Saturday …

  7. October 1, 2010 4:08 pm

    This post makes me chuckle. When we were away for our vacation, Jay and I had a conversation about football. I find it decidedly romantic…well, not exactly. But I am jealous of those who are big fans and spend every Sunday afternoon watching. It seems like such a relaxing and fun way to spend time together as family. So we decided we should try. Just like that. My husband isn’t a huge fan, but he did play when he was younger. And I picked a team out of thin air (NY Giants) and now we will watch Sunday football. Only we missed last weekend and well we haven’t done it yet. But we will! I think I must blog about this.

  8. October 1, 2010 7:50 pm

    Great post! I’ve never really ‘gotten’ football either. I blame the fact that girls never play, because I’m a huge sports fan in general and love getting in the game. (I have no idea what a safety is, but due to my kids playing soccer, I have mastered the ‘off sides’ rule.)

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