I've been a fraud for so many years. Now, finally, I was facing the chance to remove that lable--I was going to my first football game.
I spent ten months in college working for the St. Louis Rams Internet Pro-shop. We were the official site for buying Rams Gear and could honestly say we were employed by a professional football team. All of us touted that with pride. Even me, who hates football, mostly because I don't understand it. I remember feeling excited about going to high school where I could go to football games and pep rallys on Friday nights, but the performing arts high school I went to didn't have a team. Can you imagine, dozens of violinists and ballet dancers out on a football field? We'd have been the joke of the century! Ok, no problem. There's always college. That would be more fun anyway--college football. Well, the Billikens were big in basketball--no football team.
I resigned myself to never knowing the sport and not really caring. I'd managed to make it through those ten months with the Rams, not knowing a single thing about football. Customers would call and rave about the game and I'd just express untrue remorse at having missed that one. Sigh!
But now, five years later, I finally had my chance! My father-in-law went to the Naval Academy, graduating in 1970. At the inaugural Pointsettia Bowl, the Midshipmen were playing the Colorado State Rams. Naturally, we had to go and cheer on the home team (though I'm not sure which side was really the home team--the game was played in San Diego and the Midshipmen were from Maryland).
When he asked Nick and me if we wanted to go, I said sure! What an opportunity! An inaugural bowl! I'd finally get a chance to really watch a game. How complicated can it be? It's football.
We had seats fairly close to the front. The pre-game show was exciting! I'd been hearing about the march of the Midshipmen for hours during the tailgate party and thought it must be impressive. I will say one thing for those Navy guys and gals--they know how to march. But the Rams--what a marching band they had! It was huge--covering the whole field. They could march and play instruments! They had cheerleaders tossing each other up in the air and spelling things out--and this was just the pre-game show? Boy, was I in for a treat!
I soon learned just how wrong I was. A quarter lasts 15 minutes. There are four quarters in a game. The ball is in play for one hour. Not too bad, right? Well, it actually takes an entire hour to get through one quarter. But an exciting game like football should make the time fly.
The kickoff meant nothing to me. I watched the ball fly across the field and then lost it in a pile of burly men pouncing all over each other. No sooner had the clock started than it was stopped again. Only four seconds into the game. A long night ahead of me...
Try as I might, I could never follow the ball. Just when I thought we were doing something great, the Rams fans would cheer. When our guys got tackled, the Navy fans were cheering.
What? Is this right? We want to be tackled? Aren't they kicking the ball the wrong way? Why is the clock stopping? How exactly does this scoring work? One point, two points, SIX POINTS? What?
I sat for the four hours with my elbows on my knees, trying to concentrate on the game. The ball would be visible and then disappear again. Everyone was calling for a time out, even the commercials.
I have no idea who won. I heard the next day that it was the Navy. Well, good for them. I learned one valuable thing that night--I still hate football.