Monday, August 29, 2005

Pigskin Protocol

I love football. I love it almost as much as I love hockey and about twice as much as I love my dog (which I discovered by seriously thinking about saving some veterinary expenses and neutering the bastard myself after he tipped over the television set and made me miss the University of Michigan’s last Rose Bowl appearance). I love the fact that I am allowed to lay on the couch for three, sometimes four hours a day, one to two days a weekend. I love how when I am watching it, my brain shuts completely down and I focus only upon the television, completely blocking out the worries of my job, the bills, foreign affairs, home repairs and, if at all humanly possible, the deranged ravings of my wife who unfailing insists upon bringing up such world-weighty issues as curtain colors every time the Lions are on their 4th down at the goal line.

One of the reasons I think I enjoy football so much is that I am able to get away with so much more at home on weekends during pigskin season. I get to yell at the top of my lungs inside the house. I get to jump up and down on the furniture with the kids. I get to drink beer in the living room. I get to eat things that would most certainly invite the wrath of my cardiologist if I had not pointed out to him it was going to by MY future medical bills that were going to allow him to pursue his interests in sports cars, hot tubs and airline stewardesses after his present wife, like the two before her, eventually figures out what his hobbies are.

I have yet to figure out why my wife puts up with these shenanigans every autumn, but she does and I love her for it. Maybe she thinks that since I work so hard all summer, I deserve a break in the fall to follow my teams. Then again, she works in the medical field and may possibly have seen enough first hand evidence to make her a believer of those Psychiatric Journal reports that suggest domestic violence incidents skyrocket during football game days and is just playing things safe. Who really knows what is in that pretty head of hers and, as long as it allows me to watch the game relatively unmolested in my natural Neanderthal state, who really cares?

Now, I am not one of those people whose personality ebbs and flows with the successes or failures of their favorite sports team. In fact, with the exception of the really big games, I usually could care less about who wins or loses (which comes in handy since I root for the Detroit Lions, who rarely win at all). For me, more important than the game itself is the ritual that surrounds it. The ritual is far more eventful and rewarding than the battle on the field and the main reason for my indulgence in the sport. The ritual goes as follows:


Breakfast. After the kids have finished wolfing down the frosted balls of processed sugar that serves as the methamphetamine of their age bracket, I inform them that football is on today. I then give them a list of things they need to do before game time, of which I can expect less than a third of it to actually get done which is fine. The main objective of “The List” is to keep them occupied with things other than those that would distract me from my preparations for the game.


Beer check. If its low, I immediately run to the local grocer to load up on my alcoholic arsenal. I typically hit the local Meijer and rush through the intoxicant aisle collecting a six pack of Labatt’s, a six pack of Guiness, a six pack of Moosehead, a six pack of Negro Modelo, a six pack of Mike’s Hard Lime, a bottle of wine, a lemon, a bag of Doritos, two cans of jalapeno cheese dip, a package of large tortillas, a bag of shredded cheese and a carton of pink lemonade, all without the benefit of a shopping cart since I originally just went in for the first item on that long list. I then typically haul the whole load up to the self checkout counter where I scan the first six pack and attract the attention of the attendant, who rushes over to tell me that Michigan law prohibits the sale of alcohol before noon on Sundays. They won’t even let me have the wine, even if I tell them I’m Catholic and desperately need it for communion. I usually end up leaving Meijer with a lemon, a bag of Doritos, two cans of jalapeno cheese dip, a package of large tortillas, a bag of shredded cheese and a carton of pink lemonade while cursing the teetotalling pagan lawmakers in Lansing that formulated this blasphemous heretical infringement of my civil rights.


Return home to cook up what I like to call Game Day Heart Dart Cuisine (so named because of the stabbing pain I usually get in my chest sometime around the third quarter). This table fare consists of Bacon Beer Cheese Soup, Chilpotle Chorizo Quesadillas (Cheddar for the kids), Bacon Wrapped Habanero Shrimp or Buffalo Wings, Doritos and Cheese Dip. All of these entrees are extremely flavorful and there is a lot of temptation to sample the food as it is completed, but experience has taught me that this temptation must be resisted. Once one starts eating this football fare, it is almost impossible to stop and you will find yourself lying in the fetal position in the middle of the living room floor, drifting into a cholesterol coma before kickoff.


Beer Run II. Rush in, pick up my Labatt’s, Guiness, Moosehead, Mike’s Hard Lime and wine at a full sprint and then charge through the checkout line and out the door before the fascists change their minds.


Hunker down in the living room with the kids and go through the cheerleading mantra that keeps them interested in the game. For each time the Lions accomplish something advantageous on the field, we do an activity that keeps the kids pumped up and will hopefully project some much-needed mojo onto Ford Field. These activities include: The First Down High Five, The Punt Pucker, The Field Goal Finger Flutter, The Interception Butt Connection, The Quarterback Sack Slap and the perennial favorite, The Touchdown Dance. There was also The Halftime Victory Whiz that was a necessity when my kids were still potty training but will probably fall out of practice now that they are past that stage and we are in a new house that did not come with a privacy fence in the backyard.

This list of activities works really well for us but I would not recommend them for everyone. I can see how they could become exhausting and monotonous if we were rooting for a better team.




Ball is triumphantly carried into the end zone while the kids clamor for me to jump up and do The Touchdown Dance. I spend the next ten minutes explaining that we don’t do the Touchdown Dance when the other team scores.


Kids now feel like they’ve been gypped out of four touchdown dances and three times as many Interception Butt Connections. They start rooting for the other team.


Game wraps up with my four-year-old daughter chanting “Li-ONS SUCK! Li-ONS SUCK!” My three-year-old son is calling Quarterback Joey Harrington names that I certainly hope he did not learn from me, though his astoundingly audible alliteration assault leads me to believe that he probably did. I kill the beer I was drinking and thank God that I am one day closer to the start of hockey season.

Since the Lions played on Monday night this week, I got the opportunity to see whether or not my ritual had anything to do with our home team’s abysmal performance. The kids were in bed before it even started, so basically it was just me, my bacon beer cheese soup, my Labatt’s and my laptop in front of the television. I started writing this at halftime. By the time I finished, the Lions were losing to the Rams, 34 to 06, putting my mind at ease that my ritual has nothing to do with Detroit’s lack of gridiron victories. It just looks like my daughter is right.


Anonymous LoB said...

Ah, the wonders of staring blankly into a TV screen and shutting out everything else. Sheer bliss...

Here in Portugal we don't really have football as you know it. Well, we do have it but it's on a very low scale. What we call football is what you over there in US call soccer, and it has a HUGE following over here, almost as big a following as your football.

It's good to forget about all the crap politicians we have screwing with our system.

8:12 AM  
Blogger JEP said...

Actually, I think the European football fanaticism is far more extreme than the passion showed in the US for the American version, second only to the Brazilians for zealotry. (During a dinner meeting in France once, three Brazilian colleagues of mine actually faked food poisoning to watch an important match). Still, sports are a great respite. The final score on the game last night ended up being 37-13 with Detroit losing. It’s going to be a long , long season.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous LoB said...

more extreme than the passion showed in the US for the American version

One word. Superbowl.

Well, cheer up. If the Lions keep losing, maybe your kids' interest in football will fade, leaving you completely undisturbed in your semi-catatonic state while they wreak all kinds of havoc around the house.

You know, this place is becoming my veritable escape from the lunatic ravings of one johnnykielbasa.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Fade_to_Blah said...

Man its tough to be a Lions fan....much easier being a Pats fan:) Though we did go through some awfull seasons for about 2 decads. I think they were known as the Pansies.

Im not sure if you said it in the article, but have you been to Ford field?

9:59 AM  
Blogger JEP said...

Naw, I’ve not yet made it to Ford Field and now that I live over fifty miles away from it, I don’t see myself getting there anytime soon (You’re really pushing your luck driving 50 miles drunk). I hear it is one of best stadiums in the league. Too bad the same can’t be said about the team that plays there. Good luck to your Pats though, Blah! I love watching those guys play. They are the closest thing to football perfection I have ever seen and watch them every chance I get. I have to stop short of calling myself a fan (you gotta root for the home team) but I have to admit that they are really a class act. My money says they’re going to go all the way this year also.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'murican football looks like it would be fun to watch, I tired playing it once, but me and ball sports do not mix.

And I have a similar ritual for watching the OC. It involves curry chips, some cola, lots of crisps, and tissues.


10:30 AM  
Blogger JEP said...

If it makes you feel any better, I played rugby once in Hong Kong. We had challenged the British military at HMS Tamar to a basketball game and smoked them severely (there seemed to be a tragic lack of people possessing African lineage on the UK team so they really didn’t stand a chance). As we were walking out, the Yanks started razzing them about losing so badly and in response they challenged us to a game of rugby, a sport that Americans are particularly clueless about. We took them up on it and met on a nearby field the next day. All I know was that I started off in some kind of huddle and before I knew what happened (or for that matter, what I was supposed to do), I was laying on the ground in the fetal position, gasping for air from the blow I took in the stomach. A Brit then stepped up next to me and tried to get me back on my feet, but seeing this was hopeless, cupped his hands around his mouth and screamed, “MEDIC!”

This cute little Chinese girl then rushed onto the field with a six-pack of beer in each hand and lured me back to the stands where I sat out the rest of the game.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Psh. Redskins all the way. Too bad their owner is a greedy asshat.

But I play rugby myself, its much better to watch but they're both about equally fun to play.


5:54 PM  
Blogger JEP said...

Don't expect me to be a football afficionado, Joe. Remember, I'm stuck watching the Lions.

My money's still on the Pat's though.

7:01 PM  

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