Last November, when I learned that Anne shared a particular obsession of mine, we were out to dinner with another woman, and I’m afraid we were rude. Anne and the other woman are neighbors of mine at my new house, and we’d been talking about stereotypical girlfriend subjects–men, shoes, travel–when somehow we got on the subject of college football. I think someone mentioned an event that coming Saturday, and I said there’s no way I could attend. “I save my Saturdays in fall for football,” I explained, a little abashed because I regularly get grief from friends over what they consider my weird, almost unseemly, passion for college game days.
Just like that we were off, talking about the dominance of the Southeastern Conference–particularly the Western division.
Anne’s face lit up. “What? You like college football too? I LOVE college football.” And then we were off, talking about the dominance of the Southeastern Conference–particularly the Western division, how new rules allowing college players to make money will impact the game, and which coaches were probably going to get axed. Our dinner mate was completely excluded from the conversation, but it took us a while to notice, we were both so delighted to find someone who was equally knowledgeable and cuckoo about the sport.
Right then and there, I asked if she wanted to join our family college bowl challenge in which about 25 of us in the extended Ralston family make predictions on who will win each bowl game, with the winner getting bragging rights. Anne accepted, adding that she also takes part in a similar contest with some hardened union guys she used to work with and the winner actually takes home a pot of money.
Fans and Friends
I’ve never before had a female football friend. Although I do have a football sister, who is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met when it comes to game strategy and play picking. I used to joke that it was too bad there wasn’t a reality TV show where they let “real” people take turns coaching a college team because I feel sure my sister would slay.
We grew up in a football family. Not a football playing family (though my dad did play in high school, and maybe some college); we were a football watching family. All of us, even the girls, grew up watching college and pro games with our father, and my mother would join in too. We knew that if we wanted to bond with Dad, there was no better way than sitting on the sofa in our recreation room, eating sunflower seeds and cheering on helmeted men as they banged each other around on the gridiron.
It reminded me that I love how multi-layered women our age can be
I know a lot about the NFL, but my special passion is the pageantry and traditions that come with college ball. Anne agrees. Probably the most fun I’ve had watching a football game was the national championship last month over at Anne’s house. It was just the two of us. She made a special dinner, and I brought wine. As Georgia and Alabama battled it out, we chatted about everything from what was going on down on the field to her fascination with how various coaches lead and motivate.
This led us into a conversation about the hottest coaches in football. Of course. She mentioned him, and I voted for this guy. I’m not particularly proud to admit that we went there. It makes us sound so superficial and so female. But we had lots of laughs, and it reminded me that I love how multi-layered women our age can be. We’re not just one thing–not just jocks; not just sexual beings. But a little bit of both and so many other things besides.
We had such a good time with the college game that a couple of weeks ago we watched an NFL play-off game. We were particularly interested in the San Francisco 49ers vs. L.A. Rams. Why? Because the 49ers have this George Clooney lookalike as a quarterback and the Rams coach is my favorite (mentioned above). We’d hoot when the TV went to a shot of either one on the sidelines, prompting us to take some fan-girl photos (above). We were silly in a way we likely would never be if men were watching the game with us, but still we’d scream about the ref’s bad calls, admire the jumping ability of certain players, and cheer like baboons when a play that looked hopeless turned into a big gain.
We were silly in a way we likely would never be if men were watching the game with us.
Throughout my life girlfriends who found me watching football alone on a weekend would eye me suspiciously, as if maybe I’d grown a penis overnight. Just lately, one got mad at me when I said I’d call her back because I couldn’t pull my attention away from the end of a terrifically close game. With all the issues in football–from CTE to domestic violence–I feel more guilty about my obsession, and my friends have more reasons to think I’m crazy.
But Anne understands. Which is why this Sunday evening I’ll be parked in front of a TV with her for the Super Bowl. Not for the ads or the halftime show. But for the mechanics of the game. And, oh yeah, a little bit for him.