• Football Diaries – Part I

    Football season is upon us. You’ve heard all the cliches about football in the South, so I won’t repeat them here. I’ll just say that I heard that a church in Tuscaloosa had quite an interesting service last Sunday. According to my source, they sang a few hymns, prayed, introduced all the football players and coaches in the congregation, then called it a day. No sermon was delivered. I don’t have any difficulty believing that happened in this religiously conservative, football frenzied state. Football is its own religion here.

    We’ve agreed to let Finn play tackle football, although I think nine is awfully young to be suiting up in pads and a helmet and crashing into fellow players. The game just seems much more violent than baseball or soccer. However, Bill assured me that all kids start tackle football at this age, so I decided to get with the program.

    Last week Finn and I had to go to the sporting goods store and purchase his pads, pants, helmet, mouthpiece, and so forth. The clerk patiently explained to Finn how to insert the pads into the pants and which way the shoulder pads went on. The salesman kept glancing at me, worried that I was not paying attention.

    “Most of the mothers like to watch me do this once, then they practice putting the pads in the pants and taking them out a couple of times, ma’am,” the clerk told me.

    “I’m not playing football, so I don’t need to know how to do any of that,” I told him. “At our house, the player is in charge of his own clothes. Finn, you watch closely because this will be totally up to you and your dad,” I said. “But your dad is more familiar with baseball outfits, so I think you ought to be pretty comfortable with it.”

    “It’s a uniform, not an outfit,” Finn said patiently. “I think I know how to get the pads in and out.”

    “Great,” I said. “If you’re not positive, we’ll just leave those pads stuck in the pants til the end of the season so we don’t mess them up.”

    “The pads aren’t washable,” the clerk interjected, alarmed.

    “Well, I wasn’t going to wash the pants with the pads in them,” I explained. “If we can’t get them out, we’ll just Febreze the pants until the season is over. If there are bad stains, I’ll just rub them with baby powder to lighten them up a little.”

    The clerk shook his head, packed all the equipment into a bag, and went to the cash register. He handed me the bill. I looked at it. It was the GNP of a small country.

    “Do you have a place I can sit down?” I asked weakly. My face felt hot and I could feel the blood thudding in my head.

    He motioned me over to a bench. I pulled out my cell phone and handed it to Finn.

    “Finn, I think I may be having a stroke,” I told him. “If I pass out, call 911 and then call Daddy and tell him we’re on the way to the hospital.”

    “Don’t you think you’re being a little dramatic, Mom?” Finn asked tiredly.

    “Given the amount of this bill, no, I don’t think I am being dramatic at all. I think I am having a panic attack.”

    We sat on the bench a moment while I recovered. After I’d written a huge check, we walked to the van, staggering under the weight of all the equipment.

    When Bill came home from work, he gave me a perfunctory kiss, then hustled to Finn’s room to check out his football duds. Finn put everything on and dashed around the house, shouting, “Forty-nine! Hut! Red!”

    Bill grabbed the football and tossed it to him a few times, and much high-fiving ensued. They were so fired up I didn’t even point out that the No Balls (The Kind You Catch Or Throw) In The House Rule had been hopelessly violated.

    After testosterone time, Bill came back into the kitchen where I was cleaning up. “Looks like he’s got everything he needs for practice,” he said.

    “For that amount of money, I hope so,” I replied, spraying the counter with 409.

    “Just promise me one thing?” Bill asked, dismantling the coffeemaker and putting the parts into the dishwasher.

    “Sure,” I said, my heart melting at the sight of a male tidying up.

    “Keep the baby powder far away from those football pants. Finn and I will handle getting the pads in and out of them.”

    “It’s a deal,” I said, squirting dishwashing gel into the dishwasher. Apparently I am absolved of any responsibility for understanding the football uniform, which was my goal.

    I sure hope Bill can maintain his levelheadedness during football season. I’d hate for his baseball mindset to migrate into football season.