Football: The Great (Family) Divide
I learned some of what I know about football 50 years ago from my husband—who was not my husband or even my boyfriend then and wouldn’t be for 30 more years. Back then, Hal was just an all-conference left halfback and punter for the high school football team, the older brother of one of my best friends and the guy I had a huge crush on. I watched every play, not because I cared about football but because I liked watching him. In the process, I learned the basics—you know, the difference between offense and defense, how long quarters are, what a down is, the positions, what flags meant—enough not to embarrass myself by cheering at the wrong time.
Today, when we watch football together, Hal actually is surprised at how much I know, some of it dating back to high school, some because two of my college roommates met and later married football players and coaches and some, of course, from the Steelers six Super Bowls wins.
But I have learned the most important things about football from my grandsons. Beau, who lives in San Diego, is a die-hard Steelers fan, like his dad, who grew up in Upper St. Clair. Now that the Chargers have ditched San Diego, Steelermania isn’t so much of a problem. But in middle school—when all kids wanted to fit in, Beau’s love for the black & gold was problematic.
Especially one Friday when the principal called an all-school pep rally before the Chargers/Steelers playoff game.
The auditorium was a sea of navy, gold and powder blue, with one exception—Beau wearing a No. 58 Jack Lambert jersey. Beau is stubborn and proud kid; still when the other kids started taunting him, it wasn’t pleasant. Noticing the commotion, the principal, took to the mic and called Beau to the stage. “Why are you wearing that Steelers shirt?” he asked. “Well, said Beau, “because my dad is a Steelers fan and my grandad is a Steelers fan, and our whole family roots for the Steelers. That’s what we do!” The principal, bless him, patted Beau on the back, said it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, and made the whole school applaud. Beau’s picture appeared in the San Diego Union the next day.
In reverse, my grandson Andrew, 10, who lives in Pittsburgh, has a dad who grew up in Boston and—I know this is tough to take—is a Patriots fan. And so is Andrew, so much so that he wears his red, white and blue Pats gear wherever he can and for his birthday last year got to go to Boston for Gronk’s summer football camp and met the big guy in person. Andrew’s older brother, Will, gets that it’s not cool to root against the Stillers. But guess what? Andrew doesn’t care a whit. When he takes off the Pats hat, I tell him like to see his pretty red hair, and he puts the cap back on.
Say what you will, the kid is loyal. And no one has stolen the hat—yet
And then, there’s the aforementioned, Will, 12. Will doesn’t like football. His sport is computer games. Still when the Pats and the Rams played the most boring SuperBowl in history last month, he gamely tried to join his dad, brother and granddad (who was pretending to like the Pats) in front of the big screen in the family room. A few minutes later, he came into the kitchen, where his mom and I weren’t even pretending to watch, complaining. “They won’t let me in the room because they say I don’t like football.”
“Well that’s OK,” we told him. “You don’t have to like football.” And it’s true. You don’t. Even if you like the guys who play it!