Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Football Season in the US--and you know what that means!

Actually, you don't.  You don't because you are not in my bedroom on Monday and Tuesday mornings.  And that's OK.  In any case, what (American) football season means here in Lagos is that as soon as he wakes up on Monday and Tuesday mornings, Max (aged 8) checks the football scores on my iPod.  Max wanted "NFL Mobile" on there, so there it is.  I am still not used to NFL scores popping up every so often!  The quickest way to wake Max up in the morning is to tell him that Frank is going to check the scores without him.  First, they have to check the Packers and the Saints, then they see who else has played and who has a bye, and then they get into the real meat of the morning.  The usual discussion ensues:  what each team's prospects for the rest of the season might be, how they will/have fared against their future (or past) opponents, and what would happen if some sort of unanticipated random match up were to occur.  All this is punctuated by videos of the weekend's highlights and, if I ask, they will tell me whether or not I actually care what happened (if they are happy I'm happy; otherwise I really don't care):  I am perfectly happy that my opinions on these matters be dictated by the men in my life.

This routine got me thinking, though, about why so many women don't care much about football, which made me remember that I once taught an essay in a writing class called "Spandex Nation." It was written by someone whose name I can't remember (maybe Hilda Gonfor[?]--I am quite sure it was Hilda Someone because I thought at the time that Hilda is a very uncommon name.  If anyone knows, please let me know!  Now of course I have no idea what her essay has to do with American football, but it sparked this tribute from me at the time:

Homage to “Spandex Nation”
It’s time to take the issue of men and football out of the realm of cocktail conversation among women and hold it up to the light.  For years now, women have been frustrated in their attempts to understand American football.  Note, please, that I am not saying that women can’t understand it; I am a woman myself and I flatter myself that I am not stupid.  However, I don’t understand why, after years of boredom and frustration I finally understand only two important football concepts:  first, I understand what the four downs are and why they are important, and second, I understand that when a team switches from offense to defense, an entirely new set of players takes the field.  This fact, incidentally, is part of the reason that football teams (I am not including their staffs and hangers-on here) are so colossally large.
Now, let’s compare my experience with that of my husband, father, brother, and various ex-boyfriends.  My brother was watching football (knowledgeably) with my father when he was 5 years old.  My husband was born in Germany but moved to Wisconsin when he was four, so he understood the intricacies of the Packers’ playbook as soon as he learned English.  I've never really discussed the rules of football with my dad (an orthopedic surgeon), but I do remember it seemed like every time someone got injured he could diagnose how serious it was from the couch.  It's very disconcerting to hear, "Looks like he's out for the season" on what looked to me a pretty routine play.

When I was in my 20s I dated a guy who had only been in this country for four years.  He was one of the most opinionated and knowledgeable fans out there.  I asked him once how long it had taken him to understand the game and he told me that he understood the rules after watching only one or two games.    It seemed perfectly intuitive to him.  My son, who is now 8, has been telling me (accurately, apparently) whether or not I have an opinion on a particular game for years now.
The only possible answer has to be chromosomal.  When someone is born with a Y chromosome, the ability to intuitively understand American football is attached to one of the genes on it.  Since the human genome has not yet been mapped in its entirety, we don’t know which gene that is, but it does appear to mean that, due to our lack of this gene, women who want to understand football often must put in hours of painstaking and time-consuming work.   So the next time you watch a football game and think of the women reporting from the field as simple tokens to fill a quota, remember that they have probably put more time into training for their jobs than the players on the field, and they’ve certainly put in more time than their male counterparts.  Let’s have some respect for these highly qualified individuals because they have to want it more or they wouldn’t bother.

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