Sunday, January 23, 2011
Football day in America
Or to give him his full, slightly gender-bent name, Cheryl Roethlisberger Crow.
To begin, he was just Cheryl Crow. That was the name we gave him when "she" turned out to be a he.
You can thank Murray McMurray Hatchery for that mistake. We ordered only hens.
The Roethlisberger part came about when he started molesting the hens without their say-so.
To explain for the Brits who read this blog, Ben Roethlisberger is the quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers American football team, and he had a reputation for getting into trouble pressing his affections on young women.
But he's a reformed character, apparently, church-going and going-steady with a girl, and although suspended earlier in the season, continues to quarterback the Steelers, who are through to the division championship, which again for you Brits is the equivalent of the semi-finals.
Which are to be played today. The Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers, and the New York Jets versus the Pittsburgh Steelers, at 3.30 and 6.30 pm respectively. I'm looking forward to it.
I lived in this country for many years before I became interested in American football. It takes time, for anyone who's played Rugby Football, as in RFU, 15-a-side rugger. Which I used to play, for Tapton School in Sheffield, in the forward pack.
You have to let American Football grow on you.
I still prefer the original by far, and am as always looking forward to the Six Nations season coming up. As befits someone with Anglo-Welsh ancestry, I support both England and Wales. Until they play each other, when my 3/4 English ancestry takes precedence.
Sorry Grandma. (My gran was Leticia Jones from Machynlleth in, as she used to say, "Welsh Wales". But the rest of my ancestry is broad Yorkshire.)
My first experiences with American football were quite negative. Twenty years and several lifetimes ago, I had an American brother-in-law who quarterbacked the State University of Montana's football team.
He was an arrogant and unpleasant and quite ignorant young man.
In an attempt to be fraternal, I took him deer-hunting once. About two hours into what I had planned to be a good tracking day with fresh snow on the ground, he blazed away at a young doe with his stupid semi-automatic hunting rifle, missed a clean shot and instead blew her front leg off, after which she ran away three-legged.
To paraphrase the NRA, guns don't wound deer, people do, but the fact that he could shoot so rapidly probably encouraged him to take such stupid snap shots, instead of setting the shot up like a proper stalker. If there was ever a hunter who needed to go back to a single-shot weapon, and not be allowed automatic loading, this was one.
After a fairly desultory attempt to follow the blood trail, my prize brother-in-law gave up and went home early.
Long story short, I tracked the animal all the rest of that day and the following day, found her, killed her, and brought her back. He had the gall to say that it couldn't possibly have been his. This despite the fact that the front leg was missing and all the blood on that wound had dried.
To say that I disliked this fellow would be understating matters a good deal.
That relationship colored my opinion of American football and footballers for a while. It didn't help that one of the ways I worked my way though my first university degree was to work for the catering department, where it was my job to serve the pre-game breakfasts to the football players. They were encouraged to eat these monster breakfasts, to stoke up on "carbs."
I didn't enjoy this duty. The footballers were younger than me, rude, unpleasant, demeaning, and, again, quite ignorant. And, of course, the university gave them an easy ride in classes, as long as they won games and brought in money. Which for me, a fairly hard-working and serious student, seemed corrupt and unfair.
So my first experiences of American football were that, 1) It was slow and boring and hard to follow compared to rugby, 2) The players all wore pads and what looked like motorcycle helmets and so they must be wankers, 3) All the football players I knew or had known were total wankers, and 4) No-one I knew or liked played or watched football.
And there matters stood for years and years, until I married Aimee.
When I married Aimee, I married the Pittsburgh Steelers too.
All Aimee's relatives, if they watch football at all, are Steelers fans. Aimee watches every game she can, and follows the Steelers through the season, every season. And so I've become accustomed to watching the games with her. There are attractions, not being lonely being one, and food another. Chips and guacamole and beer will get me to watch just about anything. It helps that the Steelers are a family franchise, and that the majority owners, the Rooney's, have a reputation for high standards, fair dealing, and for building a team game rather than relying on expensive star players.
And so bit by bit, I've learned the game. And slowly, almost glacially, I've come to understand it and even enjoy it.
There are limits. I don't watch too many non-Steelers games. Without that connection, I get bored easily. Although it was somewhat of a pleasure to watch the New York Jets beat the hated New England Patriots, especially since this involved the arrogant Pats quarterback, Tom Brady, getting sacked five or six times.
(I tend to fast forward through the Italy-Ireland or Italy-Scotland games too, in the Six Nations, although I always watch the French games, in hopes of seeing the French team get beat by anybody, please.)
For you Brits, a "sack" is a timely tackle on the quarterback before the pass, not unlike when the flanker hits the scrum half just as the ball leaves the scrum.
So it's football day in America, and I'm getting ready to watch the games. Aimee, who is with students at a science conference in DC, will be arriving home about halfway through the Steelers-Jets game.
I'll have it recording for her.
I don't expect she'll be bothering to unpack her bag right away.
No guacamole, though. I don't much like shopping, and although I was sensible enough to stock up on bread and milk and coffee yesterday, so Aimee wouldn't have to go shopping again until next weekend, of course it never entered my mind to get advocados.
I do have quite a bit of father-in-law Dick Phillippi's hot pepper relish, though, and plenty of beer.
If I just tootle down to the local grocery later and get a big bag of chips, all will be well in the kingdom of Mick.
As long as the Steelers win.
If they don't, Queen Aimee will be upset for days.
She takes her Steelers football very seriously, does our wee lassie.