“Are you ready?”
“Are you ready?” Hubs repeats.
I check my phone to look at the date. It’s a Thursday in September. “Oh, dear God, no. Can you not do this? Just this once? Just this year?”
“Are you ready for some FOOTBALLLLLL!!!” Hubs calls out, followed by the familiar “Duh-duh-duh-DUUHHHHH!” of Monday Night Football.
Every Sunday—and Monday and Thursday and some Saturdays—from now until February, I will be what some refer to as a “football widow.” It’s a grim term. I prefer “Sunday-eligible.” On that day, some man who looks and sounds exactly like Hubs will wake up next to me, grunt some spare hellos, proceed to sit in front of something called “The Red Zone” for hours without blinking, surface for air in time for 60 Minutes, and then go back to the couch for the evening game. Forget about asking him to do laundry, walk the dog, or drive you to the hospital.
Oh, and sometimes there’s chili.
To Hubs, football is life. He calls “Monday Night Football” the first and ultimate reality show. Cancel Sunday brunch, he’s got to get into game mode, which includes setting his lineup (don’t ask) by one o’clock. He plans his meal (White Castle) for the season opener. When he hugs me, he makes sure he can see the television over my shoulder. He can comment on a play mere moments before the announcers say the exact same thing. When his favorite team, the New York Giants, won the Super Bowl in 2008, he said “I love you” to his brother on the phone after the game. Every memory from his childhood is tied to sports. And it’s not just him: the Kid can rattle off running statistics, player updates, and game schedules at the drop of a hat—just as I’m typing this, I asked him what year the Giants won the Championship and, without skipping a beat, he said, “It was 2007—well, it was in February 2008, but it was for the 2007 season.” Even the Beast gets excited about kickoff; he always astounds us by picking his football out of his toy bin in September after having left it alone all summer.
Football was not part of my world growing up, though Grampa B griped about the Vikings and believed into his later years that they could win it all if only Bud Grant were back at the helm. A friend of my dad’s turned me on to the Georgia Bulldogs, his alma mater, when I was ten. My enthusiasm led me to collect a ton of now-vintage University of Georgia gear, including an unopened bottle of Coca-Cola commemorating the 1980 championship. I didn’t care all that much for the game; I was just a kid who really liked dogs. So, when weeks in our courtship—it was January—Hubs said, “I’ve hardly watched any football all season,” I had no clue how high a compliment he’d paid me. Only by next fall—after we were already engaged—did it dawn on me: He’s a jock. And I’m a geek.
Yet, just as love makes Hubs run, love has spurred me on to learn as much as I can about my mate’s passion. He’s taken me under his wing—like Henry Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle—teaching me the finer points of the game. I’ve attended a football “class” for women, I’ll watch the NFL draft in April, I’ve logged countless “Sports Center” hours, I’ve tried Madden,and I’ve bet on tickets (in Vegas, of course, ‘cuz anywhere else would be wrong). I know enough to know that no one likes the kicker because he’s usually a soccer player and I’ve even participated in fantasy football drafts. You read that right: I played fantasy football for four years. AND I WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP TWO YEARS IN A ROW (not that I’m bragging—okay, I totally am).
Then when, after watching one season with me, Hubs said Doctor Who was “just okay,” I realized I didn’t have to try so hard to make friends with football. As mistresses go, the NFL isn’t that bad. I still enjoy overtime nail-biters, I DVR Hard Knocks, and I can get worked up over the playoffs if one of my two teams—the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings—is in it. (Obvs, I haven’t gotten worked up in a while.) So for the next five months, my Sundays are free. I can write, run, hang with friends, learn a new language, study physics, color-coordinate my books, teach the Beast to count—the possibilities, much like the NFL season, seem endless.
On our last Sunday together—before football completely takes over our lives—I said, “Let’s make it count. Let’s do something special, just you and me. Whaddya say?”
“I thing that’s a great idea,” said Hubs.
So we watched baseball.
This is the part of the blog where Hubs asked me to tell you that he’s won several fantasy football (and baseball) championships over the years—so this passion isn’t without some rewards. In one of his favorite leagues (he won’t say how many he’s in)—aptly titled “The League of Dorks”—he won “Dork of the Year,” an accolade complete with a pony keg trophy that gets passed around from winning dork to winning dork like the Stanley Cup, inscribed with each winner’s name. Though he’s won this award twice, he’s never let me take a picture of it. “It’s incentive,” he says, “to win it back.” This photo of the Beast with his “Dork” Season-winning awards—engraved beer steins—will have to do.