Love and Football

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Today was a warm (for November in NY), blustery, and sunny fall day and it felt like perfect football weather. I’ve never played football outside of gym class in school 100 years ago, but I have watched many games on TV and some in person, specifically the games played by the school football team when I was in 9th grade. That year was when I really took an interest in football and made an effort to learn more about the game.

The reason I took such an interest in football during junior high was, not surprisingly, that I had a crush on a few of the football players. I admit that I’m a girl who likes males who are in good shape and athletic. My desire for athletic men isn’t because I’m so athletic that I need a comparable man to keep up with me. Honestly, I’m not personally very athletic or overly coordinated.

What do I mean by not overly athletic? Well, I throw balls like a girl (because I AM one), I rarely ever connect a bat with a ball if there isn’t a T involved, my basketball layups are ridiculous to watch, and I’m more likely to say “don’t got it” in volleyball than “got it” for starters. Back in school, I’d stand in the outfield praying the ball never came anywhere near me, I never chased the ball in soccer, I thought field hockey was an excuse for girls to hit each other’s shins with wooden sticks (so I avoided the ball at all costs), and I played tennis against the wall more than actual opponents. The only gym sports I enjoyed playing were badminton and floor hockey, and riding horses was as athletic as I ever got. I do however play soccer, basketball (I don’t have a hoop), Frisbee, and football with my girls because it’s fun. Maybe I like athletic men because I believe that a bookworm like me winning over a “jock” is a major victory for bookworms everywhere! I also entertain the hope that an athletic man will be willing to teach me how to play sports better, or at least think it’s cute that I’m a klutz. On the other hand, maybe it’s just because I’m shallow and love muscles; nobody is perfect. 😉

Where was I? Oh yes, 9th grade! That year I was crushing on one football player in particular. He was in my French class and he actually seemed to know I existed, unlike a majority of the other boys in the school. I’d moved to the school a couple years before from a much smaller district and I never really felt like I fit in there. Regardless, this football-playing boy seemed like a genuinely nice person and he was easy on the eyes. I remember I’d walk the family dog Cassie down to the nearby park some afternoons and he’d be there with other local boys playing football on one of the fields. I’d sit on the bleachers, listen to them call plays, and watch them run around with the pigskin. One day in particular stands out in my mind because on that day amid their play calling, the boy I liked called out “Hut, hut, Julie, can you hear me?” I’m surprised I didn’t die of embarrassment/shock/elation right there on the bleachers! He and I had never said a word to each other but he’d just called my name out across the park!

Had I been a bolder girl, I would’ve walked up to him after the game and started a conversation. Alas, I was not a bolder girl; I was a shy, semi-introverted bookworm, so I just watched them finish playing and then walked the dog ahead of them as they left the park. Mind you, he could have come up to talk to me too, but he didn’t. Regardless, I decided it was past time I learn more about football! For purely research purposes of course…

To further my football education, I went to the local library and checked out a book explaining the rules and plays of high school football. It wasn’t a very long book, it had several helpful diagrams, and I recall reading it cover to cover. Amid my “research”, I would also hang out on the hill behind the school football field and watch the team practice after school. I daresay that was one of my bolder moves at that age, but I’m glad I did it. I also attended a few Saturday afternoon home games and stood right on the sidelines to watch. I don’t know why someone didn’t tell me to get my butt somewhere safer, but I learned after a few close calls to keep my eyes open and my feet nimble to avoid being run over by out-of-bounds football players.

Unfortunately, the football-playing boy in question and I never actually had a real conversation. I remember we’d exchange looks now and then and I’m sure I blushed, but that was it. I couldn’t comprehend/accept that such a cute, athletic young man would be interested in mousy little me. The following year, he enrolled in a private school and I never saw him again. Regardless, that experience was enough to pique my interest in football and I continued to learn more about it over the years. That knowledge is lost in rather thick cobwebs these days as I focus on so many other things in my life, but I’ll never forget those breezy fall days full of “love” and football.