By: Angela Gillaspie Copyright © August 2002
"Down ... set ... HUT!"
The center snaps the ball, putting the play into motion and twenty-two heavily padded and sweaty men launch across the line of scrimmage to rush and crush.
There's nothing like being in the stadium and cheering during kick-off. Over the roar of the audience, I hear the trill of whistles, the clunk of shoulder pads colliding, and the manic screaming of Painted Face Man sitting behind me.
Football allows men to be men and for women to roll their eyes. For me, it's exciting to watch the passing plays, fun to stare at the players spit and smack each other on the hindquarters, and frustrating not knowing the difference between pass interference and intentional grounding. To my husband, Paul, it's exciting and fun watching the players lock horns and it's frustrating explaining to me the difference between pass interference and intentional grounding.
I love to watch my team run the ball, blast through the other team's defensive line and score! Thinking of all that brute force gives me chill bumps, especially now that my eight-year-old son is playing football this fall. My sweet, artistic, witty, gifted-program, string bean son is excited because, as he says, "I get to knock them down ON PURPOSE!"
It isn't the strategy and mental acuity that interests him, but the brawn and intimidation. Two hours a day, four days a week, Josh practices football. He is at the mercy of the coach who stresses the importance of no pain - no gain.
Josh isn't used to gaining with pain, but he doesn't want to be labeled a Momma's Boy, either. What would the other boys think if they saw me hug him or remind him to play nice? The horror. Being told to play nice is worse than getting cooties from touching a girl. [For the record, I'm not a girl. Josh says I'm a Momma - there's a difference.]
Josh hates the running, sweating, and heat, but he adores the pushing, shoving, grunting, and grabbing. And falling down? COOL! The best part is rushing into someone and knocking him head over heels. He already has a large collection of bruises, and I hope his schoolteacher doesn't turn us in to the Department of Human Resources for child abuse.
Paul views Josh's gridiron adventures with total pride. He thinks there's a Little Me barreling down the field undertaking a male rite of passage. Many of the other dads feel the same way, as they seem to float on a cloud of testosterone, thumping their collective chests, grinning, "Ayyup, that thar's my boy!"
While the dads strut and crow during practice, many moms discuss recipes and secretly watch the field for injuries. When someone cries, our chatter stops immediately and we hone our Mommy Radar, "Is that my child?"
During the first practices, there were quite a few tears. "This ain't no honeymoon - it separates the boys from the girls," one tubby dad explained to me. As I took a breath to tell him that girls are just as mean as boys and my daughter could out-muscle, out-run, and out-belch his son, one of the moms (the one that just gave me a great Jackpot Casserole recipe) bellowed across the fence, "Junior! Block, block, BLOCK! Do it just like I showed ya yesterday!"
Yeah, sure. Girls are weaker, just ask Jackpot Casserole Mom as she shows Junior how to take down a linesman by pounding the snot out of Tubby Dad.
On the field, my child is lost in a cluster of bobbing red helmets. Their over-sized shoulder pads hide their necks, and bulky foam cushions stick out from their hips, bottom, thighs and knees. Josh didn't like the seat pad and I had to laugh when he put on his practice pants for the first time and said, "Whoa! Look at my big hiney, Momma!" At least he didn't say mine was bigger. Smart child - I told you he was gifted.
It's funny how I never noticed all of that equipment before - I only noticed the tackles, interceptions, spitting, and fanny patting. Oh, and how utterly gorgeous and manly the players looked with their big shoulders, small waists, and padded legs. Seeing my son decked out in that uniform now makes me teary-eyed.
Paul grins and says he can't wait for the first game. He promises he won't paint his face.
Stay tuned for more SouthernAngel's sports!