(Not So) Common Sense
In the South, Football is right up there with Sunday church and fried chicken.
By Carole Townsend
Football season. Are there two more glorious words in the entire dictionary? Not in our house, there aren’t. Much like thousands of other families, we have the date of the first NFL pre-season game circled in red on our calendar, and we circle it right around the time that the previous season ends.
Of course, we love college football as much as we do pro ball, maybe even more. Right here in the heart of SEC country, it’s hard not to. Oh, I suppose I suppose it would only be fair for me to give a nod to the ACC folks, too. Can’t have any crying now, can we? There are no other conferences if you live here, only rumors of them. And those don’t count.
When I was a very young girl, my father taught me the importance of football. It wasn’t so much anything he said to me directly. It was more of a “learning by example” thing. Back then, the main (and often only) television in the home was one of those big console affairs, with the bubble-like tube-driven screen in the middle, and two speakers on either side of the greenish-gray glass. All of that was encased in a giant piece of furniture, and sometimes that furniture took up as much space as the dining room table.
Anyway, on Sundays, Dad would have the most important game on that TV. Usually that was the Falcons game, although he referred to them as “those bums.” Still, the Falcons got top billing. On top of that giant console TV, Dad would stack a smaller television. An old-school electronics guru, Dad had about twenty or so TVs in our basement. I think most of them were there just so he could cannibalize them for parts, but it was amazing how many of them he could get to work during football season.
The game on that second, smaller TV, was the next most important game to my dad. That would be any game that was on at the same time the Falcons played. On top of that mid-sized TV, Dad would stack a third and last, usually black-and-white, set. On that TV, he’d watch still another game, sometimes a replay of an old football game, but usually it was late-season baseball. If it was the Braves (not likely back in the 60s), he’d call them “bums,” too, so it was easy to follow his unofficial play-by-play.
In addition to the trio of stacked televisions, each of them blaring the announcers’ voices, cheering crowds and such, Dad’s trusty AM/FM radio would be on the end table beside his chair. You guessed it; there would be a game on the radio, too. For some reason I never figured out, Dad would carefully untangle and snake the white earplug from the black, pleather-covered radio to his right ear. Once he settled back in his recliner and plugged that earphone in his ear, he’d reach over and unscrew the cap off of his ever-present jar of dry-roasted peanuts, pour some into his hand, and toss them back into his mouth. I was thirty years old before I realized that those peanuts are just salty, inexpensive snack food because in our house, they were as off-limits to us kids as was Dad’s extensive gun collection. I thought dry-roasted peanuts were a food reserved for royalty, or perhaps for company.
I couldn’t imagine that he could hear any of what was being said on the TVs or the radio, but I just assumed that my dad was the smartest man that ever lived. He had to be; who else but a genius could follow all those games and even know that there were bums playing in at least two of them? My peanut-munching dad, that’s who.
I am more than forty years older and wiser now, and I think I finally understand Dad’s strategy. Of course, he couldn’t hear what was happening on any of the TVs, but the cacophony likely drowned out us kids and our relentless questions.
“Dad, which team are you voting for?”
“Dad, what color outfits do the Falcons wear?”
“Dad, why is that man wearing a striped shirt and blowing a whistle? Is somebody in trouble?”
“Daddy, why is there a planet called Uranus? This kid at school said that’s a bad word, but I said no it is not.”
In fact, knowing my father as well as one can only know a parent when one becomes an adult, I’d be willing to bet that, although he had an earplug in his ear, there was no sound at all coming out of that radio. I’d bet that it wasn’t even on. An earplug in the ear is simply the universal signal for “Leave me alone. I can’t hear you.” Mind you, he’d never actually say those words to my mother, but the earplug said it all. Besides, if she wanted his attention, no flimsy earphone would have stopped her.
No matter my dad’s weird football-watching rituals, I grew up with a healthy reverence for what I consider the greatest sport ever played. Oh sure, I know soccer is more popular worldwide, but I don’t care. As for me and my family, we love football. We love the sounds and the smells of it. We love rooting for the good guys, and we love berating the bad guys. We love the testosterone-fueled fights, and we love the sportsmanship, both of which can be seen from August through February.
I’ll be honest; I don’t get most of the rules, and I don’t bother trying, because they seem to change every other season or so. I get the basics, though, and that’s enough for me. I also get that the onset of the beloved football season means that cool, crisp days are not too awfully far away. I get that it means good food and friends, victory and heartbreak. I get that certain games are never to be missed, no matter what else might be going on in the family. One such game is the UGA/Georgia Tech game every November. I recall being at fall weddings with the reception entertainment being several large-screen TVs instead of a mind-numbing polka band.
I probably shouldn’t share this, but I have even attended a viewing and funeral, with “the game” on a properly-shushed TV in an anteroom off the main room. I myself gave birth to my son watching an SEC-ACC matchup twenty-five years ago, and that was my choice, not his father’s.
So here we are at the threshold of another glorious football season. Right now, it feels like there will be games on forever, anytime we switch on the TV. We are grinning inside and out, face-to-face with a veritable cornucopia of football bounty. But before we know it, in those dark and dismal months of January and February, the flood of games will slow to a trickle, and then we’ll have only the Super Bowl to keep us hanging on. After that, there might be another lame game or two, but they won’t matter. They won’t count. They are simply filler, something to carry us until spring, when the baseball pitchers head down to balmy south Florida to warm up. But still, it won’t be the same. Football is, and always will be, King in our home.
Incidentally, my husband and son do exactly what my dad used to do, only they have newer technology to play with. On our big however-many-inch TV in the family room, they have figured out how to watch four games at once by shrinking each one to a quarter the size of the whole screen. At first, I thought it was a silly thing to do, and then I remembered Dad, with his stack of TVs, his little black radio, the earplug and the dry roasted peanuts, and I had to smile.
Football season is here.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. She writes about family, from both a humorous and poignant perspective. Her newest book, MAGNOLIAS, SWEET TEA AND EXHAUST (July 2014, Skyhorse Publishing) takes a look at NASCAR from a Southern suburban mom’s perspective. She is currently writing her fourth book. Carole has appeared on local and national news and talk shows, including CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates. When not writing, she travels throughout the region, speaking to various civic and literary groups, and advocating for the health and well-being of the family, particularly women and children. For more information, visit www.caroletownsend.com.