Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hate the Players, Love the Game

Chapter 1 of the Big Fall Blowout was supposed to be about football and it will be, but it just didn't seem right talking about football as the NFL was busy crapping the bed, and then its commissioner showed up and took a dump in all of our beds also. Enough people were prepared to boycott the league that if they did, and three of their football-loving friends did likewise, the league might...oh who are we kidding. Nothing would have happened. But we spent so much time shielding our eyes from The Shield, we almost missed the creation of a brand new country in Scotland.
His sister is a fan :-) and, yes, they're called the Redskins. Why not?

I never considered boycotting the NFL. I watched a very large percentage of Pittsburgh Steelers games from 1981-1992 with my grandfather, so I'm emotionally invested. Also, my wife unofficially quasi-diagnosed me with some characteristics that, a generation ago, would have put me on the autism spectrum I'm naturally drawn to and often think in colors and numbers. Even if you hate football, turn on a game for five minutes and just watch the flying colors and numbers. I'm 39 years and still get transfixed. It's like a carnival. I'm not giving that up to try to teach my kids some lesson about how some football players do bad things, particularly when they watch the morning news with me every day anyway.

Let's stop acting as if we woke up three weeks ago and realized athletes can be jerks. Anyone who went to high school and didn't play a sport knows that athletes get their own occupancy lane in the school's halls. One year on the first day of school I unwittingly sat at the football players' table, and while they let me sit there that day, they advised if I showed similar audacity going forward, they'd use the top of my head to get to the hard-to-reach areas of the grossest toilet in the locker room. The quarterback of that team some months later punched me in the sternum during a lull in gym class, for reasons that were never fully discussed or vetted with me in advance. Fight or flight? Neither, both would get my ass even more kicked. Fight, flight, or stand there an pretend nothing much happened
but don't be so cool about it that you get hit again, then check when nobody's looking to make sure your entire chest cavity isn't hemorrhaging.

We of course encourage that horseshit behavior by paying hundreds of dollars per ticket or shrug when the school district spends its entire budget on Astroturf -- when teachers buy all the supplies for their rooms annually, with only the joke of a $250 IRS tax deduction as support. That $250 gets them through October, maybe. So I contribute to the mindset that allows all this misbehavior, no doubt. But I'll deal with that on my own.

All of the above contribute to my relative lack of enthusiasm when my older son decided he wanted to play football. Concussions, yeah, but what if he turns into the guy who punches his classmates for sport because he knows everyone will look the other way. What if he sees another kid in the halls and treats him like a piece of meat? (And, also, concussions.) I can't force him to not do something he likes because I worry about the type of person he'll become. I should let him do what he wants and accept the challenge that would come with molding him into a different sort of football player.
For now, there's no need to worry about all that stuff.  This kid dances in an odd, unidentifiable shape sometimes 10 yards behind his teammates, and his coach needs to corral him and remind him where to line up. When he gets the ball for his (league-mandated) carry per game, he usually rips off a nice gain, even when he stops in the middle of the play to ask his coach which way he should run. He sits the bench a lot, and usually plays satellite positions that don't get the ball. Normally I'd be all up in arms about this (aren't we supposed to just be teaching him the game at this age instead of playing to win?) but I'm ok with it here. If he's the last guy off the bench at this age, he's probably not going to have a long career. And he says he enjoys it, so best of both worlds.

Which brings all this back to the coach. On Opening Day, at the Parent Meeting, the league coordinator encouraged us parents who can't commit the time to coach but who'd like to get involved to "volunteer" with the team, mostly try to herd the cats and help the coach with whatever he needs. When I approached the coach about that after the first practice/game, he told me politely but flatly that he had an old football buddy helping him and didn't need any more help, then told me to sit in the stands and leave everybody alone. He probably thought I was one of those helicopter/hovercraft parents, and I'm sure there are thousands of coaches out there who would kill to have only parents who sat down and shut up, which is what we're doing. He didn't threaten to flush my head down a toilet or punch me in the chest, though, so it was a start.

Football. I love the game. I just can't stand most of the players.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Big Blowout Labor Day Fall Preview Extravaganza Bonanza

In this Fall Preview issue:

1. In-laws and by extension, sex.
2. Football
3. Christmas
4. Mario Kart Wii
5. Apples
6. Football
7. Pumpkins
8. Halloween
9. Leaves
10. Thanksgiving - Football
11. Christmas
12. Football

Hi, this is the kids. Our dad was supposed to have written the Big Blowout Labor Day Fall Preview Extravaganza Bonanza by now, but he has spent the past week working, poring over his fake football teams, and playing too much Mario Kart, so he had us write it instead. Unfortunately, by now some retail stores have started putting their Christmas trees out on display, so fall is over. We missed our chance. We'll do it anyway, as practice for next year. We've never written a Big Blowout Labor Day Fall Preview Extravaganza Bonanza before, so we hope it meets all of your expectations. 

But first, we had a question for all of you parents, one that our parents won't answer. Please help answer it for us!

We were wondering if we had in-laws. We're fascinated by the concept of in-laws, so we asked our mother last week who ours were. She said you had to be married to have in-laws, but since we're not married, we are adopting Daddy's family as our in-laws. We decided that since we came out of Mommy's belly, that we would share her in-laws. Then we asked, since we came out of Mommy's belly, what role exactly does Daddy have in the whole process? They wouldn't answer that question, either, except to say that it's too soon to talk about birds and bees, and that there's no time to be visiting aviaries and apiaries. We're SO confused. Can you help?

On that note, on with the Fall Preview...fall around here means football season, and we helped our dad pick his Fantasy Football teams by insisting he take our favorite player-- Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph-- every chance he gets. Rudolph is the only active player in the NFL named after one of Santa's reindeer, so he's our favorite this year, just like he was last year, and the year before that. We tried to get into Nathan Vasher, the "Kansas Comet" Gale Sayers, and even Ed Donder, but none of them really grabbed our attention. In fact, we just made Ed Donder up because he sounds like an offensive lineman from the 1950s Chicago Cardinals. At some point, there will be a player with the first name of Blitzen, then he will be our favorite, and we'll kick Kyle Rudolph to the curb.

And speaking of Christmas, all the oldest among us will want is her two front teeth, since she lost them both within two days of each other, which is a relief, because she was beginning to look like these people. The tooth fairy, however, apparently lost all her gold coins, so she gave her a dollar and a pack of gum. Seeing his sister turn such a handsome profit, the oldest boy is now tying his teeth to oncoming trains.

By the way, the reason our dad is playing so much Mario Kart is that we are making him. Because little did we know that Elsa's twin sister Rosalina is hiding in that game somewhere. All Daddy has to do to unlock her is earn a Star rating on each of the eight Mirror Cups (something he has been unable to do since he bought the game in 2008) or the more direct route, race 250,000 more times. Then he'll unlock Rosalina and immediately enroll in carpal tunnel therapy. And what will we do with Rosalina once she is unlocked? Probably absolutely nothing. 
Congratulations? On what? Six years and still many, many races from unlocking

Let's turn our attention to some outdoor pursuits coming our way this fall. We see a trip to the apple orchard in our future. We just had one in our very recent past...last weekend, in fact. The first weekend all summer where it actually felt like summer, down to the sweat seeping through our butt cracks. We rode on the John Deere tractor (our little brother's favorite part) and sniffed the gas fumes out to the field where we picked 86 pounds of apples that we'll never eat -- unless our parents painstakingly remove every inch of skin off of them-- and even then we'll neglect them the minute we spot a stray Go-gurt in the back of the refrigerator and pitch a fit when we're told it's been there since 2009 and is probably no good. Mom has a busy autumn ahead of her on Pinterest, making edible football helmets out of apples with two bites of them, and Dad has a busy season of dolloping whipped cream all over everything. We'll eat countless bags of Welch's fruit snacks between meals and our parents will ask, in vain, "How about a crisp, fresh, hand-picked apple instead?" "Naaaah." We're doing this again in a month, by the way, because there will be "different" apples available. We won't eat those, either.

We come back to football because the middle one of us is playing flag football this fall. In an ironic twist, these games are mostly scheduled for Sunday afternoons at 1PM. Daddy frowns every time he thinks about this and has said on multiple occasions the only things purposely scheduled for Sundays at 1PM were open houses. Daddy is trying really hard to not be "that Dad" who pays more attention to the scoring updates on his phone than he does to his child. Don't be surprised, though, if he thinks he's posting a cute picture on this site of his son running to glory with his flags waving behind him in the fall breeze, when it's actually a screenshot of the Jaguars/Titans scoring summary. :-(

Around early to mid-October, we will pick out our pumpkins for Halloween. Dad has discussed Halloween in the past so we're just making sure we're on our best behavior so we don't have to go as grapes this year. The pumpkin picking remains the same...the two boys go and pick out the biggest, most misshapen, unwieldy pumpkins they can find and make Dad carry them back to the wagon, while big sister finds a petite thing that she could almost wear as jewelry if she wanted. Then sis finds two gourds, both shaped like ladles, one smooth and the other bumpy, for the front porch. She always picks a bumpy gourd. She's a great friend to bumpy gourds everywhere.

Then comes November, which, if it weren't for Thanksgiving, wouldn't have a whole lot going for it other than sleet. At least the elections are over early in the month. Dad spends most of the month blowing leaves into piles and raking them onto the tarp then dumping them in our backyard bog, which gets boggier when he adds 22 tarploads of wet leaves to it. He says it's better than helping us clean our toy kitchen set three times per weekend. 

We get Veterans Day, November 11, off from school, which we feel is important. Thankfully the United States retains some of its senses and puts Veterans Day ahead of frivolous, meathead holiday ideas like First Day of Baseball Season and Day After Super Bowl. Daddy already gives out candy canes on the first Sunday of football season; that's enough sporting celebration.

Sometime in November, although you're never quite sure when-- because anticipation, because page clicks, because trendiness, because money-- the local terrestrial radio station reminds us it still exists by shifting to the all Christmas-music format, and Daddy goes batshit crazy. Daddy loves Christmas music so much that we'll give him an aneurysm if we tell him we don't want to hear it any more. We play along, memorizing the words to "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and "Dominic the Donkey" but we think one of these years, Dad is going to crank the Christmas Pandora station in August and sit, trance-like, staring at the TV, watching pre-season football and reminding us how much all the gifts in the "12 Days of Christmas" would actually cost today, adjusted for inflation. We just hope he waits until he's retired. 

And oh yeah, Thanksgiving! Really, Dad says, if you're going to declare a new National Holiday, it should just be December. You stuff your faces during Christmas Lite (the erstwhile Thanksgiving), then 3-4 weeks later, all the Christmas preparation comes to a head, you stuff your faces again, and then "whoosh" it's New Year's a week later. America, just take the whole month off and go be good capitalists, spend your money and tell work to shove off. You've got Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby playing in your head the whole day anyway, so you're useless at work. 

(Meanwhile, June and August just sit there, wondering what they needed to do to get a decent holiday..."We coulda put on a helluva New Year's Eve Fireworks display, Junie Baby..." August might say. Might. Instead they get stifling humidity and mosquitoes.)

Other names for Thanksgiving:
1. Christmas with crappier music
2. Christmas with less presents
3. Christmas with more mincemeat pie (gag)
4. Practice Christmas
5. Christmas Lite
6. 10-12 Straight Hours of Football on a Thursday
7. Christmas without all the hype
8. Christmas without the expense
9. Pressure-free Christmas
10. The sane alternative to Christmas

And thus wraps up our Fall Preview. Today Dad will watch football and hand out candy, and we'll sit and make our Christmas lists. No! No we won't! We'll enjoy the season that leads into Christmas, but we're not becoming so infatuated with Christmas that it runs our, on the other hand... Go Steelers! Enjoy fall, everyone!