Football and I have always had a complicated relationship, in that I find it more boring than watching C-SPAN on mute and people always try to make me enjoy it. Given that I don’t understand the intricacies of the game, my experience watching football is essentially, “Manbeasts run each other over for a quarter of a second and then we watch beer commercials for forty minutes. Rinse and repeat. Oh, and occasionally someone throws the ball.” I mean this in the most respectful way possible, as I certainly couldn’t go out there and do it, given my body composition could best be described as “small but squishy, with a propensity toward tripping over the cat and bruising if someone looks at me too hard.” I just don’t find it interesting, despite a slew of ex-boyfriends trying their damnedest to get me to develop even the slightest interest in the sport they expended so much energy following and discussing. I like you. I get that you like it. But I would rather chew off my own foot and then beat myself silly with it than watch more than one football game in a weekend. If there is a hell, my version (and I am never hyperbolic) is an endless stream of football viewed Clockwork Orange-style from a dentist chair that smells like cat piss to the sounds of Donald Trump discussing feminism. And they only have Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi.
However, as a child, my father tried to instill the love of the game in us, and when I was a youth, he took me to a Chicago Bears game as a bonding activity. We arrived at Soldier Field and took our seats, and I remember being awed at the energy of the stadium, thousands of people shouting and cheering and slamming Budweisers like the world was going to end. It was impressive. It was awe-inspiring. But then we ran out of Starbursts and I was ready to go home. Football games are long. And repetitive. And they don’t have any toys there. So I drained our candy supply and then figured if I whined enough, Dad would take me home.
Somewhere around the third quarter, the teams were lined up ready to begin the next play. (Hike the ball? Get this wagon train a-movin’? I don’t know football terms.) I was squirming in my seat, certain that no one in the history of time had endured a greater hardship than what I was suffering through at this moment. And then, out of nowhere, as if sent by a merciful football god who took pity on a young girl bored to tears, a squirrel ran onto the field. It was sprinting full-speed through the Vikings end zone, flying downfield on those little legs as if his life depended on it. The players broke formation, collapsing on the ground, doubled up in hysterical laughter. And that squirrel, that little emblem of perseverance, continued to run. The announcers, choking through laughter, began screaming, “He’s at the thirty, he’s at the twenty, he’s at the ten…” and then the crowd erupted into tumultuous cheers as he ran through the end zone. “TOUCHDOOOOOOOWN SQUIRREL!!!!!!!” All around us, people were high-fiving and hugging, beers spilling left and right and tears running down cheeks. Stadium staff were trying to corral the squirrel and get him off the field, but he was much too fast for them. They chased him in dizzy circles as he zigzagged between them, untouchable. The players were rolling around on the ground in unbridled mirth. My dad picked me up and we laughed together. “I love football!” I chirped gleefully. He chuckled. “Well if this is what it takes for you, so be it.” And I haven’t enjoyed a game since.