I never thought I’d see the day where the ‘star’ of a BCS National Championship game was NOT the QB who won the game – in this case Alabama’s AJ McCarron – but instead, his girlfriend, Katherine Webb.
While ‘Bama blew out Notre Dame in the Monday night thud, the post-game social chatter wasn’t about McCarron, but rather how his long legged beauty queen girlfriend, Miss Alabama, with adoring flowy long brown trestles and divine smile, awkwardly captivated an ESPN commentator, and millions of Americans who tweeted and posted the sensation later. Miss Alabama’s sea blue bikini and 22 inch waist was enough to make anyone pay attention to her game. I mean, the game.
So, if you love football, you’ll appreciate why I’m taking this timely moment to share a similar experience I had involving a championship football game, Notre Dame, a star player, and a long legged woman with wavy brown hair. My story isn’t nearly as sexy, but in a way, it’s just as…well…boggling. At least, to me.
Now, I don’t remember the exact age my son Chenz was when I sat next to Debbie, the long legged brown haired football mom, at the championship modified football game. I think he was in 7th or 8th grade. Like most things in life, we don’t remember dates. We remember moments.
This one is crystal clear.
I remember two things about that crisp autumn day at the football field behind Whitesboro Middle School: first, I promised my #5 wide receiver, if he got a touchdown, we could get the dog he wanted from the pound; and second, I remember the moment my football obsession began.
Now, I couldn’t tell you the team he played, or how he played, or the score, or even if they won. Usually, I was busy chatting with the other moms about who knows what. In my defense, I was astute enough to know when Chenz caught the ball, the big players would crush any kid who tried to get near him, and once he got past the white line toward the big ‘H’ – two striped arms would fly up in the air – which meant I was going home with a very hungry, very happy kid. Which gave me great joy. When you have kids, their accomplishments are your own.
Shamefully, I should have known football. After all, I was a football cheerleader all four years of high school for the Notre Dame Jugglers, freezing under the bright Friday night lights alongside Sheila and Anne Marie. We, and about a dozen other committed girls spent every Friday night, clapping and flailing over screaming voices, for three hours in our very short, very snug, very blue and yellow striped jumpers, with very yellow gold turtlenecks, and very ugly bobby socks and saddle shoes.
“First and ten, do it again.”
“Push em back, push em back, waaaaaaay back!!
“De–fense! (clap, clap) De–fense!”
“Hold that line! Hold that line!”
“T-O-U-C-H-D-O-W-N!!!! What does it spell? (crowd cue) TOUCHDOWN!!”
“Attack!! Attack!!! Sack that quarterback!” (clap… clap…clap clap clap)
Hardly any of us chirpy cheerers had a clue – or even a care – about the rules and plays of the game. What was important was winning. A win meant the guys would be happy when we went out later. For all we knew, back in the day, first and ten was the number of guys on the field who wanted to win; the quarterback was the Homecoming King who dated the annoyingly perfect Homecoming Queen; the stocky guys who squatted in the front smoked too much pot to run fast like the brawny guys on the end; and the brawny guys on the end ran fast because they wanted the game over so they could meet the cheerleaders out later.
Back to the beautiful crispy autumn day behind Whitesboro Middle School.
I don’t know which team had the ball. I don’t know why, instead of being chatty with the moms, I sat in the stands and was completely present. And I certainly didn’t know why the ump threw the yellow thing out of his back pocket on to the ground while blowing his whistle – with such purpose. I’d never really noticed before, but the play perplexed me. When I get perplexed, I get mindful. When I get mindful, I get inquisitive. When I get inquisitive, I start asking questions, which usually puts me at grave risk for saying something really brilliant OR really…NOT.
This was the latter.
“Um excuse me. Deb?,” I asked sheepishly.
Debbie was the perfect person to ask because she obviously loved football and knew the rules. Her raspy voice forceful, her fair skin complemented her wavy brown hair topping her full-sized frame, outfitted in a gray oversized sweatshirt. Not exactly a Miss Alabama-type, but Deb’s knowledge of the game was impressive, even more knowledgeable than the umps at times, as was obvious when she referred to them as ‘idiots’ who needed ‘new glasses.’
I continued …..
“Can you tell me why the ump threw the yellow thing out of his back pocket on the ground?”
She tilted her head and looked at me with bite, tilting her head again each time she made a point.
“It’s a…’ref’… and it’s called…’a flag on the play’ …and the call was ‘offsides,” she quipped before ever-so-slightly shaking her head – kind of like someone does when they’re seemingly, irritatingly, annoyingly interrupted.
I thought about what she said and what happened on the field before making my assessment. Mindful again, I checked to make sure my assessment was correct.
That’s what perplexed, inquisitive, mindful people do.
So, I asked Debbie a second question. A question that would forever change my affinity for the game.
“Does offsides mean when there’s more weight on one side of the field than the other?”
Deb looked at me like a predator before inhaling the breathe she’d need to let out a hardy roar of laughter followed by her bellowing my question across the stands.
The moment probably would have remained unremarkable – along with my ignorance about football – had Chenz not come out of the locker room a while later with… attitude. He was usually the last one out, because he was usually the last one in, because he was usually socializing. What happened to my well-mannered #5 who got a touchdown?
“What’s the deal,” I asked as he slugged in the car.
“Are you mad about something?”
“Okay. Are you mad at me?”
I drove a little further down the street where I pulled into a parking lot, put the car in park, and told him we weren’t moving until he told me what was wrong. After all, the dog was waiting at the pound.
That’s when he blurted out the guys razzed him in the locker room about me not knowing offsides and that he was embarrassed and that, ”……I love football and YOU NEED TO LEARN IT!”
Never had a young kid’s words struck my heart with such thunder. It was the moment I knew I had to learn and respect the football playbook of life that was teaching him valuable lessons about success, failure, respect, resilience, persistence, hard work, friendship, teamwork, determination, dedication, intensity, commitment, accountability, strength, and courage.
And so, insatiably, I learned. Learning quickly turned love.
Chenz went on to play high school ball, helping to lead his high school team to a state championship game. He played college ball. Today he’s an executive manager and a cheeseheaded Packers fan.
Because I love the game of football… I follow a number of teams including Syracuse University, USC, Chargers, Packers, Ravens, and the Colts. Oh, and now the Falcons. Oh, and the Bills. I pray for the Bills every night.
Thank you Debbie. You’re no Miss Alabama, but you’re a rock star in my book.
Oh, and by the way…..Pickles was a great dog.