I watched the Minnesota Vikings lose their championship game on Sunday. It was painful. They were so close and really should have had it. I admit I had my hopes up too high and was already planning the Super Bowl party with the family, and on buying a sweatshirt. Hopes dashed, it’s a crushing blow. I suppose, though, that it’s harder for the team than it is for me.
I’m not much of a sports nut. I’m what people lovingly, or through gritted teeth, refer to as a “fair-weather fan”. I get excited when a home team is winning because it really is fun, but otherwise I don’t pay much attention. But, I have always kept my eye on the Vikings. I like to know how their season in going. It’s a tie to home, and to good childhood memories.
Fall in Minnesota is gorgeous. Fresh, crisp air, cool sweatshirt weather, that chill in the morning, the leaves changing to brilliant colors, and Sunday afternoons with football on television. We’d sit down to Sunday dinner with a game on in the background. Games were on all afternoon. I think my affection for football has more to do with that picture of home than with the actual game. Although, a good long pass down the field to an open receiver is always exciting.
My brothers were the real fans. Back in the 70s the Vikings had a running back named Chuck Foreman who they idolized. They even made up a game in his honor – Chucky Passes. One would throw the football in some crazy way and then the other had to kill himself to catch it. The idea was that Chuck could catch anything, so they tried to create and then catch the impossible pass. Chucky Passes, great name.
Aaron and Barry often recruited (sometimes with force) me, Marla and Shane into playing football in the back yard. We had huge yard with a stretch of grass that was long, maybe 30 yards, and straight, and that was our field. The boys split up as team captains. They’d split Marla and me because we’re girls, and then Shane was added to a team, three against two. We’d huddle, and Aaron or Barry, whoever’s team I was on, would explain the play we were going run. They’d put their fingers in the grass, “This is me. Ang, you’re here. When I say ‘hut’, you run to this side. I’ll fake a handoff, and then you go out for the pass.” All of this was drawn in the grass, leaving little holes between the blades where his fingers were.
All of our plays were planned out. I wasn’t a great player (although I can, to this day, throw a nice spiral), and sometimes I had to face the wrath of an older brother when a pass wasn’t caught, or I messed up somehow. It’s a tough game, and Marla and I had to be tough girls. We played full-on tackle. Those guys plowed us into the grass, and we did the same to them. I remember wrapping my arms around Barry’s waist and dragging him to the ground. Nice.
Courtney was so much younger than the rest of us that he didn’t get in on those games, but he and I played when he was older, mostly easy games of catch. We’d go for walks down our gravel road and take the football with us. He’d run out ahead and I’d throw it to him, and then I’d run out and he’d throw it. “Go deep”, that’s what we said when we wanted to other to run out for a pass. “Go deep.” That’s it, and we knew exactly what to do. He liked to tackle, too. I always had to keep one eye on him because he’d come at me from out of nowhere and smack! I’d be on the ground. He still wants to do that, even though we’re way too old now. Sometimes he’ll look at me and say, “Tackle?” and I’ll say, “No!” It hurts, hitting the ground that hard. I hate it. I’m pretty sure that he plagues his wife and kids with the same thing. Court played on the school’s team through high school. I remember mom telling me that after the last game of his senior year he was honestly sad for days. It was hard for him to know that he was done for good.
So when people ask me what my favorite sport is I say football. I’m clueless about the different teams (other than to recognize the names) and they’re players and stat details and so-and-so’s career, but still I love that game. Love it. And the family and I will have good food and watch the Super Bowl in a couple of weeks even though the Vikings won’t be there. It’s a Sunday afternoon, and those are made for football. Why mess with tradition?