Football – the season to be outnumbered
I don’t know exactly when Broncos fans took over my house. I do recall Teddy as a toddler sitting down in front of a football game my husband had just strolled away from. His small voice immediately shouted, an echo: “You idiot!”Today both sons play football in the snow every school recess, and Roy, 8, is suddenly a fervid student of the game. He opens his eyes in the morning asking, “You know who’s a really good player?” He thumps endlessly around the house in a Champ Bailey jersey, football under his arm, tossing and twisting, broadcasting imaginary plays (“Oh! He fumbles it!”). He draws pictures of players, and watches a gift video about the Broncos so often he joins in the narration.Unfortunately, he also quizzes me, who likes sports but watches few.”Mom, guess what number Richardson is?” he asks. “It’s in the 40s.”I throw out 46. “Close,” he encourages.”Forty-seven?” I try. “Forty-eight?””He’s 49. What number was Marvin Harrison? It’s in the 80s.””Eighty-seven,” I say tiredly.”Close. Very close! You get two more turns.””Eighty-six.””Just a little off.””Eighty-five.””Buzz! You lose. It’s 88.”Going up the ski lift, watching the numbered chairs descend, he names a football player or two whose numbers match each.As we return home from the slopes, he discusses the Broncos’ “really good offensive line,” double-reverse plays, and unfair hits. He exults: “Remember Kelly Herndon covered the guy on the fourth down?”Pleased by his strong interest, I try to engage. In the kitchen one day I ask, “How’s John Fortis doing now that he’s with the Ravens?”Perfect, thunderstruck silence. Three pairs of eyes stare at me, Roy’s wide with shock. Then three people start laughing.”Mom, it’s Clinton Portis!” They dart mirthful, pitying looks. “And he’s with the Redskins!”Among themselves they marvel quietly, “She watches the Super Bowl for the commercials.”In the car, Roy continues: “OK, Mom. Who’s our quarterback?”I grimace. I halfway know, yet from another decade and geography emerge the words, “Jim Palmer?””Mom! Jake Plummer. Who’s the coach for the Broncos?””Umm. George Stranahan.”Peals of laughter; I’ve named a local educator.”Mike Shanahan. Who’s our veteran wide receiver?””I don’t know.””Mom. Rod Smith. These are really easy questions I’m asking you.”(When I later laughingly quote the line to my husband, Mike, he frowns and says, “Well, those are easy questions.”)”Who’s our veteran tight end that quit last year?” Roy goes on.”I don’t know.”He speaks slowly, sternly. “You don’t know the name Shannon Sharpe?””Oh, yes, of course.””Who’s the Colts’ QB?””Peyton Manning.””Who’s the Colts’ running back?””I DON’T KNOW!””EDGERRIN JAMES!”Roy bets a dollar, since it was spotted him by Aunt Meg, with her hip friend Mary, on the Broncs’ first matchup with the Colts. He prays for snow. “The Broncos are used to snow and the Colts have a stadium with a roof!” he explains. “And their awesome quarterback is from New Orleans, where they don’t have snow.”When we win – and even I know that the Colts have “rested” Peyton Manning – he collects.Mary suggests a dollar on the playoffs. She and Roy both expect a Colts win, but she offers him seven points (and privately instructs me that she’d go 14 points).Even the most diehard fan, however, has limits. Roy is horrified. “I’m not giving up my money!”I raise the margin.”I’ll only do it for 20 points,” Roy begins, “but anyway I don’t want to!”He also says that our team will get killed.During another game, I sit a few moments with the boys on the couch. Upstairs, the phone rings.”Don’t answer!” says Mike. “The game’s going to be won or lost in the next two seconds.””Oh, I’ll get it,” I say. From behind I hear the murmured, final pronouncement: “She has no football spirit.”Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com
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