Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why I Gave Up Football

I've heard rumors that tonight, in a football stadium less than an hour from my house, there will be a football game to end all football games. No. 1 LSU will play No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

Because I'm from Louisiana and live in Alabama, the vast majority of my Facebook friends live in one of these two states or are from one of these two states. Their SEC loyalties have been set since birth when they came into the world and their moms or dads slipped purple-and-gold onesies onto them or crimson-and-white knit caps over their tender newborn heads. My Facebook newsfeed is atwitter (Twitter is also atwitter) with excitement over this match-up. It promises to be a thrilling competition between two rival teams, both undefeated.

I won't be watching.

I thought about it. It's a big game and everyone will be talking about it. I won't be able to avoid the updates on Facebook or the trash talk or the gloating/weeping that will follow the game unless I take a week-long break from the social network.

But I gave up football last season.

After my ex-husband, Charles, died in August 2009, I still watched LSU games. I'd call the kids into the room.

"You want to watch the game?"

No, they never did. But I knew if their dad were there he'd be calling Jacob into the room to sit in his "lucky" chair whenever LSU had the ball. Jacob had always very sweetly indulged this nonsensical strategy for achieving a win.

I used to watch with Charles and he loved when I got worked up and jumped up off the sofa to lean against the far wall because I couldn't sit still. He loved when I cheered on a great play and stood up to celebrate with a happy, Snoopy dance. (I grew up watching my mother do this dance while watching Dallas Cowboys football games.)

But in 2009, I couldn't get into the cheering or jeering. I only felt nervous, worked-up, stressed out and, honestly, grief-stricken.

If LSU lost, I thought, "How can they lose when Charles isn't alive? The least the universe owes us is a damn win."

It's ridiculous thinking. It's the sort of magical thinking that comes after a tragedy. I suspect that this year there are numerous victims of the spring tornadoes in Alabama who will pray for a win. Please, please, just give us this win. You tore our homes away from their foundations. You ripped our lives apart. Give us a win.

I suppose these football prayers are not any sillier than saying, "Son, hurry! Come sit here in this chair because the last time you sat there the team scored. The placement of your ass on that upholstered cushion is a vital part of the LSU playbook."

During that 2009 season, when LSU played, I missed my friend. I wanted to think good thoughts about him. I wanted to watch pretty, nostalgic memories flicker across the movie screen in my mind. But the trauma that accompanied his death was still too fresh. My hurt and anger and guilt were too near the surface. So I would cry. Win or lose.

When the 2010 football season arrived, I decided I wasn't going to watch any games. Not one. It was amazing how freeing it was. It's very easy to ignore football. Hearing about a win or a loss after the fact wasn't at all stressful. Because I wasn't watching the kickoff, the 2-point conversions, the field goals, or the touchdowns, I didn't connect the loss of a game to the loss of something so much more vital and important.

The truth was I didn't care about football before Charles. I only watched it because he loved it. Given the choice, I  might have watched Lifetime movies instead.

I haven't watched any games this year, either, but time is working its healing magic on my wounds.

I have learned a lot over the past two years. I have learned to separate Charles's final moments from the happy memories. I can picture us watching a game. I can see him in my memories calling his friend Scott in Colorado or his friend Stephen in Louisiana to discuss this great play or that dumb-ass, blind-as-a-bat official or the mystery of what the f*ckety f*ck was Les Miles just thinking, and I don't have to see anything other than that.

I can joke about Charles gathering a bunch of purple-and-gold clad angels around him to watch the game and bless his team with victory.

I can wish for a win because I know it will make my friends (well, most of them) happy.

I can do all that but I still won't watch the game. I still can't stop my irrational, magical thinking that, midway through the game, might tell me that this win-or-lose situation means something in the grand scheme of love and life and loss and Charles.

Instead, I think I'll order Crazy, Stupid Love on DirecTV and let my irrational thoughts work their way around the magic of Ryan Gosling's abs.

1 comment:

  1. I am quite moved by this, Amy. You're an amazing woman - but I already knew that, so what did I come away with from reading this blog? A glimpse into a heart that suffers from loss while the mind tries to cope. I truly admire and love you, Amy.


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