Much Ado about Football (or nothing)

I’m back in the fantasy football saddle again, and I am about to get bucked off only two weeks into the season, and it’s all my father’s fault.

The Fantasy Football League with which I’m currently participating does not require an entry fee.  It’s just meant to be fun, friendly competition amongst some friends and family members on my wife’s side.  Since both my wife and I have teams, we can share Sundays together watching modern day gladiators on television while I barbecue or cook a hearty Fall stew.  No gambling, great entertainment, digestible food, and a loving family.  Sounds like a stress free environment, right? Wrong.  Although it’s a great league filled with terrific participants,  there is only one thing keeping it from being perfect.  Me.  If this is where I strive for competitive excellence, I should seek therapy.  When my fantasy team falters in some way, I find myself speaking to the television set with a volume causing our dogs to look at me and say, “You ok, Papa?”   Who do I blame?  My father.

Years ago, my father’s art of raising his voice at a television set, fruitlessly trying to manipulate football players’ brain patterns, created tension throughout a very large household.   This trait being passed down to me is my only semi-legitmate excuse for acting like an immature ass in front of my wife and our confused animals while watching football.  I only wish they understood.  When I was growing up in a very large Irish/Catholic family (another excuse for just about anything stupid we’d do) we would watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football game every Saturday.  Let me clarify.  Dad would watch Notre Dame, and we would watch Dad.  Watching him seemed to be more entertaining.   Although our father didn’t really know, or claim to know, a great deal about gridiron strategy, he did know when a coach or player, especially the quarterback, would make a mental mistake.  When they did, the cigarette he was smoking would fly out of his mouth just before the verbal tirade.  They didn’t even wish to be on the ash end of his comments questioning the players’ and coaches’ levels of intelligence.  Remarkably, he could get his point across without too much profanity, so it didn’t make anyone in the room too nervous.  In fact, my brothers and I would try to keep from chuckling during his outbursts.

Without knowing the X’s and O’s of football, my father was all about clock management.   “Why are you running out of bounds when you need to keep the clock running?  That running back needs to have his ass kicked up between his shoulder blades.”  Or, “Ahhhhhh………why pass the ball when you need to keep the clock running?  This quarterback doesn’t need his head examined, he needs a lobotomy.”  Or,  “If they show the coach’s wife in the stands one more time looking nervous, I’ll fly to South Bend and give her a reason to look nervous.”  That last one was probably made up, because my father wasn’t a violent man.  And, although he liked going to Vegas or Reno once every few years, he wasn’t much of a gambler, so I know he didn’t have cash on the game.  This is why I questioned why he took it so seriously, and I have to question myself at the same time, because it’s simply ridiculous.

My brothers, Tom, Greg and I would root for Notre Dame, but mostly just because it would keep dad in a good mood.  Other than that, we didn’t really care.  We were preoccupied with the sweet sizzling smell of mom’s Saturday night burgers and getting a kick out of counting how many cigarettes dad would polish off during a stressful ND loss.  We must have second hand smoked two packs a Saturday back then.  Ahh…. when smoking was funny.  Those were the days.  Thank goodness he wasn’t a big drinker.

On the contrary, one of the wonderful traits my father passed down to me is the art of forgetting very quickly the meaningless loss with which you weren’t even a participant.  Even after a Notre Dame loss, when Dad’s cigarette was replaced with one of our mom’s burgers, all was well.  And, similarly, after the bowl of piping hot stew and warm french bread is placed in front of me after a stressful day of watching this terrific sport, I develop fantasy football amnesia.

Luckily for me, when my wife catches me uttering something sounding like I belong in a straight jacket during these fantasy football Sundays, a few minutes later, I’ll catch her doing the same, and we can both laugh.  She’ll never admit it, but I think she takes it more seriously than I do.


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