Playing Football Like Mom

The boys play their first football game today.

This is a milestone, according to the Dad. A right of passage. One small step onto the field, one giant leap into manhood. This is where we’ll see what metal they’re made of. They will come home changed, having hunted and conquered. Ah Ha Ha!

The amount of testosterone that walked out the door this morning could have raised the Goodyear blimp!

I hope they play their best. I hope they have fun. I hope they don’t get hurt…

It’s probably my own fault they’re even interested in football. I was the one who started the family football pool for Grey Cup and SuperBowl to get the kids to actually watch the games with Dad. He’s a football kind of guy – played offensive line in his single days. Had a tryout with the Tiger Cats. But I was saddened when playoffs started and he had to watch alone. I would watch with him, but couldn’t really get past the fantasy of the tight shiny football pants. Maybe if I had opted for a beer over wine coolers my company would have been enough for him. But instead, he watched alone, yelling at the television with no one to care or hear. A one man cheering section.

So I made up the grid and had the kids fill in the squares. I offered up big chocolate/candy prizes for each quarter and explained the concept to them. They caught on fast – it was simple enough – if their numbers matched the score at the end of each quarter, they could win a family sized box of Jos. Louis! They were in!

It became a tradition. Chili and the football pool. Dad never said so, but I know that deep down, he was crying tears of joy that his kids were now enjoying the game.

In fact, over the years, even the little girls have started to actually catch on to the rules and plays, positions and strategies. It was great fun to watch two little girls cheer on a 6-foot-2-inch 240 pound lineman as he accidentally found himself in possession of the ball with thirty seconds ’til half time and actually managed a 90 yard return for the touchdown. We were all even more excited as our 14-year-old realized out loud that, “Hey! He’s my size!”

Dad was beside himself. I realized I’d opened a can of worms.

But I am justifiably worried for their safety.

I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a 280 pound lineman’s attack. I have felt the crushing strength of an enthusiastic and deliberate tackle. I have endured the pummeling a full sized defender can inflict on a poor unsuspecting victim. I sleep with the Dad.

Most of the time, Dad is a very sound sleeper. Every once in a while he will boom out a sudden nocturnal explosion of directions: “PUT THAT DOWN!!” “WELCOME TO OUR SCHOOL! HOW CAN I HELP YOU?!!” “TELL ME MR. JONES, WHAT ARE THE TEN MAJOR CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CANADIAN JUSTICE SYSTEM?”


These little surprises, jolting as they are coming from the big barrel chested booming voice of the man I love, are funny.

Not so the first few years we were married.

The first time it happened, I was a novice. I had no idea he was so capable.

I was sleeping peacefully, enjoying a pleasant dream about some naturally beautiful waterfall, floating happily on my back on my side of our waterbed. It must have been the waves that alerted me to the danger. I heard the grunting of a large animal – a bear, I thought – coming from the trees to the side, bringing with it an overwhelming sense of panic.

Suddenly, I was awake, eyes open, eyeballs bulging from their sockets in the dark trying to see something – anything – to tell my brain how to react to this paralyzing fear. Then he was on me. From his side of the bed he did a sort of push-up move, but instead of landing back on his side of the bed, he launched himself sideways, landing fully and completely, right on top of me!!

His hands were fisted, tucked up under this chin so that his elbows were firmly embedded in my abdomen. As if this assault were not enough, he then proceeded to try to dig a hole in the bed beneath me, pushing savagely with one elbow, then the other, using ME as a shovel, grunting rhythmically the whole time.

If I could have screamed I certainly would have, though there was no one to hear me. The best I could do was to maneuver my nimble fingers between us, pinching viciously, unable to do more.

Finally, when I could take no more, he jumped back off as quickly as he had jumped on, rolled over to his side of the bed, and promptly began snoring happily.

I got out of bed, went to the living room, and threw back three quick shots of whatever whiskey I had in a cupboard somewhere.

I was still awake in the morning when he found me, traumatized. When I accused him of his midnight advances, he denied everything.

It took months before I was able to sleep deeply once more.

Then it happened again. I was awakened by the grunting – instinctively I recognized it and knew the danger. But too slow to react, I opened my eyes to find him on his knees beside me, hands raised high over his head, his pillow bunched up tightly in his fists. Before I could escape, he slammed the pillow down into my soft, unprepared midsection shouting, “TOUCHDOWN!!!”

And happily settled himself back to sleep.

And again, no idea what I was talking about the next morning.

In talking to coworkers the next day, most of whom found my anecdote hilariously funny, it was pointed out to me that both times this had happened, it was indeed Labour Day weekend, the beginning of the NFL regular play schedule.

Ahh. I get it.

I let it go. For the time being. But pledged to be more aware of him during times of playoffs and big games.

But it was about a year later, the last time he got me. I was on to him – or so I thought. I was sleeping lightly, listening, waiting.

It was a night where we had both had tough days and reached for each other for comfort. Snuggled in bed together, it was one of the rare occasions where we actually fell asleep in each other’s arms. As this had happened so rarely by then – once married, people tend to opt for sleep over contact… – we both happily dozed off, me spooned into him, his big strong arms holding me close. I think I was actually smiling as I slept.

Until I heard that grunt. Immediately I was awake – fully aware – and I knew I had to move – FAST!

I bolted for the edge of the bed. It was like a bad dream – I know I dove for it, but nothing happened. I tried again, but went nowhere! Again.

Then I realized he still had me locked in his arms. And he wasn’t letting go.

His knees were tucked tightly in behind mine; I could feel the heat of his breath at the top of my head. I scratched frantically at his hands, trying to pull them apart.

Then I felt his legs stretch out, reaching for the bottom of the bed. Confused, desperate to escape, I missed his intent.

So when his knee launched itself up my waiting and vulnerable behind, driving my head straight up and into the headboard as he yelled loudly, “PUNT!!” I was both confused and panicked.

As the pain sunk in, I got angry.

It was most satisfying to see the confusion and panic on his face as he awoke to me beating him senselessly about the head and torso.

He slept the rest of the night on the couch.

The following day, we went out and ordered a custom made king sized bed – had it made eight inches bigger all around for the big guy.

When it was delivered, we installed intercoms on either side so we could still say goodnight to each other.

I now have a solid platform from which to make good my escape and an extra two feet of warning time. This has proved most successful and I have not been tackled since, though he does still occasionally play a little gridiron ball in his sleep. We will celebrate our seventeenth wedding anniversary next month. Thanks to a little ingenuity and compromise.

Otherwise, I would have had to kill him.

That said, I know what my boys are in for today. I hope that they can give as good as they get. Or, if not, get out of the way.

I know I have to let them spread their wings and all. But I don’t know if they’re ready. They’re nice kids who will have to learn how to get aggressive. Even in practice, they’re hitting their friends; I’m sure they’re holding back. I hope that their first game today is as much a learning experience for the other team as it will be for my guys.

I blame the Dad if the boys aren’t ready. Fact is, he probably should have been sleeping with them. Then they, too, would know how to take a hit.

Just like Mom.

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