It's been said, "You're never too old to make a new friend or develop a new interest." I'd like to share how I learned to appreciate football.
It was a rainy Sunday in 1968. We were driving from Madison to Milwaukee. The car radio was broadcasting the Packers game.
The game was close - that part I got. Packers were behind -- also got that. How far behind? I had no idea since I was content to be riding with the man I loved.
Suddenly he grasped the steering wheel and shouted," Go, go, go!" His eyes shone. Then a loud vocalization - that's the best I can describe the sound he made. The Packers made the touchdown and won the game.
I rejoiced because he was happy.
It was that day I knew, some day, I'd learn something about football. I wanted to share his life and that included the history of the Packers, a football team owned by the city of Green Bay. My future husband had met the team and Vince Lombardi while teaching in DePere at St. Norbert College. The Packers were important to him!
After we were married and football games were televised, I asked him, "Will you teach me something about football?"
He looked at me closely since my idea of entertainment was classical music, art, a drive through the country in all seasons.
"What do you want to know?" he asked.
"Teach me something so I can recognize a good play." I had tried to figure this out on my own by listening to the crowd and watching a few replays.
He started my first lesson by standing in the living room, arm drawn back with an imaginary football gripped with hand and fingertips. He said, "A well-executed pass is a thing of beauty. The quarterback (QB) throws a pass so a receiver can catch it." His arm came through with an imaginary pass.
"The receiver catches it, and draws it close to body to hang on to it. He uses the other arm to fend off opponents or balance himself while he runs towards the end zone." He demonstrated holding the imaginary football tucked close to his body with one arm, and other arm extended as guard or balance.
This first lesson concluded with "Start by watching the passes and tell me what you see."
While watching the passes, I learned: how the football was held; the motion of the passing arm; how QB, with help of team, worked his way open to pass and judge who could receive; how linemen cleared and blocked - all to get that ball into the end zone.
As I paid attention to the passes, he explained vagaries of wind, influence of outside temperature, how players clear a space for the receiver, what a sack of the QB was, how strategies vary depending on which down it is (you get 4), the necessity for teamwork so a pass leads to a score.
He suggested I appreciate the magnificence of a football cutting a beautiful arch through the cold fall air.
Slowly but surely I learned about downs, false starts, penalties, end runs, points. I didn't need an explanation for the Lambeau Leap.
I'm still not too sharp about touchbacks, what the pocket is, or how many seconds the QB has to get rid of a ball, or when to punt. But that lack of knowledge does not interfere with my enjoyment of the game. Television, with its close-ups and replays and commentators, makes sure I see if the foot was on or over the line, if the player's knee touched ground before the ball did. I know what a touchdown looks and sounds like.
Now, when a receiver catches or intercepts, my eyes are shining. I motion and shout, “Go, go, go."
My beloved teacher and husband (Phil Roets) is now with Vince Lombardi in some heavenly VIP box watching the Packers play. I continue to learn the finer points so I be a “Monday morning quarterback.”
If you think you can't get interested in or appreciate football, start by watching the passes. "A well-executed pass is a thing of beauty.”