Let me preface this by saying that I’ve never been much of a football fan. (I am, however, a lifelong Cubs—and baseball fan). My dad played football (a star fullback on Aurora East’s team—and its captain, back in the day). He would talk about the greats of that era: Mike Ditka, Gayle Sayers, Dick Butkis and coach George Halas as if they were old friends, returning each fall to our living room. But I was oblivious to it, except for paying great attention to that “really cute” Joe Namath (he of the Jets) and Roman Gabriel (he of the LA Rams). But I never understood the downs and the sacks and the touchbacks. (And knowing that the Bears didn’t really have any really cute players back then).
I married a Bears fan, so I learned a little about football—enough that I was never in danger of becoming a Sunday afternoon football widow. I got to the point where I could follow the plays without constantly asking for translation (and annoying my tolerant husband). And when I was pregnant with our first child, the Bears went to the Super Bowl. The 1985 Bears were really something, and even the football-semi-illerate that I was couldn’t help but be excited by the superhuman Walter Payton, punky QB Jim McMahon, brilliant Mike Singletary Refrigerator Perry, and the entire rest of Mike Ditka’s team. That year was a never-ending football party that champion-starved Chicago sports fans drank up like water in a desert.
Then when my youngest child got to middle school he started to play football and I was equal parts enthusiastic and terrified. He was quick but on the offensive line—the smallest kid on it—so I lived in constant fear of his imminent pummeling. I wasn’t unhappy to see him (slightly) injure his wrist his freshman year in an early game. He left sports for theatre (whew, much less dangerous). Now a sophomore at Big 10 school University of Illinois, he sits in the bleachers cheering on the Fighting Illini instead of getting beaten up (and beaten) on game day.