January 25, 2010
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      Sometimes the most important football game in a football fan’s sporting life isn’t the one that hasn’t been played yet.   Or the one that was played last week.   Or last year.   Sometimes it’s that one great and memorable game you saw with your significant other when you were a little younger.

      Say, oh, 72 years younger.

      On Saturday I was having lunch at LeRoy’s Diner in Monrovia with Roxanne, my girlfriend and fellow football fan, when this elderly couple sat down in the booth next to ours.   I didn’t really pay much attention to them at first (perhaps because, being the Sports Philosopher, I was preoccupied with the upcoming NFL conference championship games between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts and the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints), but after awhile we both became intrigued at how cute they were together.   For instance, they only ordered one roast beef sandwich, which they split in two so they could share.   They also divvied up the French fries into two equal piles (red meat and fried potatoes obviously being the keys to their longevity.)

      Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and decided to chat them up.

      I didn’t ask their names.   I didn’t want to know their names; I find that anonymity makes most people more interesting.   What I was most curious about was the longevity of their marriage.   They both looked to be in their 70s, so figured they had to be married at least fifty years, maybe even fifty-five.   But I wanted to know for sure.   So I asked the woman point blank how long they’d been married.

      “Seventy years,” she said.

      “What did you say?” said I.

      “Seventy years,” she repeated.  

      As a divorced man, it just didn’t sound real.   I told her she didn’t look old enough to be married that long.   She didn’t.

      “I’m ninety,” she replied proudly.   “And he’s ninety-three!” she added with glee.

      Neither of us could believe it.   And I think we both realized at that moment that neither of us would ever meet a married couple again who were both that old and who had been married for that long.   Here’s a picture of the happy anonymous couple:

The happy couple.

The happy couple.

      “What’s the secret to having such a long and successful marriage,” Roxanne—also divorced—asked the old woman.

      “Tolerance,” the old woman replied.   We all laughed.

      But back to business.   I had been looking for an angle for this column, something that had to do with those upcoming NFL conference championship games, so I decided to put the question to these sweet old souls: “Are you looking forward to the football games tomorrow?” I asked them.

      The woman looked at me like I was a Martian.   “You don’t really care who makes it to the Super Bowl, do you….” I said by way of replying in their place, more a statement of obvious fact than a question.

      “Oh, no,” the old woman said, her voice almost contemptuous of the modern gridiron game.   But before I could change the subject, she added, “But I loved football back in high school.   Those were such fun games!   I went to Franklin High.   That’s in Highland Park.”

      But before I could say a word in response, the old man interjected, quite loudly, “One time my school, Roosevelt High in Boyle Heights, played her Franklin High, and Roosevelt won!”   His eyes were suddenly afire with excitement.   He was smiling for the first time since he sat down.  Roxanne, the old woman, and myself, we all joined in the laughter.   Now we were getting somewhere.

      Turns out that immortal Roosevelt victory over Franklin occurred in 1938, when Pearl and Webster (that’s what we named them) were just starting to date.   It was clearly the watershed event of their courtship.     

      “His school beating your school in football might very well have spelled the end of your brand new romance,” I said to Pearl.

      “No, he was a charmer,” Pearl rejoined.   “He told me I had pearly teeth. (pearly teeth, Pearl.  Get it?)

      “You do have nice teeth,” I said.

      “No, that was just a line,” she said, smiling at her husband of seventy years.

      Anyway, we all chatted for about a half an hour.   They were clearly glad—especially Pearl—that we had taken the time to make their acquaintance, clearly delighting in the conversation.   We discovered that they had seven great-grandchildren and at least three great-great-grandchildren, and for a moment or two they seemed convinced they even had a couple great-great-great grandchildren, but after doing some quick mathematical calculations they both realized they’d thrown in one too many greats.   But the point is that they obviously enjoyed the friendly conversation and were grateful that two young people (because that’s what we were to them) had shown an interest and had taken the time to talk.   Roxanne and I both felt good about taking the time to say hello and listen to their story.   We thanked them for the stimulating conversation, shook their hands, but just as we were standing up and getting ready to leave, Webster spontaneously burst into a loud and thrilling rendition of Roosevelt High’s alma mater.   People all throughout LeRoy’s Diner turned their heads to listen.   Pearl started laughing.   Webster ended his fight song with a hearty “Rah, rah, rah!”   Suddenly it was 1938 again, and Roosevelt High was putting the hammer to Franklin.   What a game that must have been….

      Who needs the Super Bowl?


PS—As for Sunday’s conference championship games (in case anybody cares), it was obvious to me that the Vikings were much stronger on both sides of the ball than the Saints, but that their many stupid fumbles and interceptions cost them a game they clearly should have won.   Equally obvious to me is the concurrent realization that two weeks from now, in the Super Bowl, Peyton Manning is going to carve up the Saints’ defense like a Christmas goose.      

Brad Eastland

Brad Eastland


The Sports Philosopher

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, football fan, and sports nut, in no particular order.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    He has also written four novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of Brad’s fiction work can be discovered and enjoyed within the links below :




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