THE EDUCATION OF A FOOTBALL FAN by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher

January 10, 2011
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      My girlfriend, Roxanne, is a very, very passionate woman.   And I mean very passionate….

      About football.

      It’s pretty cool, actually.   This lady loves football the way I love my dog, which is a lot.   She eats it, lives, breathes it.   During football season she’s happy.   The rest of the year, not so much.   And she doesn’t just watch football when I’m around.   Sometimes I’ll play a message on my answering machine and it’ll be her, saying something hysterically nebulous like, “Did you see that play?”   Half the time I’m not even watching the game she’s watching.   The other half I don’t even know when she left the message.   It’s in her blood.  

      Roxanne’s favorite play in football is the long bomb.   She says the sexiest thing in the world is when a quarterback who is over six foot three (he has to be over six foot three) throws the long bomb.   Doesn’t even matter if the pass is complete.   It’s just sexy, I guess, when a tall guy heaves a long one.   When it comes to the bomb, apparently it’s all about height and length.

  this is Roxanne...perhaps the only Ravens fan in Southern California

this is Roxanne...perhaps the only Ravens fan in Southern California



      All that aside, the best thing about Roxanne’s love affair with football is how eager she is to actually learn about it.   She’s really dedicated.   And I don’t mean the obvious things, like who has the best record or what quarterback has the cutest dimples.   No no no.   She wants to understand it, to be totally conversant in the intricate nuts and bolts of the thing.   Positions, plays, penalties, formations, audibles, the whole enchilada.   Weird, huh?

      So I’ve been teaching her.

      A teacher by trade, she’s a good student.   First we went over the positions.   That’s a tough thing for a woman to get a handle on.   Please don’t call me a chauvinist, it’s just the way it is.   For most women (and for most casual male football fans, for that matter) football resembles a gang fight, twenty-two men all attacking each other in the middle of the field seventy times a game, with no rhyme or reason attached to the crime.   The last thing your wife or girlfriend knows (or wants to know) is what position a 350-pound future felon plays.   ‘You know any women who can name every position on the football field?   Roxanne can.   It took us awhile, but she finally understands the difference between an offensive tackle and a defensive tackle, between a tight end and a split end, how split end, wide receiver, wide-out, and flanker mean essentially the same thing, and how running back, halfback, and tailback mean the same thing but fullback is something different.   It took her a long time to grasp what a cornerback was, but now I say what’s a cornerback and she barks out, “Those are the fast, athletic guys on the edge in front of the safeties that have to cover the other team’s best and fastest wide receivers.”   I love it.

      She’s also learning which NFL teams are in which divisions.   I’ll say “NFC South!” and she’ll reply “Falcons, Panthers, Buccaneers, Saints!”   I’ll go “AFC West!” and she’ll go “Raiders, Broncos, Chargers, Chiefs!”   It’s kinda fun.   She knows all 32 NFL starting quarterbacks too.   Except David Garrard of the Jaguars.   For some reason, she can’t keep his name in her beautiful head for love or for money.   Sort of like a missing computer chip.

      The different offensive plays, of course, are the hardest part.   She totally gets the polar-opposite nature of a draw play and a play-action pass, she loves it when a QB goes from under-center to shotgun, and if she has enough time before the snap she is now able to identify a strong-side right vs. a strong-side left formation by locating the tight end.   But we’re still having a little trouble with things like pulling guards and dime packages.   We’re working on it.   The point is that she is totally dedicated to learning it all.

      So that’s the best thing about Roxanne’s love affair with the NFL.   Perhaps the worst thing about her love affair with the NFL—or certainly the weirdest—is her choice of favorite team.

      The Ravens.

      You heard me.           

      I’ve never known a Baltimore Ravens fan before.   For one thing, they are on the east coast.   For another, they’ve only been around for 15 years.   Not much of a legacy.   My own son said to me, “Dad, tell Roxanne that nobody at my school is a Ravens fan, and that most guys hate the Ravens!”   He’s so supportive.

      Some people have never even heard of the Ravens.   Last year I went into a sporting goods store to try to buy some Ravens stuff for Rox.   I went up to the sales clerk, a twenty-year-old kid, and I said to him, “I’m looking to see what you have in the way of some Ravens T-shirts, hats , jerseys, and the like….   He looked at me like I was a bug.

      They only had one T-shirt in the whole store.   I bought it.   It’s two sizes too big.   She wears it as a nightgown.

      Roxanne says she became a Ravens fan because she loves Edgar Allan Poe and because “The Raven” is her favorite poem.   Okay.   ‘Good a reason as any to pick a favorite team, I guess.   (She can recite that whole damn poem by heart, though.   It’s creepy.)

      Last weekend her mania for the Ravens found glad sanctuary at my house, as we watched the Ravens/Chiefs playoff game together.

      I realize there’s probably not a single Ravens fan reading this column, but did most of you see the game?   It wasn’t a particularly stirring contest.   The final score was Ravens 30, Chiefs 7.   A blowout.   It was close in the first half, but all during the second half it was obvious to any seasoned student of the game that the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

      It wasn’t obvious to Roxanne.   When the game was close she was inconsolable, and could barely watch it.   She spent most of the first half doing my dishes and pretending to read a book.   Then in the second half she watched every snap, and rooted for the evil black birds with every fiber of her being.   She made me replay every key play so she could study the formation and see if anyone was blitzing.   The Ravens drew further and further ahead, and she got a little happier.

      But she didn’t relax.   I tried to explain to her that the game was essentially in the bag, but she wouldn’t hear of it.   You told me the Texans game was in the bag, and they almost lost!” she wailed.   True, the Ravens almost blew a 21-point lead to the Houston Texans earlier in the year.   It definitely made it harder for me to educate her on the inner mathematics of the game.   But I persevered: “Honey, do you know how many times a team has blown a 16-point lead in a playoff game with less than five minutes to go?” I queried her.   Never!  That’s how many,” I said by way of answering my own question.

      She did not relax one bit until the Crows’ back-up running back Willis McGahee dashed thirty yards for a touchdown on 4th-and-one with a couple minutes to go, to make it 30 to 7.   Thank God.   She relaxed, I relaxed.

      But that poor girl suffered a lot of needless anxiety during the second half.   The Chiefs didn’t come close to even scoring a point, much less threatening to win.   Didn’t matter.   Apparently, despite all the progress she has made, Roxanne still has a ways to go in her education; in her sublime quest to grasp the sweet, utter chaos that is football.

      In the final analysis, it really doesn’t matter how much you know about it.   In the NFL, as Roxanne will tell you, the only thing better than having your favorite team make the playoffs is advancing in the playoffs.   Life is good.

      What about next week, honey….let’s see….looks like the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers next week.    The Steelers?    Uh-oh….

meet….The Sports Philosopher!image0022

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and lover of the Baltimore Ravens….just kidding.    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’.    Brad has also written 4 novels and over 20 short-stories.    Samples of his best fiction work can be discovered by clicking the delightful yet unappreciated links below:  






One Response to “THE EDUCATION OF A FOOTBALL FAN by Brad Eastland, The Sports Philosopher”

  1. Nice to hear about Roxanne.

    Florida is lovely.


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