On Sunday, Sean and I went to a football game. Wow, Holly, you're thinking. You sure have been going to a lot of crowded places lately. And you would be right: first the not-bluegrass bluegrass festival, where the concept of "personal space" was forcibly erased from my mind by the hordes of sweaty bodies against whom my own sweaty body was jostled, and then a football game which boasted sixty-five thousand people, sixty-four thousand of whom were pressed up against me so closely that they should technically have bought me dinner first.
Now I do not wish to tar all English people with the same brush, so if you are an English person and you don't agree with me here, I hope you won't hold it against me—unlike all the sweaty bodies in the crowds above, HAHA, personal space joke—but English people don't really understand American football. That's your first cue right there: we call it American football. We have our own football, you see—what you probably know as soccer—which is why we need to differentiate between the two: there is football and then there is American football. It's kind of like how English muffins aren't actually called English muffins in England, which is something that always surprises my American friends. "Really?" they ask. "But what are they called then?"
Uh. Muffins. They are just called muffins.
Anyway, there are probably plenty of English people who do understand American football, I was totally kidding about that, but I have to admit that I am not one of them. I made a valiant effort, sure—thanks to Sean's crash course in the car on the way there, and also some vague and dusty recollections of that college game I went to once—but the main gist of the whole thing still sort of evaded me the entire time. Our seats were amazing, which helped a lot—in that I could actually see what was happening—but I guess I am just not a sporty sort of gal in the first place. For instance, you see these orange target things right here?
I fully believed in my heart, for a good half hour, that they meant the game was sponsored by Target. And I am not even going to apologize for that one, no matter how hard my incredulous husband might laugh—and oh, how he laughed—because I still maintain that they look an awful lot like the Target logo. What? That is not an unreasonable thing to think! There were advertisements everywhere else!
Despite the fact that I kept losing track of what exactly was happening in the game—I tried just clapping and cheering when everyone else clapped and cheered, but we were supporting the opposing team rather than the home one, so every time I did that Sean would glare at me like he couldn't believe he'd given his spare ticket to such a traitor, so then I tried clapping and cheering when no-one clapped and cheered, but that just got really awkward really fast—I still had a fantastic time. This is because I spent a lot of it watching the cheerleaders, whose moves looked remarkably similar to the ones I'd been doing in my Zumba class that morning, except they were executed in white high-heeled go-go boots. More power to those cheerleaders, man. I can't even do a basic body roll in flats.
I am sort of embarassed to admit this, but when I first saw those cheerleaders, right after we'd entered the stadium, I got overcome with a weird sort of emotion that made me all heart-bursty and teary, and it was not just because I knew my butt would never look like that even if I exercised every day for the rest of my life. The quintessential piece of thematic American imagery—at least to a pre-teen girl growing up thousands of miles away, watching the sitcoms of the late 80s and early 90s—is the cheerleader, and I had not, up until that point in my life, ever watched a real one perform. Seeing those cheerleaders with their shiny gold pompoms, a perfect piece of American lore, was like seeing the Loch Ness monster right in front of me. I don't think I'd even believed they actually existed until there they were in real life.
My other favorite parts of the game were when someone committed some sort of foul and the ref threw a yellow hankerchief on to the field—so debonair! So flamboyant! Oh no, I'm not going to blow a whistle, that's far too gauche and obvious, let me just float this yellow piece of silk onto the field instead—and when I actually pointed out Eli Manning, which sort of impressed Sean for a minute, at least until I admitted that I only recognized him from my Us Weekly.
Also I thought it was really cute how excited these super macho men in front of us got, despite having barely spoken to each other for the entire game. Aren't they adorable? They are adorable. You can keep your videos of sleeping kittens and your pictures of baby pandas. I'll just watch men celebrate sporting victories instead.
As we were leaving the stadium when the game was over, we passed a sign that said "Thank you for your fantastic behaviour," except at first I read it as "Thank you for your fanatical behaviour," which actually wouldn't have been too far off.
I've been to baseball games aplenty, but a football game was an entirely different experience altogether, mostly just because there were so many people. Shouting. And cheering. And wearing identical t-shirts. And I enjoyed it heartily, I really did, but I don't think there is any risk of me canceling drinks with you on a weeknight because I need to be home for Monday Night Football. My interest in football will remain at strictly Tim Riggins level, I think, which is to say that the only conversations I will be able to have with you about it will center around a fictional team on a TV show. Well, unless you want to talk about what those targets-that-are-not-ads-for-Target are really for. Trust me, I have now been schooled on that.