Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Really Understand What's Happening

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. 

1
Sutswana
Oct 19, 2012

This post should accompany every pro football brochure thing they sell at the games, for the benefit of the newly initiated. It's perfect.

2
Ann
Oct 19, 2012

To go off on a tangent from just a teeny portion of your post (which I really enjoyed)...so what are regular muffins called in England? You know, the sort of mushroom shaped ones, that come in flavors like blueberry, corn, etc.?? Thanks for educating us!

3
Karen
Oct 19, 2012

Ann, that's my burning question as well. I figured muffins were muffins and English muffins were, like, crumpets or something. Which leads me to wonder what the heck a crumpet is.

4
Vicki
Oct 19, 2012

Ann & Karen, in England we call the mushroom shaped ones 'muffins' (although you might add the flavour by saying a chocolate chip muffin), and the English muffins 'muffins' too. It's confusing I know!
We also have crumpets, pikelets, tea cakes, griddle cakes, drop scones and Scotch pancakes which are all variations of the same tea time treats. Crumpets are spongy round cakes with holes in the top. We usually eat them toasted with butter and or jam and they are quite delicious!

5
amy
Oct 19, 2012

I was born here, raised here and, apart from a two-year stint in France as a graduate student, I've always lived here in the US. So, please, tell me what those not-ads-for-Target things are? I have no clue.

6
Maryse
Oct 19, 2012

I loved this post. i grew up following soccer with French parents so I didn't learn to appreciate football until I got to college and that was mostly because I had a crush on one of the players. Heh. And I get asked "what do they call French fries in France " sometimes. Um fries.

7
Stephanie
Oct 19, 2012

I love this post. The end.

8
SueP
Oct 19, 2012

Let's talk about Tim Riggins. :)

9
Lauren
Oct 19, 2012

Ha!! I loved this because it was all my exact reaction to the first football game I went to when I moved to the states last year from Canada! The cheerleaders, oh the cheerleaders. It was a bittersweet experience, as I had to come to grips with the fact that I will never be "on the squad" a la Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, every young Canadians definition of glam American teens.

10
deva by definition
Oct 19, 2012

so, my fiance and I went to a football game a little over a week ago and I kept losing track of the ball. I finally gave up and told him that I felt like I was watching semi-organized bumper cars, except without the cars.

11
JennyA
Oct 19, 2012

"They are just called muffins" made me snort.

12
Sarah
Oct 19, 2012

Did the sign really read "behaviour" with the British spelling, or just the mundane American football version "behavior"? If the former, I'd change my opinion of the game.

13
Sara
Oct 19, 2012

Since no one else said, I'll weigh in on the targets - but its a rather lengthy explanation as I first have to relate the concept of first downs.

Okay, anyway, the football team with the ball gets basically four chances to move the ball ten yards. If they get it past the point, they reset to 1st down. So, you may hear "1st and ten" or "2nd and goal". That means - 1st of 4 chances with 10 yards to go to reset, or 2nd of 4 chances and the touchdown line is closer than 10 yards, respectively.

Which is all to say - the target things? There are two of them, on a chain, and they measure the ball against the line they have to cross to get the down.

Now, let me go hide in a corner until my fragile understanding of football is bashed by someone more knowledgeable =)

14
Nothing But Bonfires
Oct 19, 2012

Ann and Karen: What Vicki said is absolutely right. We call the sweet, dome-shaped, blueberry-flavored things muffins too....and somehow it just kind of works. The thing is, those are a fairly recent introduction to England, brought over from America probably sometime in the late 90s (which is at least when *I* can remember having my first American muffin in England. There was an entire muffin SHOP in London during my first year of university--called, imaginatively enough, American Muffin Company--and it was the hot ticket in town for a while.) So yes, English muffins and American muffins are both called muffins...the way you distinguish the latter from the former is by adding the flavor at the beginning. Also, crumpets are delicious and not at all like muffins and you should try them (with butter and jam.) They have them at Trader Joe's if you have one nearby.

Sarah: Haha, no, it had the American spelling! Force of habit, I guess.

15
Dana
Oct 19, 2012

ok, I'm sorry, as an American football fan, AND a NY Giants fan, all I could think about this entire post was..."How she get suck awesome close up shots of the field?" GAH!

16
dana
Oct 19, 2012

*such, not suck. :-P

17
Lizzie
Oct 19, 2012

I had the same feeling when I saw my first proper American Cheerleaders in CA when I was 19. I just sat staring -possibly with a tear in my eye - saying "but they're real, live cheerleaders".

On the muffin/crumpet/pikelet tangent ... turns out English pikelets are different to Australian ones apparently. I understand that you can have two names for the one thing, but having one name for two different things confuses me.

And I always find it difficult not to refer to French onion soup when I'm in France. Not to mention refraining from calling a baguette "French Bread". Which I used to do. Not in an ironic way.

18
Home Sweet Sarah
Oct 19, 2012

I don't know how many times Chris and I have had the following conversation:

"They have three tried to get one down."

"What's a down?"

"It's where they have to move to where that yellow line is."

"Are those yellow lines on the field?"

19
Melissa
Oct 19, 2012

When we first moved in together, I tried gamely (ha) to watch football on tv. My now husband went into the kitchen and missed a play on tv. He asked me, "Did they make the first down?" I said, "I don't know. What's a down?"
He could not believe I'd made it to my 20's with not even a basic understanding of the game. I went to an all girls high school (no FB) and a college with no FB team. Where wound I have picked up the knowledge exactly?
Meh, I don't really care. If my daughters want to play or are interested, ill learn. Otherwise...don't care!!!

20
elz
Oct 19, 2012

Coming from a huge American football fan, the Target comment is hilarious. I have never noticed that...until now!

21
Karen
Oct 19, 2012

Thanks for the muffin/crumpet explanation :) Alas, I have moved out of range of a Trader Joes... I miss it so.

22
Annie
Oct 19, 2012

I was in the marching band in high school for 4 years, and didn't understand a lick of football until I was in the college marching band for at least a season. It made for some long, cold nights... I get it now, though, and can even anticipate the refs calls (here's a tip that might impress your male friends: when you hear the ref blow the whistle, predict that the call will be "holding" - chances are, you'll be right, and they will be shocked and amazed).

23
jes
Oct 19, 2012

I'm still stuck on your comment about English muffins. I never thought before about what people in England might call them. So if they're just muffins, what do you call ... muffins? American muffins? (Ha.) Like, the cinnamon streusel or blueberry or lemon poppyseed kind? Because that type of muffin is *totally* different than an English muffin. And I think this may keep me up tonight, thinking about it.

24
jes
Oct 19, 2012

Oh. Apparently I should read the comments before commenting. :)

25
Michelle
Oct 20, 2012

Now imagine having your level of understanding of this sport, but growing up in Texas, where yes, Friday night high school football was the biggest and only thing going in town. I still maintain that I joined the marching band so I would at least have something to do doing those long, long games.

26
Deidre
Oct 20, 2012

To be fair, I'm an American who knows zilch about American football - which I now call American football because I live in Australia where they also have Aussie Rules football.

27
Pam
Oct 21, 2012

I've always been too embarrassed to ask but this seems like a safe place: Are you supposed to split a crumpet before toasting it?
I know. Don't judge me too harshly.
Also, will you explain cricket someday? Maybe when you have a ridiculous amount of time on your hands???

28
Ruth
Oct 21, 2012

I'm an English ex-pat... been living in the US for 16 years now. I've no idea about American football rules even though for a while I was married to a football fanatic. I dreaded the 'big games' which I always still refer to as 'matches'. In England I got so used to metres that yards are still a bit weird for me to get my mind around.

So far no one has referred to buns... no, not your bum or a cheerleaders... those things that are sort of like muffins but smaller. And then there is the issue of scones and clotted cream etc and hot tea vs iced which I tried one time and could not get my mind around, just like Americans do not like Marmite...

I dated a much younger guy a few years ago... and he showed me a vid of him in a marching band and I had to try not to laugh at the costumes, esp the one he took out of his closet(wardrobe)...

Pam: don't split a crumpet... no way... I believe Albertson's sells them. Lashings of butter slathered right on top. European butter is (IMHO!) creamier. Kerry's Irish stuff is really good.

Last time I was in England (last year) and shopped in two supermarkets (Sainsburys and Tescos), I did not see any bagels and a friend of mine in Finland when I popped over there said, 'What, isn't that some strange Jewish food?' and I nearly died.

29
findingmagnolia
Oct 21, 2012

I grew up in a small town where football was king, and you would think that I would know the basics of the game, but I don't. I was even required to take a test on the rules of the game in middle school phys ed, and I still don't have any idea what's going on. I recall getting an A on the test, but I clearly didn't care enough to retain the knowledge. I think that it's just complicated enough that if you don't care about it, it just won't make sense. I find it best to continue to care about the things that truly excite me about sporting events, by which I mean the snacks. If there are chili cheese fries and funnel cakes on offer, what else do you need for a thrilling afternoon?

30
Pam
Oct 21, 2012

Thanks, Ruth!

31
Anna Louisa
Oct 22, 2012

Ha! I want to have you narrate all sorts of sports now - this was fantastic. And I liked the accidental British "u" at the end. ;)

32
Sheila
Oct 22, 2012

I totally get you on the tearing up thing. Whenever I see a group of Poms girls (you know the ones– like cheerleaders, but with dance routines instead of cheers) perform, I get verklempt. It's not some deeply hidden desire of mine to become a Poms team member, but it makes me emotional to see a group of girls joyously dancing in precision, and the reaction they get from the crowd. I'm not sure exactly why, but it gets me every time.

Now I am afraid I sound like some weirdo. A sparkly pompom-loving weirdo.

33
Charlotte
Oct 22, 2012

As a fellow english woman living in the Mighty US of A, I must confess that I have absolutely no understanding of American football either. And I go to the University of Oklahoma, where football is LIFE. You bleed crimson and cream, or you bleed real blood, sweat and tears, and at least one of those choices isn't optional. I went to a game once, and understood nothing. But like you, I really enjoyed the cheerleaders (coincidentally, my trash TV boyfriend-isn't-home guilty pleasure show is Dallas cowboys cheerleaders: making the team). Oh, and the band! I liked the marching band also. Swishy hats. Very impressive co-ordination, especially for people simultaneously playing the tuba.

I do like superbowl parties though, as that is an event at which you can virtually guarantee someone will bring dip. And I love dip.

34
Saucepanman
Oct 23, 2012

This from the oracle that is Wiki on the nomenclature for "English" muffins in England:

To distinguish them, the traditional type is now labelled "original muffins" in supermarkets while the other types are referred to as "American muffins".

(Sourced from the Waitrose supermarket catalog so no higher authority..)

Interestingly they date the arrival of the American-style muffin in the UK to 1996 and I agree it's pretty recent. I think Starbucks has a lot to answer for on this one.

35
Angie
Oct 23, 2012

I think you're the funniest person ever. I keep coming back every day to see if you have any new blog posts.
I read this one the day you posted it and keep coming back to see if there's anything new.
This post did not disappoint, by the way. Living in Mexico, I too say "football" for "soccer" and "american football" for this one.
My husband is a hardcore american football fan and I am so not.

Again, awesome post.

36
rachel
Oct 25, 2012

So, I have tried a gatrillion million times to like football. (I'm American, by the way). It has happened on several occasions, though, that I have fallen asleep at LIVE FOOTBALL GAMES. I'm sort of embarrassed and proud of that somehow?

37

Came across your blog through that fabulous thing we all call Pinterest. I decided to read 1) because I saw Eli Manning first thing and 2) it's accented with my favorite color, sea foam. Next thing I knew, I was reading basically every page. I'm an expat myself. Not special for a blogger, I know. BUT I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed reading your blog these past thirty minutes. I also aspire to have a job where I travel that much someday. At least for a bit. I just started my first job though so I should probably punch the breaks. Ok, subscribing now. You'll hear from me again :) That is all.

38
Onethirdacrewoods
Nov 02, 2012

I come from a family of four girls and my dad made it his mission to make sure that all of us understood the basics of football, baseball and basketball. That said, I would much rather read a book.

39
Heather B.
Nov 02, 2012

Your reaction to this game was far different than my reaction to this game and this is why I love you.

40
Camels & Chocolate
Nov 05, 2012

Aww, what a cute little stadium! It's like the size of my high school stadium, ha (think Friday Night Lights and you've got an inkling of what growing up in any town in the rural South is like). Can't believe an NFL stadium is so tiny--UT's holds double that at 110,000!

The Target thing KILLED me.

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42
Matt
Apr 06, 2013

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43
Krisa
Dec 11, 2013

I'm still stuck on your comment about English muffins. I never thought before about what people in England might call them. So if they're just muffins, what do you call ... muffins? American blog muffins? (Ha.) Like, the cinnamon streusel or blueberry or lemon poppyseed kind? Because that type of muffin is *totally* different than an English muffin. And I think this may keep me up tonight, thinking about i

44
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