Wednesday, December 8, 2010

They Are Ready For Some Football!

I had begun to think that the hours upon hours of sitting in front of football games and playing ascending year versions of Madden with sleeping infants on my lap all those years ago were for naught. My sons showed zero interest in football.

In fact, I was afraid that I might have inadvertently fostered a subconscious hatred for football in them. Their developing baby brains might have recognized that they were being subjected to something against their will for purely selfish reasons on my part and somewhere deep inside their psyches, an instinctive drive to either punish or rebel against me was triggered. Not only did they lack any interest in football, they were vehemently opposed to any interest I showed in football.

I had become forced to hide away in my room on Sundays, using the inferior of the two household televisions to watch my team’s performances. I kept the volume down and I tried to repress my instinct to call out to the screen, though I wondered how the players would know what to do without my help, so that my football viewing would not be detected and, thus, interrupted.

But as with most changes in kids, something happened suddenly one day. I awoke on a late weekend morning to the sound of John Madden and Al Michaels. At first I thought it was the old recurring dream where they stop by and talk shop over coffee, pancakes and bacon (John Madden is particularly fond of my pancakes in this one and even asks for the recipe…I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s just Aunt Jemima mix). But I knew I wasn’t dreaming because instead of consistently adding Bailey’s Irish Cream to our coffee (another fixture of the dream), my wife was still asleep.

Soon enough, I realized that my sons were playing Madden in the basement together. Granted, it was Madden ’07 for the Gamecube, but the obsolete rosters were of no concern to me. They were finally interested in football on their own.

“Dad, I just got a touchdown,” my seven-year-old announced excitedly.

“Yeah,” my six-year-old chimed in, “he made the guy fumble then he picked it up and ran the other way and scored a touchdown!”

So not only were they interested in football and not only were they playing Madden and not only did they understand what was happening in the game but they were scoring on defense. My wildest dreams had come true.

This happened for several mornings and after school evenings. They couldn’t seem to wait to get their hands on a controller and play a game of Madden. Before I knew it, they were asking me to play with them. Then they were switching off between head to head and co-op modes with one another. They even started explaining things to my wife.

“The Hamburg Sea Devil’s are a European League team not an real NFL team, but they are easy to beat so that’s why we play against them.”

I was so proud I was nearly moved to tears.

But it got better. They wanted to actually watch the Bears’ game with me. They were reacting to plays. They even wanted to watch the Sunday night game between the Steelers and the Ravens, teams neither of them had expressed any interest in prior to that day. They began discussing which teams they liked and didn’t like and they both said they didn’t like the Packers.

I honestly began wondering what I had done right to deserve such good fortune. Was there an old man with a magical glint in his eye to whom I had given a dollar? Had I held a door open for an old gypsy woman recently? I couldn’t think of anything.

Then the other shoe dropped.

“Daddy, can we play Madden on Xbox with you one day?”

So that was their angle. Butter me up with interest in football and then work their grubby little hands onto my wireless 360 controllers. I was skeptical, but figured there ought to be a little give and take. I could at least respect the initiative they had taken. A little giving of my game system was a small price to pay for football to be a part of our father-son relationship.

Well played, boys.

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