Here we go again: another football season draws to a close. It’s bittersweet for me, because for the first time in a long time I care. Coming from a football family, I was able to grow up into adulthood with little to no real interest in American sports.
My younger brother Stephen played ankle biting during high school where he lettered as an offensive tackle and guard for the Bishop O’Connell Knights in Arlington, Virginia. Games were the Friday night thing. I never dated a player nor was I a cheerleader, but I was a semi-regular, if only to hang out with my friends. We met at Washington and Lee High School stadium, since our field had no lights at the time. Our team has done quite well, winning more than a few division championships, thanks in large part to the athleticism and intrinsic talents of Eric Metcalf, future Cleveland Browns player and son of Washington legend Terry Metcalf.
Growing up in Vienna, Virginia, we were all about the home team. My father had season tickets and if the team lost, well, it was better to give him some space.
“Now is not a good time,” my mother would say when I called home late one Sunday afternoon. My German mother is also a fan of this sport: she forgets about football.
After my father died, my brother kept the tickets, but the drama of the new owner became too much. Seats have gotten worse, tailgates between family friends have gotten smaller and less frequent, and parking has been just a nightmare. Tickets were forfeited and my family stayed loyal to the home team from the comfort of a warm family room.
My husband Mike, a diehard Show-Me State football fan, played fullback and inside fielder for the conference champion Marceline High School Tigers two years in a row (1959-1960). He was recruited by Central Methodist College—now Central Methodist University—in Fayette, Missouri, on a partial scholarship. He received a letter from the US Coast Guard Academy expressing interest and signed by then head coach Otto Graham. She turned them both down so she could go to college with his friends. He kept the letters and became an engineer and pilot serving a tour in Vietnam. Simply put, Mike likes a cold beer or a good Barolo, and his Friday night lights or Sunday afternoon football.
To someone from the East Coast, Missouri is pretty much Texas. They like their football. When Mike and I moved to Easton, Maryland in 1993, the Ravens started out as the new home team, but we didn’t feel the love. A game in an old stadium left us cold, literally. Free agents and what seemed like many single pros playing for money, sponsorships and endorsements only added to the growing antipathy.
But on my way home from errands one Sunday, my husband was watching a Kansas City Chiefs game. Silently protesting and afraid of missing an episode of “Downton Abbey,” I joined him on the couch, albeit with my laptop open to examine my shoes, and semi-watched. Before we knew it, it became a habit and this became a Sunday ritual that featured snacks and special dinner menus. In no time, I was hooked. Really.
Andy Reid seemed nice, he never lost his temper with his players. And the players, in turn, performed, in some cases like a ballet or Disney on Ice with their acrobatic pirouettes and imaginative footwork. I found myself yelling at bad calls and offering the most common advice of all: Why doesn’t he throw the ball more? He has such a good arm.
The joy of the team is palpable. It seems they love to play. In victory they shine and in defeat they are kind. And having been to Kansas City several times over the years, I know the people. After all, I married one. They are kind, genuinely kind. And so Kansas City remains our team.
Patrick Mahomes’ dexterity and player cohesion are pure magic. Travis Kelce is amazing. Juju Smith-Schuster has the best name in the NFL and the talent to back it up. Marquez Valdes-Scantling! Isia Pacheco! Mécole Hardman! Harrison Butker! The Jarius Sneed! The list goes on. Yes, I know their names and cheer them on like they are close friends. The team atmosphere is similar to that of a band against a group: a band is about music. One group is in charge of selling tickets and making videos.
And so we say: come on bosses! If Kansas City can turn this Sunday night PBS-loving girl into a full-fledged fan who understands most of the rules, surely Congress can get their act together. One can only hope.
God, I love football. My dad would be proud and probably a Chiefs convert.
Kristina Henry lives with her family in Easton on the east coast of Maryland. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Washingtonian magazine, Food52, Edible Delmarva, and US Masters Swimming’s Swimmer magazine.