January 24, 2012

Football is a Family Affair

Our family are huge football fans.  We root for three basic teams.  St. Louis, the Redskins and the Ravens.

We all arrived at our respective teams in different ways.  I was raised in Redskins territory when the good folk of Maryland were still stinging at the Colts abandoning Baltimore for greener pastures.  While the other girls were hanging out at the mall, my girl friend and I from grade school would spend Sunday afternoon in her basement watching the Skins while doing homework.  

Allen became a die hard Rams fan when he was five years old and popped a quarter into the chicken machine at the grocery store.  Do you know what I mean?  Those vending machines by the front of the store where you can get prizes and candy?  When we were kids the market in town, where everyone did their shopping, had one with a chicken that would spin and bawk.  Out popped an egg looking thing with a prize.  Allen happened to get a helmet with the LA Rams on it.  He has never looked  back.  He is one loyal fan.  He had to wait until he was more than 30 years old and they had moved to St. Louis before he ever saw the team have a winning season.  And it has been down hill since.  Yet, he faithfully watches the games when they are aired locally and he follows every detail of the team on the internet.

He started when the boys were young to make them devoted fans, too.  When Nathaniel was just a few weeks old he sat on Allen's lap watching the Rams lose the Super Bowl to the Patriots.  (It later came out that the Patriots cheated at this game.  They were fined but the title was not revoked.  Yes, as a St. Louis household we are still bitter about that.)  The boys wore Allen's John Cappelleti jersey from when he was a boy until they could no longer squeeze into it.  Elisabeth wears that now.  I am sure Carmella will have it on before too long.

When Brianna was a preschooler and we were riding high on the Rams  "Greatest Show on Turf"  and their star quarter back, Kurt Warner, Brianna decided she needed a team.  Her favorite color was purple so she narrowed it down to the Vikings or the, then new, Baltimore team.  She chose the Ravens.  Which was a good choice because it is much easier to get Ravens stuff than it is Rams paraphernalia.

Which is no small matter around here.  That Christmas Allen gave Brianna a Shannon Sharp shirt.  It only came in men's sizes, but she has proudly worn it game after game for more than ten years now.
A few years ago, Brianna was trying to win someone, anyone, over to the Ravens side.  Samuel told her he had to be a Rams fan because he only had a Rams shirt.  She decided she was going to change all that.  For Christmas she gave each of the kids Ravens Jerseys.  Her evil ploy worked.  Samuel, who adores his big sister, became a Ravens fan.  Although, he still happily wears his Rams shirt, too, he calls himself a Ravens fan.

And so the Jersey wars began.  Allen keeps everyone stocked in Rams goods and Brianna makes sure there is a good balance of purple.  While St. Louis stuff is hard to come by, this challenge has its benefits.  A few years ago, we were shopping on eBay to get Nathaniel a Christmas gift.  Through that purchase I met a darling lady in St. Louis, named Shirley.  Not only was I able to buy some shirts for Nathaniel from her for Christmas, on Christmas Eve of that year what should arrive in the mail?  A St. Louis Rams helmet.
Nathaniel was so excited and we were touched by the generosity and kindness of someone we had never met.  It seems, while Rams fans may be few and far between, it is a brotherhood in which the bonds run strong.  Over the years, Shirley and I have exchanged a few emails from time to time and even a Christmas card once in a while.  This Christmas the boys received a package of Rams clothing from this St. Louis angel.

And if you think that is something... Have you ever been out in public and somehow got to talking to someone and it turns out you have both been to the same school or church or something???    You know what I am talking about.  Well, listen to this.

Allen has a Rams cap that he wears pretty much any where he goes that isn't work or church.  And periodically someone will note that he is a Rams fan.  And they get really excited and ask, "Where in St. Louis do you live?"  Allen will tell them he doesn't live in St. Louis.  Then they say something like, "When did you move?"  He replies with a negative that he never lived in St. Louis.  Then they will inquire as to whether he lived in LA.  When he explains that he never lived in LA, either, they ask, "Well, how did you become a Rams fan?"  Because it seems, while the good folk of St. Louis love their Rams, it is unheard of for anyone else to follow them.  We were sitting on a bench at Disney World last fall waiting for our table for lunch when a family of four sitting across from us starting nudging each other and whispering while pointing and staring at us.  I suspected it was the usual, "Look-how-many- kids-they-have.-Can-you-believe-they-don't- know-how-to-stop-that?" kind of talk.  But, no.  Finally, the dad works up the nerve to just ask outright.  "You are Rams fans?"  He said this while waving to the hats Allen and the boys were wearing.  They were in shock to see St. Louis fans outside of the city they were named for.  And happy.  Yes, they seemed genuinely happy that the world at large was being evangelized by this lone missionary of the Rams.  And yes, we will convert anyone.  And we try to start them early.  Good girl Ella, my friend!
Like the bugs that pass around a large family, it seems football is contagious, too.  Emma has a friend who is a twelve year old only child.  She has spent many a day and night in the Wachter home.  Gracie becomes enthusiastic about many things that interest our children.  When they were all making Narnia costumes to enter in the fair, Garcie saved up money to buy fabric and sew a Narnian gown.  And last winter she gathered up her birthday money to invest in a Ravens jersey to match the girls.  Tuesdays, when Gracie comes to visit, is often Jersey Day around here.  Not like the state, but the day when everyone wears their football jerseys... Ravens, Rams or otherwise.

But just because we all like football...  And just because we all like to root for our teams... well, that doesn't mean everyone knows what is going on.  Some people, like Elisabeth, just come for the junk food and opportunity to shout inside.  Even though she has no idea what she is shouting for.  Her view of football cracks me up.  The other week while the family was watching the Steelers vs. Denver, I was upstairs wrapping Nathaniel's birthday gift.  Ellie came upstairs and said, "The bad team is yellow.  They need to get saved because they steal!"  It took about ten minutes for me to figure out what she meant by that because my mind was stuck in the steel mills.

And then there is Kaitlin.  She is our remedial student.  No matter that she has been watching football since she was a baby.  No matter that her Pa and brothers and sister live, eat and breath the sport during the season.  No matter that she loves to lounge about in her team shirt.  She hasn't a clue what the sport is about.  But we are not giving up on her.  She sits in on the games and asks a lot of questions.  As an investment in her marital future, Allen gave her the book "Football for Dummies" a few years ago.  She has read it cover to cover, but I am not sure it helped.  We appreciate that she is a good sport, and we trust that some day there will be just the right fellow to appreciate it, too.

Getting tickets to the local teams is just about impossible, and expensive, too.  But not so with the Rams.  Allen has found it is cheaper get tickets, a rental car, a plane ticket and a hotel for the weekend in St. Louis.  Periodically, he will take one of the kids for a special time and they will fly west for a game and tour of the Arch.  I've never been, myself.  But I understand there is not a whole lot of anything else to see in St. Louis.  But they have fun just doing something special one on one with their Pa.  One time, Allen was even able to take Brianna to St. Louis for a game in which they watched the Ravens and Rams duke it out.

Now, you might think with such a variety of teams, we would have some conflict around here.  But not so.  We do tease each other.  But teasing must be done with kind words and a good-natured heart.  And when someone's team is playing, we all root for them.  It is just a little way we like to show the kids that a family supports one another and takes an interest in what is important to the others.

So, when the Ravens made it to the playoffs, we were all tickled... purple.  Yesterday, the kids decorated the house and Brianna put together a menu of football food with Cowboy Caviar, Pa's famous nachos and of course, wings.  Martha made her mark on the day with these oh so cute cookies.
By the way, TJ, I think Kenna got a bad wrap with those cookies.  I am not really sure she ate three.  As we were cleaning up, look what we found.
 Can you see that?
And what about that?
 I think this is conclusive evidence that she didn't eat three cookies.  Just the heads off of three.
We were excited our friends were able to join us for the little party.  Even if some people happened to be rooting for the Patriots.  (Remember how we feel about them?)
Even though the game didn't turn out as we would have liked.  It was an exciting game.  And we scored a few touchdowns when it comes to family bonding and tying heart strings.  Because, supporting each other means rooting for their team as well as giving comfort when their team looses.
And after all, there is always next year.
What about you?  What is it that your family enjoys doing together?  What hobbies or activities interest your family members that can become family bonding moments?