When I was younger, we went to church every Sunday at the Episcopal church up the hill from our house. My dad sung in the choir and was a lay reader, and I always looked forward to the cookies at coffee hour afterwards, as well as youth group. But, beginning in August, every time the Bears were playing, my dad would gather everyone up right after the service ended (about 11:50, depending on how long the sermon was) and we would get home as quick as we could, in order to be home before noon. These were the days before VCRs, after all, and the only remote control we had was my sister or I. And then, my dad would be incommunicado for the next 3 hours, except for the armchair coaching and “Oh, COME ON!!” we’d occasionally hear when the Bears bungled a play.
I think I was about 12 when I decided that I was going to investigate what this phenomenon was that so engrossed my father. One day after church, I crept into the living room, and sat down next to my dad, and said I wanted to watch, too. And so it started. He was utterly patient, never getting angry at me for asking a question right before a big play, or wondering why there was a yellow hankie on the field. For those of you who know me, I ask a barrage of questions when I’m learning something, and he answered each one as if I wasn’t interrupting his watching this game he loved.
Eventually, the VCR was invented (along with the wired remote), and we were among the first to get one. I’m pretty sure we were on the cutting edge so my dad could record football; we no longer had to rush out from church, and now both my dad and I were sitting in front of the TV every Sunday, and there were two voices yelling at the TV when the Bears bungled a play. Plus, it got me out of having to help prepare Thanksgiving dinner as there was football to be watched!
Football has been one of the defining factors of my relationship with my dad. We both celebrated when the Bears did the Superbowl Shuffle. My dad called me when I was off at college, every Sunday like clockwork. When the Bears game was over, my phone would ring, and Dad and I would animatedly start talking about the game, and then how our weeks went. When I wasn’t watching the game in my room, I’d call him instead. My mom, not being a football lover, would invariably call right at the 2 minute time out or in the middle of a big series, as she didn’t know better; I eventually trained her to check the TV schedule before calling, and life was good.
My dad still calls every Sunday, and I still yell at the Bears on TV. Dad has moved to Arizona (and now has a TiVo and a wireless remote), so he doesn’t get the Bears game any longer and has become a traitor and roots for the Cardinals, but he’s still my dad, so I’ll forgive him. Plus, he still gets excited when the Bears play the Cards so he can see his boys on TV. And, who knows, I may pass on the love of football to my niece or nephew and continue the tradition…