My friend, new dad Adam Rigney, posted this picture on August 9 anticipating the start of football season. He titled it "Game Day Partner." Notice the “I watch ESPN with my Daddy” on his daughter Ellee’s outfit. She has some good times ahead. I know.
With slight variations, I relate to Ellee. I was about twelve years old (instead of weeks) when I began tuning in on Saturday afternoons on radio (instead of TV) with my father to hear the Ole Miss Rebels' games. This was long before I had any idea that I would graduate there or that I would have a brother-in-law who would be the university’s Alumni Director for many years. We lived ten miles north of Oxford and the Ole Miss campus, and the fever was contagious.
Daddy taught me to follow the game, and I cheered the Rebels on through thick and thin. He was a bit more wishy-washy and would switch to cheering for Mississippi State bulldogs if they had a better chance at a championship or bowl game. He did want the name “Mississippi” in the winner’s circle.
Under Daddy’s tutelage, I became one of those people who divide life’s cycles into "Football Season" and "The Rest of the Year." A husband, two sons, and a daughter share my mania, though not always to the same degree. When the kids were younger and we lived at Fort Sam Houston, TX, the kids were enjoying a sunny fall afternoon in the back yard with their dad. Our neighbor, who could hear the football game through the open window, called over and asked, “Who’s watching the ball game?” They chorused, “Mom,” without a thought that it might be strange to have a mother obsessed with the game.
After investing most of my paycheck for eight years in Baylor University as two sons got back-to-back degrees, I added an allegiance to green and gold. This has come in handy through lean years for Ole Miss since I still watch – come honor or humiliation. At one really low point, I muted the TV to watch the Rebels get soundly trounced in their game while holding my laptop with the sound turned up to simultaneously watch Baylor triumph in theirs. Talk about mixed feelings!
The time is upon us. I can see Football Season from here. Thursday night will bring memories, as the beginning of the season always does, of good times with Daddy through losses, near misses, and especially the good wins. I will also be thinking about Ellee and wishing for her many years of watching football with her dad, forming the kind of bond that will bring good memories when these days are far behind her.
Sic ’em, Bears!