My mother is the one who introduced me to football. During my childhood and football season, Sunday’s took on a whole new meaning. We would forego the Sunday morning eight o’clock Mass for Saturday evening at six, so mom could get up early on Sunday to have dinner prepared by kick-off.
At exactly noon, she’d have her soda, a bowl of popcorn, and the remote at the ready. And you better not call or ring the doorbell. Not during football games. And she passed this passion along to her children.
But I learned something new today. I always credited my mother for my unconditional love of all that is the Chicago Bears. After all, she loved Gale Sayers (the Kansas Comet) and Dick Butkus. Yet, while I’ve always known she harbored an interest in the Vikings, something I’ve dismissed and overlooked being loyal to the blue and orange, I discovered something I never knew.
My mom and I had just finished a day of Christmas shopping that included trips to Pier 1, TJMaxx, and Target. We lunched at Bella Luna. Then ended the afternoon relaxing at her home watching the last half of the Class 5A State championship game (Bishop Carroll vs. Blue Valley) and the NFL Network’s 100 Greatest NFL Players. I have cousins who coach for Carroll and my dad had reserved a seat on the Bye Bus to Emporia to watch the game, so we had a slightly vested interest.
But the 5A game was pretty much over at the end of the first half when Carroll turned the ball over (again,) allowing BV to score with only seconds left. So, we tended to stay with the NFL program and switch to the Carroll game during commercials.
My mother knew almost every NFL player listed from #100-#79. I did pretty well, only missing a handful. But that wasn’t surprising. Nor was it surprising when she would yell out who was coaching a particular player on the list, or who their quarterback was at the time, or when she told me that Jim Plunkett’s parents were both blind…, no, none of that caught me off guard.
The surprise came when she confessed to me her favorite football player is Fran Tarkenton. The scrambler. Considered one of the first mobile quarterbacks, he began and ended his career with the Minnesota Vikings, and spent five years with the Giants somewhere in the middle. His rookie year, and Minnesota’s first game, he threw four touchdown passes and ran for a fifth against my beloved Bears. Good thing I wasn’t even born.
The woman never ceases to amaze me, especially when it comes to sports. All these years, I knew she loved Namath. I knew she loved Sayers. I knew she loved Butkus. And she adored Unitas (but, who didn’t). But I never knew her favorite above them all was Tarkenton. And why?
“I loved watching him run all over…the defense just chasing him…him scrambling, dodging…then he’d just throw one down field. It was fun.”
Fun. I love mi madre.