I was destined to hate football from my first encounter with it. In the space of one fateful day, Phillip Castalia both ridiculed my leg hair to the whole of the sixth grade class and threw a Nerf football at long range that was intercepted cleanly by my right ocular socket. I maintained a low profile with both Phillip and football through junior high by taking a weed wacker to my legs and planting myself in front of the television every Friday night rather than sitting on bleachers before a field of tightly outfitted pubescent boys.
Football reared its head a couple of years later upon my matriculation to high school. My family moved from the “tepidly enthusiastic about football” state of Arizona to the “I will disown and disembowel my son if they lose the State Championship” state of Missouri. The Ozarks of Missouri is a place that cherishes football as much as falling prices at Walmart, regards a good quarterback like a risen-again Jesus leading us into the promised land and finds bleacher seats as welcoming to the backside as a Barcalounger.
Since every football coach had to hold a position within the school, the administrators slotted them in the academic capacities they were best suited for. One would assume phys ed to be the natural fit, but somehow history and mathematics became the catch-all subjects for the coaching staff. Suffice it to say I only figured out the Magna Carta wasn’t a credit card last year. My history teacher preferred to be called Coach Buckhog, and he liked to spend class time reviewing game footage. The worst thing about Coach Buckhog was his Draconian punishment doled out for unsportsmanlike conduct in class. If one was caught talking to a friend, as I was constantly, one was made to squat against the wall until your thighs cramped so badly you’d swear you understood what Suzanne Somers must have endured while beta testing the Thigh Master. I spent most of 1994 in a wall sit.
When I married, I knew I was buying into a lifetime of dueling over the remote on game days and being asked to make seven layer dips. Because I found myself a football widow on the weekends for years, I devised my own playbook of maneuvers to put some time back on the game clock for the wives of football-obsessed men.
Kick Off: Just as the game commences you must make your move. As the little men in colored suits kick the ball, you need to projectile launch your children into the living room for a little bonding time with Dad. I mean it. Hold them in front of you, gather momentum in your leg, and drop-kick them right in there. It’s not as though you’re wearing cleats. You don’t want to ruin the floors after all.
Off-Sides: This is a classic defensive move from husband. As his temperature rises because the daunting prospect of balancing television and children is starting to overwhelm him, he will attempt a punt of duties by saying something like, “Hey guys, Why don’t you go see what your Mom is doing?” As the kids come running out of the room, you must be on your toes, eye black on, and ready to intercept with the next move.
Blitz: Just as footballers hit those tackling dummies during practice, you need to rush your children — visualize the annual clearance sale at your favorite department store or someone trying to lure your only babysitter with the prospect of better pay — collide loudly, and force them backpedaling into their father. As he protests on the grounds they’re surely hungry or rabid, you throw him a pile of granola bars and an antibiotic cycle, and turn heel. Insert some smack-talking here, like, “What kind of B game is that, fool? I’m going to Vince Lombardi you.” It doesn’t have to make sense, smack talk rarely does. Who’s Vince Lombardi anyway?
Sack: This play is more literal than you might have imagined. This move occurs when you see your chance at a touchdown dimming. You quickly throw a sack over your children and tie the top. Not a Hefty bag or a straight jacket, unless those are more handy. A standard burlap sack will do. Tie the bag tightly at the top, as they wriggle inside, and toss it on his lap. This is not cruel and inhumane. This is like Eagle Scouts. You’re teaching them survival skills, to maintain a calm under the pressure of imminent suffocation, and to problem-solve as they plot their escape. No longer do you have to worry about fundraisers and creepy Boy Scout Leaders. You’ve just enabled them to earn their Wilderness Survival, Lifesaving, and Leatherwork badges in one afternoon instead of an entire adolescence spent whittling sticks, tying square knots, and wearing a neck scarf. They’ll thank you later.
Quarterback Sneak: Once contained to the living room, you slip out of the house, into the car, and drive anywhere. Sit in an abandoned parking lot to read a magazine, eat a burrito, paint your toenails, or inhale a smokeless cigarette even if you don’t have a nicotine addiction to break.
While high school social studies may have taught me that colonization was a tailgate party and The House of Burgesses was a competitive school’s stadium, Coach Buckhog did teach me how to make a breakaway touchdown. Because of him, deep under layers of dermis and adipose tissue, I have thighs of steel that any offensive lineman would envy.