A bird in the hand

When Sunday comes along, I love to just cool out and enjoy decompressing. It’s the one day in the week when I ask my family for a little freedom to have a glance at the TV. I’m no fan of TV shows, but I love to watch sports on TV when I can, and when I can is often on Sundays, and then late at night. On other days, if sports are broadcast, I watch from my laptop while I am trading or writing, and that is a great compromise. ‘Sprout’ can carry on educating my child and I do not have to grumble. I also do not have to shut myself away, and can watch from the pleasant location of my kitchen counter stool.

But, this past Sunday was a bit different. I visiting some friends at their home in Baltimore County, just enjoying their company and no particular plans to fulfill. I then heard a strange question in the middle of Saturday: “Do you want to go to the Ravens game tomorrow?” I flubbered and blubbered as I tried to understand the question, and before I could really respond, I heard “No problem. I will offer the ticket to someone else.” I had blown a sure touch down pass of sorts. I had the image of my being at a game, but it seemed unreal and had been fleeting. When you fumble, you often do not get another chance with the ball. But, later in the afternoon, my friend asked his daughter if she would rather hang out with my daughter or go with him to the game on Sunday. Well, I knew how that punt was going to be handled, and smiled and the question was run straight to the end-zone. The ticket was back on offer. This time, I was ready and willing: I caught it and was ready to run.

Sunday came, and the day started off with a crisp chill in the air: ideal for football, I thought. I went for a walk and then helped my hostess prepare a nice Jamaican breakfast. The men were due to head off and do some tail-gating before the game. But, our breakfast turned into brunch, and the tail gating would have to be another time. We made our own ‘tail gate’ around the breakfast table, as my hostess had prepared ribs, and whatever the original plans they were now coming out, so for the first time in my life, I had ribs for breakfast.

After we ate, I went back to what I had done for part of the previous afternoon: I taught my daughter’s play mate to ride her bike. Now, the two girls would be able to play more together and the new rider set off and road about a mile without falling off or over. Good deed done; Daddy’s conscience a bit clearer.

By the time we were due to leave, the band of merry men had grown to three, and the band of girls was the same number. The late addition had not planned to leave his daughter to play, but her “Do we have to leave?” made it clear that she saw no reason to head off, when she had two ready playmates. What was so bad about being able to hang on the jungle gym or play dress up? Her dad got the message.

I’ve seen the rabid soccer fan up close and in person, but for the first time in a while I was seeing the rabid American football fan in the same way. I’d had a glimpse of them last year when I took a trip to Pittsburg for the season opener and got a real sense of what football means to some cities. ‘Balmer’ fans are wild and raw, and though the majority of them are males, the women are not shy in showing their fervour. When it comes to giving a ‘welcome’ to the opposing fans, they all have plenty of colour to offer. Some of the jibes were really painful to hear. But, that’s how it is: you get a chance to even things up when the other team has to visit your city.

There’s no point fooling yourself and thinking that alcohol does not play much of a part in how sports fans behave. Plenty is consumed on the way into the ground, and in keeping with the general rules on security, bottles and cans cannot be taken into the stadium, so the contents are guzzled heartily while walking there and waiting in line. Moods change after a few drinks and the usual ‘misunderstandings’ occur, but between slurred speech and less-than-full bodily control these seemed to fizzle out. Also, energy was being saved for the long walk up stairs or ramps to get to seats.

On a beautiful afternoon, I realised that the $60 it cost to get an end-zone seat can seem like money well spent. Basking in early Autumn sunshine, I was overdressed in long-sleeved shirt and jeans and wished I had stayed with polo shirt and short. I’m no technical expert on American football, but I saw and heard more than a good sampling of them. “Give it to Heap. There you go. My call.” “Run it now. They are looking for a pass. There you go. First down.” “Take the field goal. No point wasting it on 4th down. Why don’t you listen? No points. We should be up 10 points by now.” But, the second-guessing did not matter much in the end. The paid experts managed to hear the messages and the Ravens racked up points, and the Broncos floundered. By the time that only 5 minutes of play time was left on the clock, a lead of 31-10 had been established and everyone was sure that a win was on the way. I have to admit that if you give up three touchdowns in the last five minutes that would be a major collapse.

As we started our walk from the stadium and heard the roar swell to signal the end of the game, I could only think about how luck deals some cards. I may never get to see another game live, and having spoken about planning to do so and nothing happening, I have to think that when the chance comes it has to be THE moment. It was hard to pretend that I was not thrilled to have found my Sunday blessed by some good fortune. My friend got on his phone and called to thank the season ticket holder for being so kind to share with us.

I got back to my friends’ house to see the girls having as happy a time as could be wished. Three little girls lying under a blanket with a bowl of popcorn watching a movie. I did not hear any of them complain about ‘missing’ the game or their parents.

I recall the promises of tickets for soccer’s World Cup finals that I’m still waiting for. There’s something very satisfying about getting something totally unexpected. Though I am no fan of the Ravens, you have to support the home team. Go Ravens!

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About The Grasshopper

Professional international economist, recently retired from an international organization. I use blogging as a way of organizing my ideas and thoughts about a range of topics. I was born in Jamaica, and spent many years being educated, living, and working in the UK. I lived in the USA for a few decades, and worked and travelled abroad extensively. My views have a wide international perspective. Father of girls. Also, married to an economist.
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