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Another Place I Have Tried to Knit and Failed

Dear Kay,
3:48 pm, yesterday: I look around the place I have found myself, and I think, How did I get here? C’mon, I’ll take you on a little field trip.
Clif and I are at the home of the Tennessee Titans, Clif’s favorite NFL football team. As with everything else in the NFL (“AmSouth First Down!”), the Titans sold naming rights to their headquarters to Baptist Hospital, so this place is called Baptist Sports Park. Never hurts to have a little upstairs connection, you know?
Sweet Jeebus, it is hot. We’re standing on a sidewalk, leaning on a chain-link fence, watching 80 buff guys practice. A couple dozen other people watch, too–a dad with a two-year-old baby dressed like a Titans quarterback, three short Italian-loafer guys who are clearly sports agents. They speak in whispers. I overhear one of them say, “He’s smaller than I thought.” I’m dying to know which players they’re here to see, but I can’t get up the nerve to ask.
A dozen guys with huge cameras are inside the fence, taking pictures. Directly in front of me, a photographer with a long, gray mullet pulls out a folded piece of paper. It reads “10, 83, 33.” Number 10 is Vince Young, the star quarterback who was NFL Rookie of the Year last year. Number 83 is Eric Moulds, a 12-year veteran just signed by the Titans in hopes of giving VInce Young somebody who can catch his passes. And 33 is Michael Griffin, the Titans first-round draft pick, who will replace the notorious Pacman Jones, who’s out on a historic 10-game suspension for bad behavior.
How do I know all this pointless stuff? It’s because Clif is relentless in his superfandom, so I’ve taken to reading the Tennessean so I can keep up with him. I don’t know how we ended up with a kid who loves football. He’s some sort of changeling, swapped at the nursery with the bookish little baby who was ours. He hangs on the fence, mesmerized, reciting NFL facts and asking me who my third-favorite AFC team is. I answer Seahawks, as I do to any question like this he asks me, and he says, “MOM. The Seahawks suck. Besides, they’re NFC,” and I say, as I always do, “But they have an awesome logo.”
I don’t really like football–too brutal–but I have been fascinated by it ever since Brian’s Song. Remember that movie? “Don’t die on me, Brian Piccolo.” A football tearjerker! There are a bunch of great football movies: Friday Night Lights, Any Given Sunday, Jerry McGuire, The Longest Yard, Remember the Titans. It’s all gladiator stuff. Who’s going to end up on crutches?
The receivers are lanky, lean. Beautiful thoroughbreds. It’s so hot that everybody’s conserving their energy, but the receivers look twitchy, ready to boing up into the air. The linemen are lumpy potato sacks, human obstacles, a fleshy berm in front of the quarterback. As they warm up, the big guys are more flexible than I thought they would be. Vince Young looks like a Pilates instructor. He’s 6’5″, but he folds neatly in half as he holds the bottoms of his feet.
It’s a giant, sweaty job interview out there: the current roster of 80 will cut to 75 in five days. And in 12 days, 22 players will go. This is the end of training camp, so every dropped ball is a heartbreaker for somebody. It’s remarkably quiet, except for the coaches who encourage and berate the guys. “Jeeeeeesus Christ can’t you guys $^#%^$% LEARN THIS? What kind of *@*&^#&$ IS this?” The only player who talks much is Vince Young, whose job security is such that he can say whatever he wants. “ROBY!” he yells at the receiver who catches his not-great pass. “RobyRobyROBEEEEEE!”
The offense is practicing passing. Vince Young starts firing spirals toward the sideline, where the receivers are hauling down the field. The balls are coming directly our way, and it feels like he’s throwing lightning bolts at us. Eric Moulds, the best receiver out there, leaps for one, maybe ten feet from us. Clif is frozen–we all are–because Moulds is careering right toward us. He tumbles and rolls, holding the ball as if it were an egg, or a baby. When he stops, he’s on the ground at our feet. He stands, shakes his head, and says “shit” in a matter-of-fact way. The baby next to us shrieks, Clif looks up at me with a huge grin, and number 83 lopes back to the field.
The scene at Baptist Sports Park has stayed in my head all night. What an odd, odd industry. The players’ wives stroll in with their tiny babies. Players’ girlfriends minutely adjust their white-blonde hair. Dozens of staffers run around like squirrels, bringing water, fetching balls, collecting towels. They divide into those who clearly used to play ball in younger days and those who clearly never did but wished they could have. And the coaches–head coach Jeff Fisher, offensive coordinator Norm Chow, and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz–watch the players, silent. Calculating.
So much wishing and hoping and worrying. It looks a lot like work, not a game. It looks like the least-fun place to be in the world. But when you hear the players talk about it, they all say the same thing: this is my dream. This is my chance. I just want to play ball.
Clif has had a fine time. I bend to pick up my purse–my knitting hasn’t even come out of my bag–and my head spins. I am so hot that I think I need to sit down. Clif tells me that I would probably not be a very good NFL player.




  1. “Clif tells me that I would probably not be a very good NFL player.” But you’d be a crazy-good sports writer. I loved this!

  2. I, like you Ann, really don’t care much about football – except – the older brother of one of my sons’ friends was just drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs (yea! #47!), and two of the office gals in my husband’s business are Seagals (The Seattle Seahawk Cheerleaders). Some wives would be jealous, but I am a very understanding wife. Besides, these girls are smart as whips, very hard-working and very nice. I like them alot! So I don’t care much about the Seahawks either, except how it affect my sweet Seagal gals – they really care about how the team does, so I do too. Football games are a good people watching (and KNITTING) opportunity. That’s what I do during baseball games!

  3. Ok, I’ve got to stand up for my team here – the Seahawks do NOT suck! And, btw, they switched to the NFC a few years back.

  4. fascinating– such good writing, and a peek into a whole ‘nother world. thx ann!

  5. I love football, and I love this description of training camp… a properly-executed passing route really can be beautiful! Oh, and don’t forget The Replacements as another great football movie. If you haven’t seen it, please do — it’s one of those great, laugh-a-minute, lovable, guilty-pleasure movies!

  6. I don’t care for football, but you actually made that sound like fun. πŸ™‚
    And I loved “Brian’s Song.” Saddest. Movie. Ever. Just the theme song can move me to tears.

  7. you are such a good mom! This will give you two something to talk about when he becomes a grumpy teenager.

  8. GAWD I love football. And you, lady–if you ever decide to give up this knitting blog thing, you might want to look into a career as a sportswriter.

  9. Oh, Ann. I am not a football fan, per se, but am a Texan. And you did the sport more than justice here.
    I wish you could go to a Texas high school game and write about it, since I feel like you might be able to capture in words what Friday Night Lights and Varsity Blues get close to portraying.
    You sort of made me miss home a little bit with this. πŸ™‚

  10. Another great football movie — Invincible. Loved it!

  11. I have tears in my eyes. Your writing is beautiful. My youngest son just turned 16, and has decided to play football for the first time. He’s warning me not to come watch because he knows I’m worried about him getting hurt. (5’9″ and 135 lbs!) We also love Vince Young since he’s our UT (University of Texas at Austin) star. Thanks for the report.

  12. I love that the agents think one of the players is “smaller than he thought”!

  13. Ann, just wait until Cliff hits high school (or jr. high) and wants to play himself! Then the fun REALLY starts! πŸ™‚

  14. You are one heck of a writer to hold the interest of this totally non-sports-oriented reader. I think I get it now–football and everything. Which is strange because I grew up in Aladamnbama when Bear Bryant was seen in fake photos walking on water.
    And I admire your support for your son’s interest that diverges from the rest of the family. That’s a gift that will sustain him forever.

  15. Ann–I learned about football in college and grad school in much the same way. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. (Although I, too, could make a very bad NFL player.)
    You might also enjoy today’s Frazz comic:

  16. Beautifully written! And to keep this apropos to a knitting blog, I remember sitting in our family room in Pittsburgh (back in the 70s – talk about a great football town!) watching Brian’s Song with a knitted (or probably crocheted) afghan over my head so my brothers couldn’t see me crying. The pattern had holes strategically placed so I didn’t miss a thing. I still have the piano sheet music for the theme song. SO SAD!

  17. Football…the very last thing I would have expected on your blog πŸ™‚ (not a fan except for the odd game now and then: Superbowl with Peyton Manning; New England Patriots against (some non-New England team).

  18. What a beautiful piece of writing!!
    I’m a huge football fan, but my best friend’s wife doesn’t know anything about football and is subjected to these same queries from her son, who has become as football mad as your son. It’s hard for her to come up with three teams, much less her third favorite in the NFC πŸ™‚ So you’re definitely not alone! I admire your devotion to your child, though, to take him to training camp.

  19. What a beautiful piece of writing!!
    I’m a huge football fan, but my best friend’s wife doesn’t know anything about football and is subjected to these same queries from her son, who has become as football mad as your son. It’s hard for her to come up with three teams, much less her third favorite in the NFC πŸ™‚ So you’re definitely not alone! I admire your devotion to your child, though, to take him to training camp.

  20. Tell that Clif the seahawks do not suck.
    You are a good mama. Hope you got yourself a lovely something iced after that outing!

  21. George Will (who is — in the spirit of full disclosure — a baseball fan) once said “Football is everything that is bad about America: It’s violence, punctuated by committee meetings!”
    Every time I watch football that description runs through my head, and whether you love football or hate it, it’s hard to disagree with it!!

  22. You are a better woman than I. I was about three miles away, over at the Bicentennial Mall, and even my desire to finally get some pictures of the beautiful WWII memorial couldn’t make me stay outside longer than about fifteen minutes. And I was in the shade.
    I was scarred in high school by being forced to attend every single football game (I was in the band). But you’ve reminded me of the important lesson I learned then: Learning about something is the best way to progress to at least appreciating it.
    I also learned the wisdom of making friends outside the band who would smuggle my knitting to me in the stands.

  23. Remind Clif that the Seahawks went to the superbowl just as many times as the Titans πŸ˜‰
    And I am VERY jealous of your knitting view…I just watch movies!

  24. Don’t sell yourself short mamma, your sport is knitting and you’re definitely calling the plays.

  25. Awww, Clif has got himself a good mom.
    Remember North Dallas Forty? It was, I think, the first tell-it-like-it-is football movie, with all the injuries, chronic pain, etc.

  26. I hope Clif knows what a great Mom you truly are! Excellent post.

  27. I like to watch football, but I simply can’t watch pre-season games. Most of the time, the coaches play the 2 or 3 players that are fighting for the third string spot, and it’s heartbreaking to realize that every turnover, botched pass, or missed block means that the player is one step closer to losing out on their dream.

  28. Well, Nashvillian that I am, I for one am counting down the days to Hockey Season! Just think, a game that is played on ice! A whole playing surface covered with frozen water, oh yeah. That’s my focus on this umpteenth day of temperatures at or above 100. Please, God, don’t let the Preds leave Nashville!

  29. As football was my first sports love, I have to throw a recommendation out there for “Rudy”. I’ve only just now reached the point where I can watch it without sobbing like a baby.

  30. C’mon, a couple dozen people lining the chain link fench watching the Titans practice? Come up to Green Bay where we play REAL football. There are bleachers set up outside the practice field for the railbirds. It’s like this every day, rain, shine and hot sun (yes, it get’s hot in Wisconsin). And, we don’t ever play football inside in Green Bay, not even in January.
    And for the record, if there is any team with heavenly blessing given them, it would be the Packers–they have that big G on their helmets, and we have St. Vince (Lombardi) at every game).
    And yes, the Seahawks do suck, I didn’t watch the preseason game on Saturday night, but, it looks like Holmgren’s ol’ team showed the Seahawks what they’ve got!

  31. What an awesome narrative! Wow, what a great writer you are!

  32. If I were a boy I’d want a mom like you.

  33. “Same as it ever was.”
    The squirrel line is perfect, btw. Well done.

  34. Now, come on Kristin…..I didn’t say the Seahawks sucked. I said I don’t care about them as much as the gals in our office do (they’re supposed to – I would consider them lousy cheerleaders, if they didn’t). Baseball is more my game. I find football on TV boring, but football live is pretty interesting.

  35. Dang, woman, you are one fine writer!

  36. OK, your writing was so particularly beautiful in this post, I could almost like football! (Note: not almost play football; I, like you, would not make a good NFL football player.) Thanks for this wonderful word-picture, I really really enjoyed it.

  37. We are in our last year of high school football here. After seven years of sons playing, I’ve come to understand a bit more. I even know a defensive back from a receiver. You have to learn about it, it’s what your kids do. You can however, knit between plays, especially during pro games. Just a shout out here for my OH-IO! State Buckeyes and the Bengals (WhoDey?)

  38. I am Australian, and I’m not particularly interested in our own football codes, so you can imagine how much I care about American football. That being said, I was completely arrested by this post. Ann, if you’re not a professional journalist, you should be. If the sports page of our Australian newspapers were half as well-written, I’d probably give a crap about football, and be able to do more than nod wisely when my husband discusses it at leeeeeeength. Just don’t stop writing about your knitting adventures, okay?

  39. That was a beautiful piece of writing. I felt like I was there. Well done.

  40. What a great bonding activity! Football is GREAT by the way, and kids involved in athletics tend to be socially very well adjusted, and do better in school. (Actually, the same is true for kids involved in music programs). Hooray for you for taking Clif to see training camp. He’ll remember that forever!

  41. Seriously, that is good writing. I can’t stand football, but if they wrote stuff like that, then I would. Awesome.

  42. My middle school daughter is the fan in my family, she won her fantasy league last year. We had a similar experience at Browns training camp. her new prized possession is a glove one of the receivers handed her after practice.
    It’s good to be a cute girl among the boys and men! They were very envious

  43. All (okay, most) of the joy in football for me disappeared when Pete Gross, the old-time play-by-play announcer for the Seattle Seahawks, died. That man could describe a game in such vivid detail, *on the radio*, I actually got interested. Then I went to live in Buffalo, where the Bills went to the Superbowl repeatedly — and lost every time. Now that you’ve taken up the sportswriting mantle, if only for a day, I feel the interest returning! Go, team!

  44. Again, as others have said, this post is so well written I feel like I should give a damn about football. Excellent job! Now I feel like digging out the ol’ Marching Band memorabilia….

  45. My cousin’s son was drafted by the Titans a few years ago. Cut at training camp, but still …. for a while he was there.
    What are the Titan’s team colors? I have a friend newly relocated to Nashville who needs a pair of Titan’s socks …

  46. Ugh. Misplaced apostrophes in my comment … they’re going to recind my English Major Card.
    Titans’, not Titan’s.

  47. Sounds like a lot of fun! Makes me want to check out training camp, tho I loathe the local teams. Go Giants!!

  48. I have to say AGAIN that the ‘Hawks got robbed at Superbowl 2006; did anyone else think someone bought the zebra? And they totally have the best logo of any football team. πŸ™‚

  49. Hmmm. wish I had known in advance you were going to be viewing the Titans. There are a group of 12 women coming to my house tonight for a fantasy football draft. About 1/2 are knitters and we watch football or listen to football every Sunday in the fall and knit. We also consume lots of beer bread and spinach dip and beverage of choice. We also check our laptops every 5 minutes to see who is winning in the fantasy games. Much cheering, booing, hissing, laughing, lamenting, and general chit chat can be heard for most of the afternoon. Football can be very fun. I finished two blankets last season!!!

  50. The best football movies ever (IMHO) are North Dallas Forty and the Replacements (so dopey ya’ gotta love it.) I went to the high school that Remember the Titans was ostensibly based on and the movie took indefensible liberties with the facts. BTW, I love the blanket.

  51. The Titans won tonight! And they looked great! It still deserves exclamation points even though it’s just preseason. Now I want to take my nephews to training camp.

  52. What a great writer you are, Ann. To actually write about football and keep me reading the whole way through is a feat no one has accomplished before! I now have a picture of Clif’s smile imprinted on my brain. I can just imagine how thrilled he was. Knitting wasn’t needed here at all. Thanks for something different and lovely.

  53. Our Seahawks-loving son wears a Titans-logo Santa Claus hat (from when Daddy went to Nashville for an away game)…so, like the tweeds, we CAN all get along. (And, to your credit, Ann, until 2002 the Seahawks WERE in the AFC.)

  54. Not only do I like and appreciate football, I think that Jeff Fisher gets the Dream-Boat Coach of the year award! I’m a Carolina Panthers fan and it’s okay to listen on the radio because, well, who needs to be watching John Fox? Ah, Sundays in the Fall. Panthers football on the radio, knitting, and snuggling with my honey on the couch. Doesn’t get any better than that. Unless there’s chili simmering on the stove.

  55. Like Michele (aug 22 comment)I say “You are one heck of a writer to hold the interest of this totally non-sports-oriented reader.” Loved your writing, and they’re all right. You’d make a heckuva sports writer!


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