Clare County Review & Marion Press Columns

Sunday Football with the Gardener

We watch football together when the opportunity allows. In fact, we’ve viewed a lot of footfall in the same space through our many years together. We make odd viewing companions. He is, of course, a lifelong football fanatic, coming from a large family of like-minded folks. He grew up watching the Lions with his dad, uncle and three brothers. They were a fan force to be sure. The tradition continues with a couple more generations and a few ladies in the mix.  
The biggest football fan in my family was my uncle, Bernie Schumacher. He was a true fan and spent football Sundays in his big chair, square in front of the television, rooting for the Lions. Of course he rooted for other teams. In fact, he watched all the football he could get, and would happily watch and snooze away his only day off from the IGA. My dad, on the other hand, was a baseball fan. Our Sunday television viewing was not dominated by the pigskin.
The Gardener and I both vividly remember the great Heidi debacle of November 17, 1968.  NBC left a game between the LA Raiders and the NY Jets, with seconds left to play. The Jets were ahead. The classic children’s story Heidi appeared on time. As it turned out, in the last seconds of the game the Raiders scored two touchdowns in 9 seconds and won the game 43-32. Almost immediately there was uproar from the viewing public. Had you stepped outside that evening, you would likely have heard the low roar as anguished football fans all across America howled. My Uncle Bernie was fit to be tied, and let us all know exactly what he thought of Heidi. In fact, he peppered the air with what he thought of Heidi.
We’ve watched a lot of football together through the years. We’ve done so with a lot of different people and in different places.  And I have to say that we did not always do this with equal enthusiasm; far from it. Because of this sometimes reluctant learning process, I know what I know about football. I am no expert on the rules and player stats. That is the Gardener’s particular gift. What I do know, I simply absorbed and it works for me. Besides, it’s not always about the game.    
The special power I bring to our football viewing is observation, and I do not mean looking for things the ref may have missed or some finite intricacy of the game. I point out what are the obvious things he does not see or hear, or often even care about. I note things about the crowd, the stadium and what’s up in the sidelines. I’ve been known to point out the shadow of the stadium cam when it crosses the play or even how foolish some coaches look trying to hide what they say. I understand the reasons but….  
I also have an opinion about what’s fashionable, or not, among the former player-come big time commentator crowd on a certain network, ending with X. They are a fashion riot. These days they’ve added a woman to the mix on another channel. Fashion-wise she leaves me speechless, as in “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.”  And so that goes.
For 12 years we have participated in a fantasy football league consisting of 12 team owners, all family members and all male, save three. All this time and we all still speak to each other. For me at least, this fantasy stuff has widened my interest in football and given it a new perspective. I make my own choices as manager and take suggestions from no one. There is a certain sports empowerment involved. Besides it helps if you get to win the league trophy and a few bucks once in a while.
For the past few years, the Gardener has recorded his Sunday football for viewing when he’s home from his job at the transfer station. This means that I cannot say a word about the Lions game until he watches it. Not even if one of his Sunday visitors has revealed the score, which happens from time to time. For him, for just a moment, a Heidi kind of rage happens all over again.  
We send condolences to the Brown family, whose roots are deep in Winterfield, on the loss of two members, Kay Alberts Brown and Jill Brown Christie, sister-in-laws in the family of Norm and Ova Brown. Kay is remembered as Mrs. Brown, the much loved pre-school assistant who helped many a child acclimate to the educational life at Marion Elementary.
This week’s photo is of Marion’s 1953 football team, all of them. Their record was 5 wins, 3 losses in the conference season.

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