Once upon a time, when I thought that short shorts were appropriate winter attire, I played football. During my third year of university I was a nose tackle for an all-girl team. My justification for joining the team was I could run and . . . I could run. The fact that I didn’t know or understand the rules to the game and had no other athletic abilities to contribute besides this was immaterial.
This was how I found myself crouched with one hand behind my back and the other on the ground, waiting to grab the ball and pass it to more skilled ladies behind me. The umpire, or whatever the person was orchestrated football games would shout “Third down” or “second down” and I would hold my confused self still and think “down to what?” and then the buzzer would sound or maybe it was a whistle and I would grab the ball.
What came after that was always confusing, there were many different plays that I was supposed to memorize but since I was preoccupied with understanding what the heck was going on in the game, I never learned them. Then I would run as fast as I could, watching for the ball and praying that it wouldn’t be thrown to me because I hadn’t learned how to catch.
My understanding of the rules was shoddy at best. I thought the defense’s job was to continually hold the offense in one place for the entire hour and that we would only be given a break if a touchdown was scored by the other team. Happily, I received lots of breaks.
Along with not knowing the rules to the game I was deficient in the other elements of football playing. Based on my limited observation of athletics, it seemed that fighting and trash talking comprised a large part of organized sports. As I stood at five foot two inches at best, fighting seemed unwise and like a good way to be smushed when I was paired with a girl who approached six feet in height. And I felt bad throwing insults at the other players because they were doing their best. Not to mention that their best was far better than mine. So at the start line? At the line of aggression? At the scuttle line?
When all the female footballers would line up, right before the referee or whoever it was called start or whistled or blew the fog horn, I would spew nonsense. “How many elbows do you have?” I would cheerfully ask the growling girl across from me. “What?” she would falter and her defense would weaken for the moment that I needed to push past her and run the only play I knew “the fly” which was in essence running as far and as fast as you can past the other team then turning around to watch for the ball that I couldn’t catch. Or I would change it up “Watch your toes, I have a wooden leg” I would cry as I moved through the tussling line of ladies.
My football career culminated in a game that was played on a freezing November evening. My parents came to witness my twenty-three seconds of glory, which was the amount of time it took for the opposing team to score eighteen points. Sometimes reflecting back to these halcyon days, I think to myself, perhaps I shall take up another equally absurd sport that I don’t understand like boxing or lacrosse.