As you may know, three out of my four children are of the male variety.
As I have also mentioned a time or thrice, I am the second oldest of six girls.
We have zero-point-zero brothers.
Needless to say, before I married a wonderful man 13 years ago, and gave birth to one boy, then another, and another, the male species was somewhat of a mystery to me.
It still is, to some extent.
Living in a house with seven women (plus my dad, of course) was quite different than my current living situation of four boys (including my husband) and two girls (my daughter and I).
Sure, we played sports when we were younger, but we were more interested in Barbies, and dolls, and books, and clothes, and hair, and eventually, make-up.
More specifically, unlike in my current living situation, you would have never, ever, EVER found yourself tripping over a stray football in the hallway.
Check that. Actually, one of our Ken dolls might have been a football player with a tiny plastic football. But you know how Ken rolls. I'm sure his uniform was blinged out, and he was always way more concerned with the state of his perfect coif instead of scoring touchdowns.
Fast forward a few decades, and I am now the mother to three boys (and a girl) who, among many their many interests, love sports. My oldest son, in particular, is passionate about anything that involves a ball and some type of running in a open area. Fortunately for his love of sports, he is also very athletic, and not only enjoys watching sports, but playing them as well.
Over the years, I have been schooled in the ins and outs of various sports. I have learned what a force out is in baseball. What a full count is. What a balk is. Why pitchers pitch from the wind-up or the stretch. I have learned about technical fouls in basketball. What constitutes man-to-man defense versus zone defense. What a double dribble is. When to yell, "Get the rebound!"
And then, there is football.
No, not European soccer, but true-blue, American football.
With a pigskin.
Who knew that football was so confusing? Who knew that there were so many rules? So many plays?
Well, I'm sure most of you knew.
Did not know.
My oldest son started playing tackle football in first grade. He loved it. I loved it. It was fun to cheer for him and his team, and get a basic understanding of what exactly we were all cheering about. Of course I have always understood the basic premise of football: Two teams. Each trying to score a touchdown. A touchdown is worth 6 points. The team with possession of the ball is called the offense. They get four tries to move the ball down the field, and each try is called a, "down". If they move the ball ten yards, it goes back to being a first down, and they get four more chances. Unless the other team intercepts the ball. Then the other team gets to be offense.
Duh. To the uh.
I'm not stupid.
I get all that.
Except when I don't.
Except when I'm standing on the sidelines cheering for my boy and his team, and one of those yellow flags goes down on the ground and I'm all, "Huh? Holding? Face-masking? False starting?" Or everyone else is cheering and I'm all, "What just happened? Why are we cheering? I just see a pile of bodies on 30-yard line! Whuh?"
You know what is particularly fun? And not at all embarrassing?
When you think something good just went down for your team, and you start cheering, but then you realize that no one else on your side is cheering, so you immediately stop cheering and turn it in a cough, like you totally meant to cough instead, but a cheer escaped? And you think, "Whuh? I thought that was a first down? But no? Oh. The other team intercepted it? Stop cheering, Clare. STOP. CHEERING."
And then you stop cheering.
And you look around and hope that no one saw you cheering.
And you cough once more for good measure.
Because that was totally a cough that escaped your throat before. NOT a cheer.
That is your story, and you are sticking to it.
My almost-11-year old son plays Center for his football team. As you know, the Center snaps the ball to the Quarterback, and blocks on the offensive line. My son is also the Punter. On the defensive line, he plays the Left End.
It is not enough that I, The Sports Illiterate One, had to learn the ins and outs and how to cheer for the one position he plays. I had to learn how to cheer for the three different positions that he plays. I had to learn when to yell, "Good blocking!" or "Great tackle!" or "Awesome punt!" lest I look like a total fool.
Because only a fool would yell the wrong thing.
Like I have.
I am a work in progress.
On Sunday afternoon, as my boy was playing the defensive line, he saw that the quarterback passed it to the...um...fullback? tailback? halfback? um...Guy Who Runs The Ball After The Quarterback Hands It To Him? and was going in for a, "reverse play" (Please don't ask me to explain what this is, for I fear that I will come up tragically short on accurate details.) and before the "guy" could advance any further, or gain any yardage, (Look at me with the fancy football talk!) my son tackled him to the ground. I cheered and yelled, "YEAH! AWESOME TACKLE! WOOOOO!"
Which, of course, was the right thing to say.
My son's team lost anyway, but after the game I made sure to compliment him on a few of his great plays. "That was a great tackle you had in the last quarter!" I said as I put my arm around him, as he was still wearing his bulky shoulder pads.
"Thanks!" he replied. "It was a 15-yard sack!"
A what-yard what?
"Well, technically, it wasn't a sack. But it was a 15-yard tackle!"
Don't ask. Some things are better left unknown.
But I couldn't let it go. After all, I have several years ahead of me of cheering for various sports.
Mama better know what she's talking 'bout.
Later that evening, my son came to my bedroom to say goodnight to me, and I was folding laundry. I said, "Dude, today you were talking about your 15-yard sack-slash-tackle. What did you mean by that? Did it mean that you stopped him from going 15-yards?"
"No, Mom. I stopped him 15-yards behind the original line of scrimmage, which moved the play to a new line of scrimmage. But 15 yards back."
"Umm-hmm. So you stopped him from going 15 yards forward?"
"NO. MOM. I said that I stopped him 15 yards BEHIND the line of scrimmage, before he could advance the ball, therefore putting the new line of scrimmage BACK an additional 15 yards."
"So you mean you stopped him from going 15 yards?"
"MOM. That's not what I said."
It's not? Whuh?
Something was not clicking in my brain, and I fervently wanted to understand.
At that moment, I realized that our relationship had changed. I used to know it all. I used to be the smartest person in his life. He used to look up at me with his bright eyes and chubby cheeks and ask, "Why, Mommy? Why?" And he would believe anything I would tell him.
In his world, I used to be The All Knowing.
Somewhere along the line, however, he started knowing things I don't know. He started understanding things that I don't understand. He started knowing about lines of scrimmage and 15-yard sacks.
And I was left behind.
He looked at me, and I could tell that he was feeling frustrated that I just wasn't understanding what he was trying to tell me about the play that I had so innocently complimented. My boy, my 11-year old sports fanatic, took a deep breath and said calmly, "All right, Mom. First of all, I originally called it a 15-yard sack. It wasn't a sack. It was just a tackle. You can only call it a sack if you tackle the Quarterback. Okay?'
"Yep, got that."
I watched his eyes dart around the room as he tried to explain the play. He looked at a pile of jewelry on my nightstand and smiled. He arranged it to form the offensive line and began, "See this blue necklace? That's the line of scrimmage, even though the actual line of scrimmage is invisible."
"Yep, got that."
"And these small silver hoops back to back? The front one is the Center. The back one is the Quarterback. The pink stones on either side of the Center are the Guards. Then, the medium hoops are the Tackles. The big hoops on the end are the Ends. The other fancy hoops behind the Quarterback are the Tailback or Fullback, but they can move around. Got it?"
"So the small hoop behind the Center, the Quarterback, passed it to one of the fancy hoops, who was about to run with the ball. But I stopped the fancy hoop all the way back here, which was 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, and he wasn't able to advance at all."
"Okay, got it."
"Now, the blue necklace, the line of scrimmage, has to scoot back 15 yards to begin the play again. And then they start the play all over. Got it?"
"Oh, dude! I totally get it. Why didn't you just say it like that in the first place?"
"Mommmmm. I did."
"Oh. Yeah. Right. You did. But now? I understand it better."
Football. It's much easier and prettier when explained with jewelry.
Men? Throw some diamond studs into that offensive line display, and you will have our rapt attention.