I'm looking forward to the beginning of football season.
It wasn't always the case.
I used to hate football on television.
Part of that is because I grew up in a football-addicted household. Both my parents were fervent and hopeful fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, which meant they spent many Sunday afternoons watching horrible players do inexcusable things.
Not one to hold back, they often yelled at the screen, coaching plays from home. My strongest memories of this are from high school and college, when I'd be heads-down into a textbook in my room -- directly aside the master bedroom where the TV was -- while they reacted to what was going on:
"get-em, get-em, Get-Em, Get-Em, GET HIM!"
Always this escalation of cheering that seemed to cause the plaster on the walls to crack and flake.
These were the years of Leonard Tose ownership, Dick Vermiel leadership, Ron Jaworski stardom and Bill Bergey muscle. But Mom and Dad stayed devoted fans, through the years of Norman Braman, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, Randall Cunningham, and Donovan McNabb.
He never went to the The Vet, the stadium where these battles unfolded. We would talk yearly of season tickets as a gift to him, but it never worked out. After a trip to an Eagles game at Franklin Field with the Boy Scouts, where his good coat was ruined by a hotdog tossed by someone who had drunk too much "antifreeze" as a guard against the chill, Dad was content to watch from the comfort of his own home.
He dreamed of their reception of a set of Super Bowl rings. And at the close of each disappointing season, he'd sigh: "Well, there's always next year..."
Dad was never one to authorize meals in front of the television; he wanted them at the table and away from the distraction of the tube. But on afternoons of Sunday Eagles football, he was okay with lunch in front of the game. So midway through the anguish, Mom & Dad would pass by my door, check in to see how things were going, and return after a trip to the kitchen, carrying bowls of soup or stacks of peanut butter crackers.
I hated it. Not sure if I hated the noise or just the thoughts of football on TV itself, but I was never quite a fan.
And I stayed distant from TV football for years and years. Graduated college and didn't watch. Dated Eileen and didn't watch. Married and didn't watch. Had kids and didn't watch.
Sometime in the early 2000s, I flicked on a game. And I got caught.
There was something about the battle -- the long struggle of one side against another for turf and time -- that appealed to me. Other teams bored me, as I didn't know (or didn't care) who the stars were. But the Iggles had their claws in me and I became anchored in front of the set each Sunday afternoon.
I was happy to share my new-found interest with Dad, who was eager to explain shotgun formations and onside kicks to his football novice son. We cheered together at their appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl, taking the occasion to involve even Amanda, Claire, Kristin, and Wesley.
But sadly, it was too little too late.
Dad passed away in 2006, just as my Eagles fandom was taking deeper and deeper root.
I fumbled. I fumbled on those years when we may have shared just one more thing.
I think of him often on Sunday afternoons.
And raise a spoon of lunch-soup as a toast, as I'm sitting in front of the set.