Breakfast dishes washed and dried, beds made, and any other house chores were done by noon. Time for the Sunday afternoon football game to begin. Dad in his favorite chair and his young daughter setting on the coffee table that doubled as an ottoman. The broadcast was only received in black and white. No color televisions were available when this tradition of Sunday afternoon football began.
The father teaching his young daughter the game, of fist downs and red dogs. Blocking and off sides. Going long and going all the way. An afternoon of just the two of them, spending time together. Now days, that time would be called bonding time. They didn’t know they were bonding, they were just enjoying the game. A time before instant replays. A time when people could sit around after the game and decipher if the call was a good or bad. If it was a bad call, would it have changed the outcome of the game?
She never knew if that Sunday afternoon game meant as much to him as it did her. Her very special time with her daddy. Mom didn’t like football and always kept herself busy doing other stuff. This was their time! Even though they enjoyed other activities together such as softball, fishing and hunting, it was the Sunday afternoon football games that would stay with her the rest of her life.
She finds herself alone today, waiting for the Packers and the Bears to play at Chicago. A game her father would have never missed. She tried to remember who he would have cheered for and to her dismay she remembers he would have cheered for the Pack. She has been a long time Bears fan since Sweetness ran the field. Of course there was fond memories of the Lions, the home town team with Dick Night Train Lane making plays. She has to be honest with herself, Brat Starr had stolen her heart too. She will never forget the black high top shoes and Johnny Unitas. Football heroes of her youth. When players played for the love of the game and not multi-million dollar contacts. Players had moral codes and even young girls could look up to them.
Some fifty years later, she still watches the games on Sunday but her heart isn’t in it like before. There’s an empty spot in the chair in the living room, even though it’s a different chair and house. There is only an echo of the memory of her daddy cheering when his team scored or his scathing comments when someone was off-sides or fumbled the ball.
Yet I am thankful, as those memories fill that empty spot. No matter how many years daddy has been gone, we still share in some ways, Sunday afternoon football. And I smile!