Tag Archives: football

Not the post I wanted to write

I slept poorly last night; from about one in the morning, both my husband and I tossed and turned.  He had an aching shoulder, I had the post-Super Bowl blues.

He’s sleeping now, but I had to get up, couldn’t lie there any longer.  A major consolation is that an entire team feels far worse than I do, but this gutted blankness lingers.  I’m sad they didn’t keep their undefeated streak intact, I’m sorry they came within just yards of getting the go-ahead touchdown (Oh Frank Gore, my heart goes out to you!), I’m bewildered by the lights going out, but ultimately that saved my team’s collective keister from getting blown all across the Superdome.

And last, but certainly not least, I’m trying to grasp a new sensation; losing the last game of the season.

It’s heartbreaking and soul-crushing in a manner I will equate with characters in my next book.  Life is always novel fodder, otherwise why feel so distressed and confused, as if I’ve dived into an abyss.  Maybe that’s overstating it now, a few hours past the numbing astonishment after they clawed their way back from an absolutely HOLE.  If they hadn’t done that, just gotten their clocks cleaned, okay.  That happens (it did in Seattle less than two months ago).  But they didn’t.  They pulled their heads out, played with all they had, and still…

Still they’ll fly home today without joy.  Life goes on, no one died, only some dreams.  Many dreams, left in tatters under Ravens’ feet in New Orleans.

In the next book I’m hoping to write, a young man has to tell the love of his life a shattering truth.  Not that he’s dying, nor is he ill.  But he’s not who she thought he was, and he knows, he KNOWS odds are she won’t stay with him.  Evan is praying to God that Callie will figure out a way to comprehend this truth, but he’s known her since they were fifteen and what he has to tell her is so far outside the box…  I’ve not personally known that sort of brokenness; my eldest daughter was struck by a migraine with aura in 2009, but for a time we weren’t sure if she had suffered a stroke.  That was life-threatening, and until the MRI gave her the all-clear, dread was mixed with something so bleak, I couldn’t truly ponder what came next.  This with my team is not that at all.  But it is debilitating, it’s unpleasant  it’s, it’s, it… sucks.  It really does.  For my characters, what will happen when Evan tells Callie his deepest secret is on par with last night’s loss.  Neither will die, life will continue, but, but, but…

But their hearts will be twisted beyond what feels right.  They’ll be wondering what the hell happens now, which isn’t how I feel, but perhaps it’s how San Francisco’s players and coaches feel.  The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat; Jim McKay spoke those words every weekend on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.  I don’t recall the winner’s clip, but the loser still flashes in my head; a skier flies down a ramp, wiping out as he reaches the end.  He only suffered a mild concussion, but I can still picture tangled skis as he smashed into the ground.  It’s been years since I’ve seen that clip, but let me say, he really biffed it.

Until the Superdome’s lights went out, my team biffed it big-time, yet somehow almost won.  Does that make it worse?  No, well (long sigh), yes, in that if they had just gotten creamed, okay.  But they actually nearly won!  I haven’t, nor am I going to read anything about it, too painful.  But as this feeling fades, I will incorporate it into a novel, for everything happens for a reason.  I’d like to think that the 49ers will use this game to stoke next year’s run, but even that’s precarious.  There’s no guarantee they will get back to the Super Bowl next year; for some of those players, last night was it for a ring.  One never knows what will happen, but if nothing else, my heart plumbed an unwelcome but necessary emotion, is still reeling from the effects.  Like all writers, after due time I will fold up these memories, then slot them into this story, that narrative.  Having to write this particular post bites the big one, but life isn’t all chocolates and roses.

Well, in another ten days.  By then I should be feeling much better…

Several thousand highlights later…

Well, several hundred.  Okay, many.  After many 49ers clips and more than a few of the Ravens and Patriots, I am up to the gills with football.  It’s a pleasant, still dazed sensation, in that it’s been nearly two decades since my team has lasted this far into the season, years since the golden age of San Francisco pigskin.  From 1981 to 1995, my team was an amalgamation of talent, brains, heart, and money.  The years before the salary cap were kind to Niners fans, Eddie DeBartolo an owner who loved his team, and spent the cash to keep it together.

For all my high-minded sport hoo-haa, let’s not forget what makes the trains run on time.

When Eddie had to relinquish ownership of the team to his sister, due to getting involved with a shady southern politician, the team went south.  Denise DeBartolo York didn’t know how to run a team, except into the ground.  She and her husband John became hated figures in the Bay Area.  Fans were accustomed to winning squads, five Super Bowls captured from 1981-1995.  San Francisco has never lost, which is quite a feat, but it feels like eons since those sorts of heady thrills hovered.  The Yorks weren’t able to harness the right coach, Eddie’s ghost weaving as seasons were frittered away, past players recalled for their mythic glories.  Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, Steve Young, Roger Craig, Fred Dean…  How many men could I list, but those names were from another era, which felt as impossible to regain as the days upon which they gave their bodies and souls.

Then Denise and John set the reins within the hands of their son Jed.  By then I was back in the Bay Area, too close to a team that still had its head in the sand.  It was easier being a 49ers fan in England, far away from the tumult.  My husband’s Packers had risen from their grave and I cheered for them and felt no guilt, as my team, ahem, sucked.  They bit the big one, and it was hard to reconcile.  When Jed York took over, I felt little hope.  He wasn’t his Uncle Eddie, there was no Carmen Policy at his side.  The downswing would continue.

Then came Jim Harbaugh.  Jim Harbaugh was coaching Stanford University to incredible wins just south in Palo Alto, my neck of the proverbial Bay Area woods.  At the end of the 2010 season, Harbaugh was ready to move from the college game to the pros, where his older brother John had found success with the Baltimore Ravens.  Jim was wooed by the hapless Miami Dolphins, as well as Jed York.  Who knows what exactly turned Jim’s head, maybe just that San Francisco was a quick trip up the peninsula from Stanford.  Whatever it was, Miami lost, San Francisco won.  Even with a lockout, Jim Harbaugh took the 49ers to the NFC Championship game, coming within one victory of reaching the Super Bowl in his first NFL season as coach.

The good times had returned.

History needs to be recalled to truly enjoy this moment.  As Joe Bonanno noted, art renews people.  Sport does too.  Yes, I’ve been having trouble swallowing the increased violence in football, and last night was no different.  Baltimore’s Bernard Pollard leveled Stevan Ridley in the Patriots-Ravens game, a hit I wish I hadn’t seen, or viewed again in the morass of highlights in which I indulged.  Ridley left the game concussed; my husband noted it as soon as he saw Ridley’s arms waving through the air.  The hit was legal, but so hard; not sure how many more of those I can take.  But the game is the sum, which includes a vast array of superior catches and runs, a ball sailing through the air in temperate domes and frigid stadiums.  Football remains within my blood, even if occasionally I’m chilled.

For years my heart was frozen.  Those blissful days of yore had faded, then were suddenly resuscitated by a new coach, a resurrected quarterback.  Alex Smith had not lived up to his number one draft position, but in 2011 under Harbaugh’s tutelage, Smith led a previously downcast team to a 13-3 season.  In November 2012, the team was 6-2, feeling strong.  Then Smith was concussed, and as the Chicago Bears came to town for a Monday Night game, suddenly the second year backup QB was called into play.  Drafting Colin Kaepernick had been Harbaugh’s choice, but with Smith firmly in control, the young man out of Nevada hadn’t had his shot.  Under the national spotlight, Kaepernick would face a trial by fire.  I remember that game like it was just last night; Chicago only had one loss coming into San Francisco, were riding high.  An untested youngster would step onto the field; anything could happen.

We won 32-7, not only blowing the Bears right back to the Windy City, but many minds in SF; who was Colin Kaepernick, from where did this kid emerge?  Then more pressing; was Alex Smith well enough to play in the next game, against the Saints.  Harbaugh made the decision to start Kaepernick as San Francisco traveled to New Orleans, winning 31-21.  From then onwards the 49ers were led by a second year QB who could run like…  Well, like no one San Francisco had seen since Steve Young.  Kaepernick wasn’t perfect, but he was exciting, sharp, and learning as he went.  When the team got blown out in Seattle in December, a 42-13 drubbing at the hands of Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, doubters had a field day.  But a game later, the Niners secured their division, clobbering the somewhat hapless Arizona Cardinals 27-13.  That same week my husband’s Packers lost to Minnesota, giving the 49ers the second seed, but more importantly, a week to recover.  Injuries had been mounting, and maybe Kaepernick could use a week to consider the events.  Mid-way through the season, he was anointed the starting quarterback; just what was going on?

Redemption for Harbaugh’s choice was proven when the Niners met the Packers just last week; apologies to my beloved, but the 49ers shoved the ball down Green Bay’s throat, 45-31.  Kaepernick ran and threw, acting the role of a season-starting QB, not a replacement.  Yesterday he was calm on his feet, but made throws that pundits said weren’t possible.  He had the touch, also the sense to let Frank Gore do the scrambling.  Vernon Davis returned as if from exile, catching five passes, scoring one of the team’s four touchdowns.  The defense woke up in the second half, not allowing the Atlanta Falcons a single point.  And now, the Super Bowl (or the Harbowl) awaits.  We’re taking another trip to the big dance, which still feels unreal, years and losses and sorrows and confusion since we were last there.  Jed York has learned from his Uncle Eddie, securing the right coach and general manager, then letting those men acquire the correct players and assistants.  It nearly feels like the old days, when a winning air permeated the San Francisco Bay Area, when pride for a winning team was thick and heady.  It hasn’t been like that for a while.

A team doesn’t win every week, Super Bowls are chances of a lifetime.  Yes I know one Baltimore Raven will call this game his last.  But on the West Coast are fifty-three men who have earned the right to that victory, suffering through losing seasons, an array of coaches and schemes.  And of course, I’m biased; I want my team to kick Baltimore’s butt.  I rooted for the Ravens yesterday, but yesterday is gone.  In thirteen days, a contest will be decided, one city celebrating intense ecstasy.  I really hope it’s mine, or here within my proverbial back yard.

Hoo Mama!!

I’m still shaking, but my 49ers are going to the Super Bowl.  It was close, our defense got taken to the wall on a number of plays, but they came up big when it mattered.  I am so pleased, and am now going to watch the Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots, hoping for the Ravens; a Harbaugh brothers rematch after last year’s game back east.

Whoa baby, I am over the moon!!  Been ages since my team’s gone to the big dance.  Two weeks from today, man oh man!  Bring on the pigskin.

An unexpected Monday

Don’t get me wrong; I knew today was the first day of the week.  That’s not the issue.

The issue is that since the beginning of the month, this day on the calendar has been marked with my dad’s oncology appointment.  Between the lines is Road Trip; since my father’s prostate cancer was diagnosed in 2009, I’ve tried to attend as many of his doctor’s visits as has been feasible.  And when bone cancer was detected over a year ago, every three months I trek to my hometown, making a day of it; I get some breakfast at my favourite bakery-coffee shop, then head to the oncologist’s office, which is close to where my best friend works.  Sometimes I chat with her before I see my folks, sometimes she and I have lunch together, or just a frozen yogurt.  I stop at a local bagel shop for their day-old wares, hit another store for more bagels (I eat them every day for lunch, and my son appreciates it when I bring home poppy bagels), then drive home, singing to all my favourite tunes.

But the focus is my parents, my dad.  So far, just a few cancerous specks mark his left hip, and his PSA levels remain steady, in the upper teens.  He’s on Zytiga, but these quarterly visits are about how he’s feeling, getting another Lupron injection.  We joke that he’s suffering hot flashes on my behalf, and has been doing so for coming on four years.  Bone cancer adds a niggle to the whole situation, but so far, Dad’s a trooper, and what’s a road trip every few months?  I used to live eleven hours away by plane.  Long distances aren’t a problem.

But that I might have been exposed to the flu isn’t something to be ignored.  For a week, my daughter’s best friend was staying with us, and on Saturday, she wasn’t feeling so well.  Yesterday, she left, but took a bad cold with her, and just to be on the safe side, I’m not driving this morning.  I will visit my folks in a couple of weeks once I either get the flu and recover, or am certain it has passed us by.  Sort of odd thinking a nasty bug could be hovering.  Until it hits, I’ll continue with the work.

Sometimes life takes detours, but they’re not always bad.  Today I’ll edit, but the new idea has been pestering me, so I’ll probably spend a good chunk of time at the kitchen table, paper strewn about as notes are made, an outline prepared.  There’s no Monday Night Football, but my 49ers were very good to me on Saturday, not so kind to my husband’s Green Bay Packers.  By the time I see my parents, the NFC Championship game will have come and gone; either San Francisco will be going to the Super Bowl, or licking their wounds.  I received my love of pigskin right from my father and we’ll have plenty to jaw over.

If you’ve read Alvin’s Farm, my dad is a lot like Tommie Smith.  He’s had his sorrows, and his joys.  He was a young grandfather too; my dad isn’t quite seventy, but participated in his granddaughter’s wedding last summer, reading the first half of I Corinthians 13.  He finds my writing intriguing, not that he would read any of my books, but he loves telling his buddies about my exploits, sharing all his kids’ triumphs.  And the grandchildren’s too; he has seven total, my three twenty-somethings, then four little ones who have offered him a lovely glimpse of innocent days.

Life, like the tides, is cyclical.  What comes around, goes around, but hopefully not the flu.  Maybe just a date on a calendar will be rearranged, sans the trip to a doctor’s office.  I’ll get up to see my folks, do all the usual activities, just not today.  Today is meant for this post, some revisions, plotting a new novel.  The road trip is just waiting for Super Bowl contenders to be decided.

My dad

My dad

The violence inherent in the system

I tried to write something yesterday, after absorbing what had happened in Connecticut.  Several times I sat with the Add New Post page staring at me, but I just didn’t know what to say, what I wanted to say.  What is there to say?  Guns are bad.  Guns kill people.  People kill people, the NRA would argue.

Guns sure make it a lot easier.

But that’s trite, it’s bullshit really, when yesterday is considered.  I can’t even really consider it.  It’s so damn sad.

This morning, I woke next to my warm, loving husband.  I didn’t think about Connecticut, or guns, or the bleeping NRA, until he mentioned football, wondering when his Packers play on Sunday.  Football, huh!  I stayed away from the news for most of last week because the NFL has been a bastion of stupid violence, either with guns or alcohol.  I was up to my eyeteeth with stupidity and violence, so much violence inherent in the system.  Monty Python made a joke ages ago, as King Arthur rides up to some peasants in a field.  He addresses one as old woman, but the peasant informs him that he is a man, Dennis, and he’s thirty-eight, not old (although really, in King Arthur’s time, thirty-eight was probably fairly aged for peasants or kings).  Quickly the action turns silly; King Arthur tries to assert his rights as ruler, yet Dennis notes this is a self-governing commune.  Arthur gets angry, hauling Dennis from the ground.  Dennis yells that he’s being repressed (See how he’s repressing me?), then notes the violence inherent in the system.

My nation, the United States of America, is dying from the violence inherent in the system.

I couldn’t read any more about yesterday other than the basic facts, then one article in the LA Times about if this will change gun laws.  Then I moved on, trying to consider other issues.  I didn’t get very far, reading one more article, about this very theme; America is a turbulent, unhappy country.  It’s not just guns that caused yesterday’s massacre (even if they did make it so much easier to achieve what the killer wanted); it’s America’s thirst for violence.  Football fans decry the way the game is being made safer.  Talk shows ratchet up the noise; attack attack attack.  I never realize how violent a nation I lived in until I moved to Britain.  Violence was kept off TV until after the watershed, nine p.m.  Sex wasn’t the issue there, Janet Jackson’s nipple of no concern.  When I came back, I was appalled at how rough were the commercials during my beloved football; if they weren’t trying to sell me beer, they were forcing fights and bloodshed down my throat.

Adults watch football, okay.  So do little kids.

Two nights ago my husband put on the Thursday night football game, mostly out of habit.  The teams, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, didn’t interest us, and I picked up my book, Lonesome Dove, and read as the gridiron was trod.  Then I said to my husband that the recent tragedies involving football players had really dampened my enthusiasm.  Plus it’s getting hard to reconcile serious head trauma with a sport that I have loved and followed for thirty-one years.  Baseball appeals more, and not just because my team won the World Series.  Baseball is a gentler sport, also more demanding; one hundred sixty-two games spread over six months requires more of players’ attention.  I was just getting sick and tired of all the injury and death.  I am sick to death of death!

I write plenty about death, I won’t deny it.  I also write a lot about love.  No matter how bleak my plots get (and they get pretty damn bleak), love triumphs, love always wins.  1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13 is often read at weddings; it was read at my daughter’s just this past summer.  It is usually attributed as 1 Corinthians 13, but that last verse of the previous chapter really nails it: But eagerly desire the greater gifts.  And now I will show you the most excellent way.

That’s LOVE!  Not violence, guns, hatred.  Yes, a writer needs drama.  Cain killed his brother Abel, conflict from the biblical beginning.  But good grief, can’t we have evolved some since King Arthur strong-armed Dennis the peasant?  My faith demands I remain optimistic, that two thousand years ago love conquered evil by dying on a cross.  But for God’s sake (and I mean that just as I wrote it), can’t we move past the blood lust and fury, the need to be number 1 no matter the cost.  All the firearms in the world won’t keep anyone safe; little children weren’t even safe yesterday at school!  When Kasandra Perkins was killed, the NRA said she might have survived if she’d had a gun.  Are they going to say that about the five to ten year-olds who died?

(Stupid NRA…)

This is an anti-gun rant (in case you missed it); it’s also an I am sick and tired of all this honk-honking vent.  In Britain, drivers rarely honk their horns; it’s impolite.  My husband and I used to joke that when it did happen (maybe once a year), what was it with all this honk-honking?  It’s Christmastime, believe it or not, which exacerbates yesterday’s catastrophe.  But maybe, oh please God maybe, that such awful wretched violence occurred so close to when many all over the world celebrate the birth of a baby, maybe someone will take life and love into consideration.

Yesterday, writing about the writing, I didn’t think so.  I was pessimistic, pissed off, weary.  I had not one iota of expectation that anything in this nation would ever, ever change when it comes to guns.  Today?  Well, I’ve had a night’s sleep.  I thought about Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  I lay beside my beloved, who erases all my earthly woes.  Then I took a shower, ate some Grape Nuts, the violence inherent in the system floating through my brain.

Many things have changed during my life.  Some will never alter.  As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have to have hope.  Miracles happen.  Maybe, one day, the violence will cease to be.

Splitting the difference

It’s Monday morning and I’m considering a new novel, sport-themed, but not directly related to Kasandra Perkins’ death.  I am thinking about football, just the games; my husband and I split the wins yesterday, his Packers victorious over the Vikings, my 49ers losing to the Rams.  The last couple of weeks have been this way, but I take the losses better; I tend to look at my team as a bunch of dorks when they blow a lead (and a game), hopefully a lesson for them to gnaw on (or to gnaw on them) all week.  My husband (bless his heart) suddenly loses all cognizance of football.  And when he does remember, it’s that stupid sport.

Yesterday I came up with a new idea, Where The Ball Is, all in the space of about fifteen minutes while watching rain pour from the heavens.  I was waiting for football, not wanting to work on Kelly Tremane due to what occurred in Kansas City.  Instead I read about David Beckham and the LA Galaxy winning another MLS title.  Other than English players from the ’90s and 2000s, I know squat about soccer.  But as I read that Landon Donovan might want to take off some time, suddenly I was pondering a new book.  By the end of last night’s Cowboys-Eagles game, I had a playlist, characters, even a plot.  And when I finish this post, I’ll start writing that book.

I was going to write something this month, thought it would be the end of a NaNo project.  Instead, it’s something entirely different.  A few of my novels have been this spontaneous, and one of my books is like Kelly Tremane, abandoned not without small guilt, but from necessity.  Right now writing about domestic violence just doesn’t feel right.  I don’t know what will happen with Kelly Tremane, but I did complete that previously discarded manuscript.  Right now I need something easier, and I need to write.  I’m in a writing-mode, I can’t just turn that off.

Like my husband can’t just stop watching his Packers, or me with my Niners.  Like life keeps churning another sunrise, even if the previous night seemed so dark and heavy.  This new book is about a man turning his back from all he has ever known, to find out what else exists.  Love waits in an unexpected place, but it has nothing to do with soccer.  Finally I’m going to include my beloved American football in a novel, much to Kendall Schultz’s chagrin.  He’s a worldwide soccer star, but in his own country, outside the stadium, he’s just another guy.

I had never heard of Landon Donovan until yesterday, and I’m pretty sports-savvy.  (I do know about Mia Hamm.)  So I think that’s an apropos plot.  I need something not mired in abject tragedy, yet sports-themed, and about love.  Love does make the world go round, love for others, love for football, whether it’s played with a round ball or one oval-shaped.

Love for a dorky team that got its butt kicked yesterday in St. Louis.  Unlike my husband, I clearly recall the 49ers today.  I’ve been rooting for them for thirty-one years.  That will never change.

Life and death

I was planning on writing something today, probably about NaNoWriMo and having finished writing The Richard Brautigan Club.  I probably would have mentioned that I’m not doing any writing this weekend, needing a break, also needing to read through Kelly Tremane, the other NaNo project that is about a third done.  That’s what I was going to write about, until my daughter, a news hound like her mother, told me a Kansas City Chiefs player killed himself at Arrowhead Stadium this morning.

I’m not a Chiefs fan, but I love football.  Immediately I went to my computer; it had occurred at 8.10 a.m. local (Central) time, just a few hours ago for us on the West Coast.  No name was mentioned in the lead-off article on Google News, but it only took a few clicks to learn his name, and what had precipitated this awful incident.  The young man allegedly shot and killed his girlfriend.  Then he drove the short distance to Arrowhead Stadium and ended his life.

As I read, my heart sank, my mood plummeted.  Last night my husband, daughter, and I went to dinner to celebrate my noveling achievement and the hubby’s work endeavors.  Daughter is over her bad tummy, it was a lovely evening.  I watched Stanford and UCLA battle it out for the Pac-12 Rose Bowl spot.  Then I went to bed, feeling… relieved.  I still have a novel to finish, but I would think about that on Monday.

Today is gray, cool, not wet but heaviness prevails in the air, in my heart.  Of course there is more to this story, between the young man and his partner and their families, and the sports community.  Who am I to this situation?  Just an onlooker of sorts, a football fan, also a human being.  Supposedly an infant has been left an orphan.  The young woman’s mother made the call to police, that her daughter’s on-again, off-again boyfriend had shot her multiple times.  These are numbing, horrific facts.  As a writer, I conjure plenty of drama and tension, one of the reasons I had to set Kelly Tremane aside, a story about domestic violence.  But fiction is malleable.  This scenario is real.

These were real people and their loved ones are in real pain.  A baby girl will grow up without her parents, teammates and the coaches who worked with this young man are facing loss and questions.  I don’t mean to go overboard; death is everywhere.  But such empty, meaningless tragedy gnaws at my guts.  Sport is to lift spirits, celebrate athleticism.  Football is often violent, also graceful and intelligent.  Tomorrow’s games will proceed, although it hasn’t yet been determined if the Chiefs will play at home against the Carolina Panthers, who at last report were still scheduled to fly to Kansas City this morning.

It’s the first of December, the day after NaNo.  Yes, I finished a book, but somehow it doesn’t feel the same.  Come Monday, I’m sure this gloom will have faded.  For now, my thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those dead.