Belly of the Whale: Picking Teams – The Aftermath Jan14

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Belly of the Whale: Picking Teams – The Aftermath


a blogumn by Howard Leder

Wanted to follow up just a bit on my last blogumn, where I proposed by way of a New Year’s resolution to pick professional sports teams & follow them for one year, something I have never done.  In my typical nerdy way, I began researching the teams, going to their websites, reading the sports pages, watching ESPN.  I also picked up a copy of Football for Dummies, which while it’s not exactly Tolstoy did get me into the inner workings of the game & the players. (As a side note, there is a whole cottage industry of books explaining sports to women, wives in particular.  Alongside the Girlfriend’s Guide to Football, my faves are Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game! and Snot Bubbles!  A Football Primer for Moms, Wives & Significant Others)

I got a lot of advice about this from various folks, some of it useful, some not so useful (for the record, I’ve never been a fan of the Bourgeois Pig, but we’ll let that pass….)

Many people recommended favorite childhood teams.  Others suggested “Root for your ZIP code” – i.e. if you live in LA, follow LA teams.

So I’ve adopted a kind of two-pronged strategy.  One is to follow local teams so I can actually go to the games.  My friend Kate has promised to take me to see the Dodgers in the Spring, as much for the baseball as the men in tight pants.  I’m bringing the opera glasses.

coltsposterLocally, I’ve also decided to watch UCLA.  This was not a tough decision for me.  I went to USC for grad school & logic says I should stick with them.  But USC always strikes me as too many whiny rich kids with a sports team thrown in for their amusement, kind of the Roman emperors at their nouveau colosseum.  UCLA has at least a hint of that Ivy League, fall leaves in the air, collegiate innocence that I think I was looking for in a college team.  USC sometimes just makes me feel dirty.  Plus I love the Rose Bowl; the location is one of my favorites in all of Los Angeles.

For basketball, a lot of people voted for the Lakers, but I find them too  vain, too LA, too self conscious.  So I’m going for the Clippers.  Suck though they may.

For my second grouping of teams, I went national.  I chose the Oakland A’s, the Indianapolis Colts, and in basketball, the Celtics.  Don’t ask me why. The choices were mostly arbitrary, which one of my co-workers says breaks all the rules.  “You have to grown up there or lived there,” he yelled.  And while I did grow up in Northern California which at least partially explains the A’s, there was little rhyme or reason for the other choices.  Someone said, “How ‘bout the Colts,” and that seemed pretty good.  Though I did go with Notre Dame for football because a boy I like said they were good.

Over the weekend, I watched all four play-offs games in the NFL.  Toward the end of the weekend, I realized this might be just a tad overkill, but I had a great time.  These were probably the first four games I’d watched since childhood.  To my surprise, I actually remembered a lot more of the rules and how things went, picked up no doubt from my dad.  He had a requisite male enthusiasm for sports that none of his sons shared.  But still, somewhere, somehow, I picked up a knowledge of First Downs.

One of my only sports memories with my dad was a pickup game we played at my junior high church youth group.  My dad was not one of those “Hey son, let’s go in the yard & throw the ball around” kind of guys.  My brothers & I were a little to effete for that, and he was a little too shy.  But there we were on a late Sunday afternoon playing football.  I was no doubt miserable.  At that time I would much rather be playing Dungeons & Dragons or reading in my bedroom then out playing football, a sport that had thoroughly rejected me & which I had rejected in turn as well.

My dad was playing quarterback.  He laid out some play:  Hut hut hut.  We all ran across the field.  He threw the ball to me, which was probably a mistake, but my some miracle I caught it.  I started to run, but was almost immediately shoved from behind and went flying across the grass.  As I landed, my knee came down on the steel cover for the sprinkler controls which was flush with the level of the field.  In one death-defying skid I managed to hang onto the ball, but ripped half the skin off my knee.  There was blood everywhere.  But as my dad came running over to help–and throughout the mad dash to the emergency room where I got five stitches–there was this unbelievable glow of pride around him.  “You caught it,” he kept saying.  “You caught it!”