Football – It’s Not just for Men

Written by Andrea

When I was about 10 years old, my middle brother started playing football. I can remember the feeling of dread that I had when I found out that he was going to play. Not only did it mean that we would have to go to practices at least three nights a week, we would also have to watch games on Saturday mornings and I would have to listen to my dad ramble on about different plays that I would never understand.

At that point in my life, I knew only a few things about football. It was for boys. The clock would say 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter, but it could mean 30 minutes in real time. There were cheerleaders on the sidelines. The sport could make my dad a crazy person. And, most importantly, it dominated the television stations far too much. The only reason I would have ever pretended to like football was because I knew that it meant we would get to go to the high school football games on Friday nights… and that is where anyone who was important could be found in my hometown on a Friday night.

So, no… my love affair with this male-dominated sport did not occur until I was 10 or so.

How did it happen, you ask?

Well, you see, I grew up in the country (and I say that as I picture where I grew up in comparison to where others grew up and realize that it wasn’t THAT country, seeing as how the main road ran right past our house). That means that there aren’t kids in your “neighborhood” to play with. There aren’t parks or fields that are dubbed “parks” where people ride their bikes and meet up for a casual game of ball. No. There are fields… and not fields that are adjoined to neighborhoods. There are just fields. If you go to meet your friend there, your mom or dad probably drove you (wondering why you were going to a field) or you probably rode a four-wheeler or a moped, without a helmet, because that’s how we rolled. Anyway…

… my brother didn’t really have any boys in the “neighborhood” to play with. So, when it came time to practice at home for football (yes, we practiced outside of practice, because that is where the true education was and is), my dad had to have someone for my brother to play against. Enter Andrea, AKA tackling dummy or AKA defensive linebacker or AKA wide receiver (if you’ve seen my slow speed, you know this one was probably the one I played least). I learned football with my brother. I began to understand the plays as well as he did… learned to read defenses, to spot a reverse before it happened, and even when to call a pass or a run play.

That is when I decided what sport I wanted to play. Football.

My dad had always envisioned his little girl in a cheerleading uniform or a ballerina tutu. So, when I announced to him that I had decided to sign up for football, you can imagine his dilemma. He had taught me to love this sport… encouraging me to help him design plays and analyzing and overanalyzing which high school football players should be playing offensive or defensive backs. I was hooked.

My dad, obviously, said no to my request to play football. It didn’t matter that I could throw a perfect spiral or that I could kick the ball through the uprights or that I could punt the ball or that I wasn’t scared to get hit by my brother in his full pads (in his defense, he was quite a bit smaller than me). My dad said no. And, I probably wasn’t as good as I thought I was, either.:)

I was mad. For a long time.

I didn’t understand the double standard. I didn’t think it was fair. Why was it that I could serve as the tackling dummy or throw football with my brother to give him practice, but I was never allowed to actually play the sport myself?

I now have a daughter. I have a son. And if there is one thing that being a parent has taught me… it is that double standards exist in both directions. What I can do for one, I can’t necessarily do for the other. It is not only gender-deep, but personality-deep. I can tell Bailey to pick up her toys and she might argue, but I know that at the end of the day, she will do it. I can tell Jake to pick up his toys, bribe him, threaten him, and take away his luxuries, and he still might not do it. I can tell Jake to get in his bed and go to sleep at night and he will climb in, lay down, and fall asleep moments later. I can tell Bailey to go to sleep at night and three hours later, she will be at the top of the steps claiming not to be able to sleep. Double standards just exist… and probably always will to a certain extent.

Twenty years later and an entirely new world of technology and I can play football. No, I don’t get sweaty or dirty in the yard. And, although Brad tackled me to the ground to show Jake how it is done (hurting my back in the process), I don’t often have to worry about playing against the boys. I play fantasy football (and often kick the boys’ butts).

Ladies, if your husband or significant other is addicted to football, especially the NFL, you really should try out fantasy football. I know it sounds like you must be obsessed with football to try it out and enjoy it. But, that’s not true. You don’t even really have to watch a single game. However, it does dramatically improve your football watching experience. When Brad and I first got married, I was NOT used to having to watch every single NFL game. In fact, I rarely watched any at all. So, there was a time when I thought I was going to lose my mind if we had to watch another game. Fantasy football helped. I could actually care about who won if the Browns were playing the Bengals because I might have a player on each team.

And, if you really want to learn more about football, hang out with some little leaguers (hehe) or check out your local college to see if they have a women’s class. University of Kentucky’s football team hosts a women’s clinic each year… and I’m sure others do as well!

P.S. Brad does not like the fact that I say he tackled me… he says, “I gently laid you down…” I disagree, since my back hurt for three days afterward… but maybe I’m just old.:)

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