I Love Football

By Kat Chua

I love football—American football. I have loved football for the last 24 years. It began at a time
when Joe Montana’s back worked for him and not against him. It was when the Colts were an
AFC East Team, when the Bills were good and the Patriots were just OK, and the Jets—well,
they’re the JETS. I was living a sin back then: I lived in New York, but watched the 9’ers and the
Cowboys, sometimes the Giants, if they were playing the Cowboys. From the beginning I loved
everything about it, even the things I didn’t like about it. How did an 8-year-old immigrant girl
come to love football?

It was the doing of the two rambunctious ladies: my grandmother and her sister, my
great-aunt. How two Asian senior citizens came to like football and baseball I never really
found out. What I do know is that I yell and point at the TV like my grandmother did at the
Giants’ offense when they didn’t make with a bullet from Phil Simms. I mumble to myself and
turn my body away from the TV the same way my great-aunt did when she was threatening to
leave the 49’ers, when Young filled in for Montana. For nearly ten years I spent eleven months out of
the year sitting in the middle of the hallway, between my grandmother’s bedroom at the front of
the house and my great-aunt’s bedroom in the back listening to the stereo of their TV’s (eleven
months because March is dark for football and baseball).

During the week after dinner they would slowly make their way up the thirteen-step staircase
like molasses and go back and forth about household tasks, parties to drive to, funerals to attend,
and doctor visits to be had. My 68-year-old grandmother always insisted that my 52-year-old
great-aunt walk ahead of her. My great-aunt’s arthritis did not slow her down as much as my
grandmother’s need for a hip replacement. So they would chat back and forth, with their words
swallowing each other, as my great-aunt towered at the top of the stairs and my grandmother
climbed the carpeted stairs picking up lint balls on the way.

On week nights during baseball season my grandmother would sit in her bedroom, put on
her New York Yankees cap, and turn on the TV, with the volume on full. At the other end of the
apartment were the sounds from a Mets game and the cracking of pistachios. My great-aunt
loved pistachios. Although I loved the Yankees because, well, they were the Yankees, I had
loyalty to the Mets because we lived in Queens. During the weeknight games, I often visited them
back and forth equally long enough to get schooled on technique and players’ stats. On the
occasion when the Yankees and the Mets played against each other, I stayed in the hallway where
I was bombarded by commentary. They never yelled at each other about why their team was
better. Instead they would announce game plays of their team. I listened to baseball in stereo in a
carpeted hallway in my native language, Tagalog.

During football season which was luckily only 1.2 days a week, and after Sunday morning
mass, I had the same back and forth schedule: five minutes with grandma and five minutes with my
great-aunt. That’s five minutes in football time though (so about fifteen minutes in real time). My great-aunt
was more enthusiastic about explaining football to me. Sometimes I asked too many
questions for my grandmother and she’d suggest I watch and figure it out, or if she was in a
“mood” she’d suggest I go and sit with my great-aunt.

I loved my great-aunt. She was a jolly little lady that giggled a lot, especially if you said
something she couldn’t understand. She stood four-foot-eleven, but she felt like a giant, but not a
New York Giant of course. She would explain to me in between plays and during re-plays what
was happening on the field. She taught me how to ask a question without having to take my eyes
off the television. She taught me that it was okay to let the answering machine pick up during
games. My great-aunt taught me how to multitask during a game and how to load the laundry,
grab lunch, and check on my grandmother during half-time.

My memory of those times are in pieces not meant to be put together, but collected for
safekeeping. No one game really stands out from that time. Many football and baseball moments
have come and gone. Both games have changed. My teams have changed. I no longer follow
baseball because sportsmanship went out the window when The League decided that after the
game, teams would no longer shake the other team’s hand. To ease potential for violence they
now only shake their own team’s hands. A shame. Nowadays I’m a JETS fan. I’ve learned to
take players off their pedestals. In sports, players stop being heroes, partly because of adulthood,
but also because of heartbreak.

In 2003 my hopes of having my generation’s Namath came to a slow and painful halt,
Chad Pennington, #10 Jets quarterback, who brought hope to the gang-green after Testaverte’s
knees no longer supported the throttle of his arm, was young, excited, had a great arm, and a good
eye. But during a pre-season game against the Giants, after having contracted the starting QB
position, Pennington endured a fracture-dislocation on his left non-throwing hand after suffering
a hit from a linebacker. The injury forced him to miss the first six games of that season.
Although Pennington’s career-ending injury didn’t happen until 2004, during the week-9 game
against the Bills, I believe that it was the Jets-Giants game that got the ball rolling. Four seasons
later Pennington signed a contract with the Dolphins. His torn ligament would never fully heal
and eventually ended his career as a pro-football player. I swore never to watch a pre-season
Jets-Giants game again. I have kept that promise.

It’s an odd promise to make since I wasn’t actually watching that game, instead I was in
the hospital holding my great-aunt’s hand as she faded from stage-4 cancer. She was barely
conscious that day, but she held on until the Tuesday following that Jets-Giants game. I held her
hand for three days. I refused to have her feel alone. So I sat by her side and talked to her, shared
stories, told her about the game and how I didn’t think I could recover from such heartbreak.
What was my team going to do without a quarterback? As any sports fan knows, you have to
keep going. The game can’t end. Players come and go. Well, except for Brett Favre, who was a
quarterback for twenty years in pro-football. Favre started out with the Falcons in ‘91, loyally with
Green Bay from ‘92 to 2007, the Jets in 2008, and the Vikings in 2009. Brett Favre, despite his
terrible-shameful end where he was swallowed by technology, media, and his own demons, was a
legend, an icon. I may not have known stats, names trades, and regulations, but I knew Brett
Favre was football itself. I remember the day I saw him play, not only as a quarterback, but as
the New York Jet quarterback. It was September 28th, 2008, Sunday. It was nippy for
September, but it didn’t matter because I had on wool socks and my new #4 Jets Favre jersey.

I remember that day like it was yesterday because Favre set a career high and tied Joe
Namath’s Jets mark with six touchdown passes (against the Cardinals). I remember that day
because on that day, in the first quarter of the game, I received a text that my grandmother was
admitted into New York Hospital from a fall that made her unconscious and that she never awoke
from. That was Favres’ first and only season with the Jets. In 2009 he went to the Vikings.

In a span of four years I lost two great quarterbacks, but like any good sports fan you have to
keep going, keep watching, find new quarterbacks to root for, and remember that football isn’t
just a quarterback sport; remember to believe that your team will trudge along. That’s what
sports are all about, learning to love the moments when they happen, learning to let go when
your team doesn’t make the play-offs, learning it is not just about winning or losing, and that it’s
worth loving something that can change tomorrow.

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