A detective who spent his entire career in plain clothes quit the police force and bought a farm. "What kind of crops do you plan to grow?" the police chief asked the farmer-to-be. "Carrots and potatoes," the man replied. "Why carrots and potatoes?" asked the chief. "Because," answered the ex-detective, . . . "I'm very fond of undercover crops."
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"Anybody who watches three games of football in a row should be declared brain dead." -- Erma Bombeck
By some strange twist of fate, I've brought forth a football fanatic. My son is one of those addled creatures whose very DNA, I'm convinced, has a pigskin membrane. Unfortunately for him, he has a mother who wouldn't know a touchdown from a hoedown. For the life of me, I can't understand the appeal of the game – a chaotic mix of men pushing, shoving and bellowing, slobber and obscenities flying. And that's just the fans.
But my boy has been hooked from an early age, spending countless hours watching, playing and dreaming about football. He's consumed whole forests of paper drawing intricate plays marked with Xs and Os. And I've grown tearful remembering other Xs and Os my sweet child long ago scribbled on construction-paper cards, right under the words "I Love You, Mommy."
I've tried, occasionally, to fight back. Once, I suggested he end a six-hour football fest and read a book. But my son has the same regard for reading that I have for cellulite, and his withering response cut me to the quick.
"Print is dead, Mom. Nobody reads anymore."
"There is no way," I wailed, "no way you came from my loins!"
He gave me a blank look. "What's a loin?"
By the time he reached adolescence, his fixation had reached a fever pitch, and when he made the high school team, his ecstasy knew no bounds. He even figured out how to combine his pigskin passion with the only other thing that currently captures his interest. The kid who can barely find time to do his homework or hold a meaningful conversation with his mother nobly volunteered to coach his school's powder puff football team, a fact that seemed to fill his father with pride.
"It is a great way to meet girls," said my husband, his chest expanding. I just shook my head.
Realizing it was a losing battle, I decided, reluctantly, to embrace the madness. I boned up on gridiron lingo and proudly spread the word to all my pals about my boy's performance on the team. Unfortunately, my football-averse friends failed to point out that I'd gotten his position slightly wrong. I found that out when I went to pick him up after a powder puff practice. Approaching a pack of puffs on the sidelines, I smiled warmly.
"My son is your coach," I said. "He's a loose end, you know, on the school's team."
For some reason, the group of girls began to giggle. Baffled, I later informed my son that some of his puffs were not the sharpest knives in the drawer. "They were laughing at me for no reason."
My son's face acquired a look of dread. "Mom," he said slowly, between gritted teeth, "what did you say to them?"
"I just said you're a loose end on the team."
He grabbed his head with both hands as if he expected it to explode and wanted to catch the pieces. "I'm a tight end," he practically screamed. "Not a loose end!"
"Tight end, loose end," I shrugged. "What's the difference?"
He avoided me like the plague for several days after that. To redeem myself, I invited some of his friends over to watch a game on the obscenely enormous new television the men in my household had insisted was vital to our existence. I've noticed that when you combine 52-inch, high-def and TV in a sentence, it induces a Pavlovian response in males of any age. Sure enough, my son's buddies began to salivate at these words, eagerly agreeing to come.
I gained some yardage right off by offering snacks. Then, perhaps overconfident, I attempted to lose my rookie status by tossing out lingo I'd learned like blitz, field goal and third and long. But then I fumbled by mentioning how attractive I found the teams' costumes. My boy's mouth compressed into a scrimmage line of fury. "Mom," he muttered "Stop it!"
Feeling unwelcome, I retreated to another part of the house, where my eye fell on several baskets full of clean clothes in need of folding. Taking advantage of the idle hands in my living room, I placed a basket in front of each boy. You'd think, by the looks of horror on their faces, that I was experiencing a wardrobe malfunction right in front of them.
"You want us to fold during football?" one gasped as nacho cheese dribbled down his chin. My son was speechless, emitting only strange, inhuman noises that made me fear for his sanity.
"Never mind," I sighed, retreating like a wounded duck. That's when I understood that football and I could never be allies; we'd have to remain wary competitors, sharing the love of our loose end. Then I went to fold my laundry.