Football in Shades of Gray

Cynthia Vanasse is a new member of the class known for her positive outlook on life and satirical commentary. In this essay, she reflects on her lifelong enjoyment of football and some recent troubling events associated with the sport. Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center.  Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program.  Curated by Carol Kearns There are things in life that can be thought of in the context of black and white; many land somewhere in the middle, the color gray.  When thinking about one of my favorite hobbies, watching football, my mind enters the world of that middle color.  This sport is definitely “fun” and definitely “not so fun.”

As a college fan I had a “ball” watching beautiful bodies run up and down the field.  The experience was surrounded with yelling students, lots of delicious goodies, parties before the game, and parties after the game.  This was what football meant to me; I did not have any idea of what the game was about.

And, of course, my future husband was one of the yelling students sitting next to me and taking me to all the festivities.  What was not to like?  This was my first introduction to the game, and it was all colored white.

This positive experience continued after I married the fellow sitting next to me.  He was a football player “wannabe” who, instead of playing the game, participated on the couch in front of the T.V.  I would, again, enjoy being with him, chowing down cokes and chips, and watching those gorgeous athletes.  The color white continued to be associated with the game, and I continued not to understand much about what was happening on the field.

After twenty-five years of ignorant enjoyment, my husband and I reached the end of the fourth quarter; my interest in the game also reached an end.  I was too busy building a new life with a new set of pastimes.  All those gorgeous bodies would have to be for others.

A second marriage included me in a large family who loved, you guessed it, football.  Again the game was associated with lots of fun, people, and goodies to eat-- definitely a white situation.  And I found myself able to join in with the men in discussions.  This elevated my “personality rating.” Because they were very knowledgeable, I bought Football for Idiots to give me a heads up.  Guess what?  The game really does involve some brains.

After my husband passed, football became a free, much-enjoyed pastime.  I curled up with my Idiot book and tried to find out what was going on.  I still don’t really understand the game, but it is fun trying; the game still continued to be white to me.

The recent troubles with the NFL and the players’ involvement in domestic violence have caused me to paint in a new color.  This definitely was not white.  It was black.  All at once those beautiful bodies began to look like violent machines, capable of inflicting gut-wrenching pain on and off the field.  And why not?  Wasn’t that what they were given millions of dollars to do?  And why is this game America’s favorite pastime?  Is it because the violence mirrors what we find in society?

As I now see the black, am I going to abandon football?  I don’t think so.  I will compromise and paint it gray.  Most things in life are not all good and not all bad.



Published: Oct. 9, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 26