By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
"What's it like to see someone wearing your husband's jersey?" one woman asks.
"It's unbelievably flattering," McCaffrey answers. "I want to run up and give them a dollar."
"Nobody wears Gus's jersey," Frerotte says. "I went to a concert once, and a guy was wearing Gus's jersey, and I went up and started humping him."
"What's the toughest part of being a[n NFL] wife?" another woman wants to know.
"It's not a family-oriented Sunday," McCaffrey responds. "It's 'Please don't get your ass kicked.'"
"Do you answer your husband's fan mail?"
"Oh, yeah," says Frerotte. "I'm basically his mail bitch."
"What's it like when your husband has a bad game?" one woman asks.
"I'll handle this," Frerotte says to McCaffrey. "You don't know." Then, turning back to the audience, she replies, "Gus lets it roll off his back. I burn the newspapers in the sink."
Another woman doesn't really have a question. "I saw Ed feeding your baby with a bottle at a soccer game," she tells McCaffrey. "He's a good father."
At the end of their time, McCaffrey and Frerotte give away an Ed McCaffrey jersey. A number is called out, and a large woman leaps to her feet: "Wooooooo!" she screams. She scrambles up to the stage and takes the shirt from Lisa.
"I love your husband," she says.
"Me, too," McCaffrey says.
They hug. The woman closes her eyes. She presses the Number 87 to her chest and sighs deeply.
What I learned from the women at NFL 101 is this: It is possible to like the game despite the football part of it. So I head home with the seminar's workbook and hand it to my wife on Monday night. "Sit," I tell her. "Watch." Here are her notes:
My high school boyfriend was captain of the football team; I gave this game the old college try. But nothing has changed. My brain absorbs the mechanics of football exactly the way it registers the facts of electricity -- the info goes in, then it goes right out.
I can't even seem to concentrate on this NFL 101 cheater's guide, which explains the game in nearly preschool terms. I suspect whoever wrote it knew this might happen, so she threw in a section called "Helpful Hints on Game Day," by which she meant: "how to seem like you care." Here's what you do: eat; try to pick up bits of "lingo" from Joe Football; pick a few players to watch; predict how many yards the next play will gain or lose.
Stuffed with "stadium fare," I recline beside my husband to take in a game: the Denver Broncos vs. the Tennessee Titans. Multi-tasking, he readsSports Illustrated while watching, though I can only imagine his reaction if I were to knit or something. Watch I must. Already, the contest is as exciting as the growing of grass. So I grab his magazine, yelling, "Fumble!"
But Joe Football swats me away like a fly.
I focus on 39-year-old cornerback Bruce Somethingorother. Thirty-nine is old! His physical therapy bills must be huge. As for his wife -- does she consider him a hottie without that vile, spit-covered mouthguard? Is a football player, by definition, a hottie? Sorry, NFL 101, but no, because his lower half, like that of an '80s aerobics instructor, is encased in Lycra. Sure, these are finely conditioned men, but their butts are glossy, and somehow this is wrong. Consider the humble baseball player, with his visible belly and redneck haircut, whose butt is at once so accessible and so godlike. Because, I think, of that small percentage of cotton and the absence of glare.
"No score," my husband says. "This may be the slowest game I've ever seen."
"Maybe not for long," I chirp, "for I predict the next play will gain our fellows 200 yards!"
"Oh, Christ," he says.
I don't remember the rest of the game.
She doesn't remember the rest of the game because she quits well before halftime. I last through another few downs, but then I start to feel restless. All over the house, "situations" are developing. A bottle of wine is being opened -- does my wife really grasp the correct cheese pairing? In the basement, sibling rivalry erupts, with unknown injuries. Out in the driveway, my favorite toy, an adult-sized baseball pitchback, sits neglected.
It turns out the T-shirts have it exactly backward: Football is just a detail -- the rest is life. I'm going in.