Monday, September 26, 2011

Taking A 58-Year-Old And 4-Year-Old To Football Games

I've spent the past two Saturday nights at Arizona Stadium watching the Wildcats get the snot smacked out of them by far superior teams. In the first outing, I took my dad, who was on the verge of his 59th birthday. The week after, I brought my 4-year-old son, Luke, to his first football game.

There were similarities and differences in the outings.

SIMILARITY -- Everlasting nostalgic moments. When I was growing up, my dad took me to games regularly, always buying me a game program because he knew how much I loved to read through the rosters, coach bios and statistics. I still have all of them, stacked in boxes in my closet. Now they no longer sell programs, and just give them away for free. As we walked into the stadium, I spotted a box of the programs, scooped a pair out and handed one to my dad.

Befitting his name, Luke is a huge Star Wars fan, and he adored the band's questionable practice of playing Darth Vader's theme when the other team has the ball. (Should the band really admit via music that the enemy's possession of the ball is a sign of certain doom). Whenever the band started to play, he asked me, hope bubbling out his little eyes, whether it was going to be the Star Wars song again. He was crushed when it was a different jingle, and elated when his dream came true. When the band was silent, he spent most of the time humming his own, metal-and-beatbox-infused version of the tune. Now I will never be able to hear those notes again without thinking of Luke at this age.

SIMILARITY -- Endurance. Both the old and young man lasted until the final whistle. And both, like me, were disappointed when the drubbing was over and it was finally time to go home.

DIFFERENCE -- Calorie consumption. Neither my dad nor I saw the need to visit the concession stand during the game. But for Luke, the wonders of popcorn, cotton candy, soda and lemonade were 150 percent of the fun the event had to offer. In practice, the $15 I spent on refreshments largely went to waste. Meaning, I had to eat it after Luke got tired of it.

The salted giant pretzel looked good at the outset, but he struggled to devour half of it. He needed popcorn later on because he loves popcorn at the movie theater, but there wasn't as much butter as he remembered, and white cheddar seasoning wasn't an option as it is at Harkins. So he only ate a few bites. As for the cotton candy, he ripped off a glob from the bag and munched on it for half an hour, pausing to proudly display his purple and green beards, then abandoned ship and left the other half of the bag to rot. I excuse his finicky eating because of the double Whopper he wolfed down before the game, proclaiming it "the best sandwich I've ever had."

DIFFERENCE -- Football acumen. My dad and I exchanged a calm, reasoned patter of in-game analysis with the detachment of grizzled sportscasters. We've both had our hearts trampled too much by the game, and this team, to allow ourselves to get too jubilant or depressed.

Luke had a little trouble getting the chants down. When the crowd chanted "U of A," Luke interpreted it as a call to display his patriotism, shouting "USA!" When it was time to yell "Defense," Luke yelled "Depends!" Whenever the public address announcer revealed that a team took a timeout, Luke was sure that meant the players would have to go to their rooms until they calmed down. Also, he had trouble remembering that the team that we were rooting for was the Wildcats, whom he kept calling the Cardinals -- a result of my nearly half-decade long brainwashing campaign. It's lucky that I hadn't taken Luke the week before, when Arizona played the Stanford Cardinal. His brain might have exploded.

As the game ended, Luke was sure the Wildcats -- or Cardinals -- had won. He was angry when the final seconds ticked away and I told him that we had to leave. In his oblivious-to-the-final-score mind, it had been a perfect night, and it was a tragedy that it had to end.

He was right that in the grander scheme, the score didn't matter at all, and the evening had indeed been perfect. Both those Saturday nights were.

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