We did it, baby! The Empire State is back! WE MADE HISTORY!
And to think that this past summer, when my younger son hung a "N.Y." keychain on his backpack, I thought it was just an unattractive little tourist thing he'd picked up.
"Mom, it's the Giants logo," my 9-year-old said.
He loves that keychain. I love him and thus began my introduction to a thing called, "Football."
In this sense, having a child turns out to be like having an exchange student. Except instead of learning the folklore of Peru, or the politics of Greece, you start learning things like, "Mom, did you know Michael Strahan leads the NFL in sacks?"
Did I know? Oh, little boy, better you should ask, "Mom, did you know that a sack is when someone tackles the quarterback, who, by the way, is in charge of throwing the ball, which is known as a 'pass'?"
But the little boy didn't really care that the mom was as ignorant of football as she was of astrophysics. He didn't hold it against her that she kept saying Umi Osemora when trying to respond to discussions of Osi Umenyiora.
And he didn't even notice when she was so bored hearing about the importance of defense, and how it basically wins the game and when he grows up he's going to be a linebacker, or safety, or maybe a hot dog seller, because he loves the tongs, if he doesn't make it into the NFL, but probably he will … that she only used these discussions as a lure to get him to walk a little faster (than a snail) to school.
"Come on. Let's pick up the pace a little! And tell me, what's a first down again?"
Oh, the explanations. "A down is … " "A punt is … " "Osi Umenyiora … " "Mom, that was the shortest walk ever!"
At the schoolyard he whips out the Nerf football he keeps stashed in his backpack and leaps up like Snoopy when he throws it to his friend. The lovely young principal yells: "No ball playing!"
He glowers and puts it away.
Seconds later, the ball is whizzing through the air again.
This time the principal intercepts like Corey Webster. And I, who'd always hated it when wild boys threw balls around, think, "It's just a Nerf ball!"
"It's just a Nerf ball!" wails my son.
"You have to listen to the principal," I say. He slumps against the fence, head down like Charlie Brown.
Thank God there's football at recess.
After school, he's sunny again. Art (a class where he has been known to hide under the desk) was great. Out from the backpack where slightly alarmed parent-teacher notices crumple into oblivion comes a perfectly flat sheet of paper he worked on all period. Red background. Blue letters. "N.Y.," just like the key chain.
So we watch the games as the season goes by. We bond with cousins. We bond with people in the elevator wearing the logo jackets I always assumed meant, "Someone I have zero in common with."
We bond with other parents who take their kids to the touch football games we've signed our son up for, all grateful to have found a league that isn't tackle.
All aware that, soon enough, tackling looms.
And then, it's Super Bowl Sunday. One friend tells me she's going skating. Another is going to sit at home, reading — just like me, until now.
Was I nuts? It's the Super Bowl! But my husband was just the same. He's got a Masters in Fine Arts, we've been married forever, and there's been nary a buffalo wing between us.
Now it's 4 o'clock and I'm marinating the chicken in tabasco while he's setting up some spanking new high-def projector so we can watch the game on our living room wall. We take down our French poster for the occasion.
Friends are coming over — the same ones we just played football with that afternoon in the courtyard, picking up some extra kid who wandered over.
"Instant, non-verbal camaraderie," I whisper to my husband, who nods.
The kids yelp. One of them who has some developmental disabilities walk-runs down the field and the boys make sure she gets an easy pass. Everyone cheers.
There's something to this thing.
So now the friends are over and the game is huge on the wall and the Giants are down. "Learning to handle disappointment is a developmental skill that sports help foster," my child psychologist buddy says.
"Shh!" her daughter says.
It's getting too tense. I can't take it. I missed all those years of learning how to handle disappointment through sports. I go into the bedroom.
And then I hear it.
Screaming. Joyous screaming?
"What? What!?" I run back in.
"We won!" cries my son. "We won, we won! The Giants won the Super Bowl!" He's doing the Snoopy dance again. "We won!"
So I guess he's not learning anything about disappointment this time around.
Me neither, but that's ok. I've learned enough.
Probably learn even more today when we go to the Giants parade.