Angry Birds

I am a huge football fan.  A big reason for this was how I was raised – my dad was a high school football coach for nearly 30 years, and I have been going to games since I was a fetus.  I remember being a kid and not wanting to be a cheerleader because they always faced away from the game.  I remember a few exciting last-second wins and my mom and I waiting on the sidelines while my dad finished up interviews.  Oddly one of my strongest memories was from when I was about 7 or 8.  For one particular game, some guy sat in front of me in the stands.  I never got a good look at his face, but saw the back of his head.  He was balding, and I watched his entire head turn purple from anger.  He sat alone.  He screamed onto the field, as if someone could hear him and would throw the playbook to the ground to take his advice.

“RUN THE BALL THROUGH THE SEAM! RUN IT UP THE SEAM!”

“DAMN COACH DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING! PROTECT THE POCKET! PROTECT THE POCKET!”

“BLITZ! YOU NEED TO BLITZ MORE, YOU BUM!”

Between these brilliant suggestions for a high school team from the state known for its great football legacy – that’s right, Connecticut, bitches* – he had a mantra:

“IMPEACH THE COAAAACHHHH!!!! IMPEAAACHH THE COAAACCHHHH!!!”

Behind me of course, was my mom and a couple of the other coaches’ wives muttering under their breaths, “this is high school football, asshole; not the NFL”  Not loud enough for him to hear, of course, but loud enough for me to hear and smirk.

“IMPEACH THE COACH!!!”

The word puzzled me.  I pictured a bunch of people throwing peaches at my dad, and it didn’t really make sense, so I turned to my mother.  “Mom? What does impeach mean?”

My mom looked frustrated and kept her eyes on the field while responding to me.  She deadpanned, “It’s a word used by people who don’t know what they are talking about.”

“But what does it mean?”

Mom explained the definition to me.  And that is how I learned what the word impeach meant.  I kid you not – every time I hear that word now, I flash back to that jerk’s angry, purple-y bald dome screaming his rage towards the field.

Maybe it’s this memory that makes me grumble inside when I hear about fans booing their own team, like this past Sunday in Arizona.  If you follow football at all, you know Arizona has a bit of a quarterback issue; long story short – the Cardinals paid a large price to acquire Kevin Kolb, who was beaten out for the starting position by John Skelton this year.  Admittedly, on the field, Kolb didn’t look like the player fans hoped he would be.  His passes lacked zip and accuracy and his decision-making looked poor.  Skelton had similar problems, but he seemed far more patient and relaxed on the field.  The offensive chemistry seemed to be better with him on the field.

In the first game of the season this past Sunday, Skelton went down with an ankle injury and had to be carted off.  When they bring out the cart for you, that’s kind of a bad sign. Like, players start praying and shit. You could call the cart the You’re Fucked Wagon, because that’s usually what it means.

Anyway, Skelton was writhing in pain, he got YFWed [he’ll be okay – low ankle sprain].  So, anyway, you kind of need a quarterback on your team if you want to play this grand game known as football, yes?  So who comes in? Kolb.  And what do some fans do?  They boo.

They freaking booed.

So let me ask you this – what kind of person boos the players on the team they are supposedly rooting for?  I just don’t get this.  Okay, if someone killed a man, raped someone or kicked puppies – yeah, fine; boo.  Those are serious things.  But booing someone because they didn’t have a good year? And booing them when they are replacing an injured player at a critical moment in the game?  How exactly do you think this helps “your team?” Do you really think a coach rubs their chin and says to himself, “well gee, I guess that fan booing between drunken Miller Lite vomit attacks was right; let’s just fire the guy and throw away a few million dollars for no reason whatsoever. Boooo! Boooo!”  Do you seriously want a coach who would listen to you and your stupid ideas? I sure as hell don’t want them listening to mine.

I’ll tell you who these Boo Birds are: they are the trolls on the internet.  They are the random angry drunk bros who pick fights at 1 in the morning on the Vegas Strip because some other bro looked at them funny.  They are the people who feel like the world owes them a favor.  They are the people who belittled me when I waitressed at Friendly’s.  They are men who sit by themselves at high school football games in Connecticut and scream from their perch.  They don’t even have a “favorite team” – they have a vessel that keeps them angry, raging and indignant every Sunday.  When you look at it that way, you kind of feel sad for them.  Because this thing – this angry, booing, screamy, trolly thing?  This is all they’ve got.  This and bad, cheap beer.  Tragedy.

And one ticket to Sucksville for them – Kolb kicked ass yesterday and won the game. That’s the best kind of “F-you” a person could give; remember that when you run into your own Boo Birds.

*I say this noting the exception of Greenwich High alum Steve Young. As a side note, Young had one loss his Senior year.  That loss? My dad’s team. Not like that is a huge event in the grand scheme of things, but as a coach’s daughter, I always thought that was kinda cool.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Ways I’d Show My Parents

As kids, there is nothing we want more than to taste sweet, sweet revenge when we don’t get our way.  As for me, I was a 7 year-old Count of Monte Cristo – when someone wronged me, I had an overly elaborate plan to get back at them.  I knew it would take time to really blossom, but oh, the payoff would be mine.  MINE I TELL YOU!

There were certain things I would do whenever my mother said “no” or yelled at me for something:

1. Stomp and Slam  
I learned this one from my teenage sisters.  Our rooms were on the third floor of the house, which made for exceptionally dramatic exits.  If the argument took place on the main floor, it would end with someone yelling “FINE!”, then STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP-STOMP SLAM!  And our doors were perfect for slamming – they were made of cheap paneling and had zero weight or drag to them.  They echoed when you slammed them, and were perfectly aerodynamic for the angry daughter.  A basement rage was the best, because it was basically Stomp and Slam in two acts.  And you had to slam the door harder, so mom and dad could hear it.

2. Hiding and/or Never.Talking.Ever.Again.
Stomp and Slam, though therapeutic, was not incredibly effective for me.  I suspect because my parents went through it many times before with my sisters.

When you are 7 or so, you think that hiding or never talking is the cruelest thing you can do to your parents, because you believe you are the center of their universe.  In reality, they are just thankful you are off quietly doing something without them for a period of time.  This makes stewing in the laundry hamper for two hours way less satisfying, let me tell you.

The one exception to this is when I freaked the shit out of my family by hiding.  Let this be known as the Last Time I Did This:

My family was a big fan of hand-me-downs.  If the item lasted, the clothing would be passed from my cousin Cathy, to my sister Chrissy, to my other sister Melissa, to my cousin Susie and finally to me.  That was generally okay, despite looking like a fashion pariah.  The Cardinal Sin was when boy clothing was thrown into the mix – one time I received a shirt in the hand-me-down bag that was clearly a boy’s shirt, and clearly belonged to one of my male cousins.  I absolutely did not want to dress like a boy any day, especially not the day celebrating our independence.  I cried and squirmed as my mom forced me to wear it.  I could not be seen wearing this ugly pale yellow boy’s shirt, so I decided to show them – I hid behind my dad’s Mustang in the garage.

About 15 minutes or so after guests arrived, I suddenly hear someone say, “Where’s Anne-Marie?” (they actually used my childhood nickname which I will NEVER EVER REVEAL TO YOU because of its 70s-sounding disco-style embarrassment).  Someone said, “I don’t know.  Anne-Marie!?” And people began calling my name.  I sat there thinking, yes, motherfuckers! This is what you get for putting me in a boy’s shirt!  Someone walked into the garage and I held my breath like I was Linda Hamilton and they were the Terminator.  They walked out and I felt like I was home free.

Then people started freaking out.

They split up and tried searching the neighborhood and asking neighbors if they saw me.   Through a window in the garage, I saw someone walking up our driveway, desperately calling my name.  It was the first time in my life I thought, shit just got real.  I thought about calling back and ending the search, but realized I’d get in trouble.  I didn’t exactly have a plan B, or even a next step, which is typical of all of my revenge plots as a child. I just sat there, wondering how the hell I was going to get out of this one.  I couldn’t sneak out – they had someone stationed right at our patio.

Finally, my dad wandered into the garage.  Dads somehow know these things…as I heard his footsteps approach, I played possum and pretended to be asleep.  He “woke” me up, and I feigned grogginess telling him I was sleeping.  He picked me up and called off the search.  I started crying because I in part felt shitty for scaring everyone, and I still had to face the world in my ugly yellow boy shirt.  Everyone “awwwed.”  I was such a shit.  I never had to wear that damned shirt again, though.

3. Running Away
Since Hiding was removed from my wheelhouse, I had to turn to actually running away.  I pretty much cover this here.

4. Flushing the toilet over and over
When all else fails, get them on their cheapest utility bill.  At least I think that was my reasoning – I remember being really angry and thinking, I’ll show them! and flushing the damn toilet repeatedly.  But this was no big-city toilet – we lived in the ‘burbs of Connecticut – you had to wait forever for the tank to fill.  To reenact:

I am so mad at them! How dare they tell me I can’t play outside! I’ll show them!

Flushhhh…..
shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(3 minutes later)shhhhht.

Pause.

ANARCHY!

Flushhhh…..
shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(3 minutes later)shhhhht.

Pause.

This is getting boring.

Voice from other side of door: “Anne-Marie, are you okay in there?”

“Yeah, mom.”

Grrrr.

Flushhhh…..
shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…

Oh, forget it.

 

When a Grandma Isn’t of the Cookie-Baking Variety

Despite not growing up in a religious household, I was a pretty spiritual kid.  I was baptized as a Catholic, and that was the only time I was in a church until I was 15.  I’ve always had an odd relationship with Christianity.  I was out of the traditional fold of religion, but tended to be very religious and spiritual nonetheless.  As a child, I wanted to be in that fold.  When my grandmother lived with us, there was a period of time where I would hold a “Sunday Service” in her room.  I’d bring my stuffed animals into her room to act as parishioners, we’d sing a few hymns from my grandma’s hymnbook (“Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” were my favorites, likely due to Little House on the Prairie), and I’d read a random bible entry.  My grandma got a kick out of it.

Grammy Gene was an interesting part of my memory.  She lived with us from when I was in Kindergarten until some time in second grade.  As an adult, I have snapshot memories of her.  After my grandfather died, our family offered to care for her and we all moved to a more accommodating house closer to where my father worked.  She had two rooms in the house, even though she never spent time in her second room.  She had MS and stayed in bed all day.  She’d use a walker to get up and go to the bathroom.  Before she lifted herself up from her bed,  she would often curse her legs, slapping them to the point where they would bruise.  She could be what my adult mind would define as “histrionic,” and she could be very nasty to people, however I had a pretty good relationship with her as a child.  She’d happily tell me we were both Pisces, and I think she saw a connection from that.  When I told her about a parrot that had a black tongue, she told me it must be a liar.  I’d spend a lot of time hanging out in her bedroom with her, watching TV shows on her Zenith.  Occasionally, we’d watch the 700 Club together.  There would be a segment where they’d tell everyone to hold hands and pray.  I’d place my stuffed animals in a circle and have them all hold paws as we prayed for something I didn’t understand.  I could never put my finger on it, but the 700 Club scared the crap out of me.  The praying part was the only part that didn’t seem scary.

Grammy Gene had a kind of mystical belief in Jesus.  Next to her nightstand, she had metropolis of pill bottles on a tray table – fat bottles, thin bottles, tall bottles and short bottles.  Some of the pills were pretty colors.  Some I never saw her take, but they sat there like trophies, souvenirs of every ailment that ravaged her body over the decade.  Among Pill City there was one resident that didn’t fit in – a relic that looked a little like a pearl.  One day she showed me the relic and told me it had a piece of the cross in it (or Jesus’s hair? I can’t remember).  She said whenever she had an important prayer for Jesus, she would hold it tight in her hand and pray.

“When your dad had to kick the winning field goal against Villanova, I held this tight and prayed hard to Jesus. He made it!”

Wow, I thought.  That is some powerful stuff right there.  My greedy little mind thought of all the stuff that could swing my way with that relic. The Power!

When Grammy looked away, I grabbed the relic and held it tight in my hands.  I closed my eyes and prayed in my mind.  Dear Jesus, how are you doing?  How’s your dad? Please bring me a pony and a…

“PUT THAT DOWN!” She hissed at me.  Apparently, the relic had limited juju, and she didn’t want me to steal it from her.  The Pisces blood only goes so far, I guess.  And for the record, all childhood prayers to Jesus from me involved buttering him up, then asking him for something as if he were Santa.

Things deteriorated over time with her living with us – I don’t remember the specific circumstances, but it wasn’t as much fun hanging out in her room over time.  She was unpredictable, like a game of Perfection where you know everything is going to blow up on you at any moment.  As a kid, I didn’t understand it; I was always sensitive to people yelling at me or around me, and I decided to hide away in other parts of the house.  I stopped having my church services with her, which I think disappointed her.  In part, I could never find a good story to read for “service” – I’d hit the begats and even the stuffed animals seemed to nod off.  Also, her unpredictability scared me. My entire family struggled with her – she was mean, demanding, thankless, and a hundred other things my childhood brain couldn’t comprehend.

When my mother told me Grammy Gene was going to move out of our house and into a place where people could take good care of her, I was both sad and relieved.  It was an odd combination of feelings to have at such a young age.  I loved her and I feared her.  She was at times grandmotherly, other times so full of anger.  I don’t really remember the day she left.  I wish I remembered it a little better, because it was the last time I saw her or spoke to her.

As a grew older, I’d wonder about her.  There were a few times I was tempted to write her a letter, but never did.  As you can imagine from the circumstances, there was a huge rift between her and my family that I still don’t know the specifics of.  It seemed like she had rifts with everyone in her life – she didn’t speak to my dad’s sister, either.  I didn’t know if she would even want to hear from me.  I couldn’t decide if it would be better to communicate or to remain a memory.  Typical for me in adolescence, my indecision made the decision for me.

When I was in high school, our phone rang off the hook in the middle of the night.  I finally answered, and someone asked to speak to my dad.  I told them he was sleeping, and they told me to wake him up.  I knocked on my parents door, and let my father know someone was on the phone for him, and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.  It turns out it was my father’s uncle, calling to tell my dad that my grandmother passed away an hour or two earlier.  I had an odd feeling of guilt.  I thought of our little Sunday services and what I learned about being what people call a “Good Christian” – a version I most certainly did not learn from the 700 Club. I realized that my fear of her unpredictability was selfish.  I regretted not writing a letter to her. While I have no doubt my family was justified in never speaking to her again, and it was apparently mutual, I personally never had that justification; I was a kid, and somehow others’ experiences with her became the expectation for what my experience would likely be.  It was very likely for history to repeat itself, but I’m disappointed in for not developing my own experience to judge from.

As an adult, this is a theme that has lingered with me.  I think about that regret when I am tempted to pass judgment on people.  I do my best to reserve judgement until I’ve established my own relationship with someone and I try to keep an open mind when a negative person from my past reappears. Judgement can be very tempting, because it functions as a protective shield.  There are times I fail at suppressing it, which disappoints me; thanks to my experience with my grandmother, I at least try hard.