In Texas, football is serious business. Not only do you have to profess allegiance to a professional team, but Texas law* requires all residents to pick their favorite college and high school teams by the age of 10. Although my wife isn’t a native Texan, she loves football and is helping me to raise the next generation of Texas football fans.
My Football Indoctrination
Growing up, I had to divide my loyalties between the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys. As a Houstonian, I was required to root for the home team, but there was something about the Cowboys that fascinated me (the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders movie may have helped to fuel my fascination).
Every Sunday afternoon, I was glued to the TV to watch my favorite teams play. I can still remember Tony Dorsett’s record-breaking 99 yard touchdown run and every Super Bowl that the Cowboys played in.
I can also remember the ups and downs of the Houston Oilers. They were a consistent playoff team from 1987 to 1993, an era that included both of the Oilers’ only division titles (1991 and 1993), as well as the dubious distinction of being on the losing end of the largest comeback in NFL history in a game against the Buffalo Bills (I watched that game with great despair and it haunts me to this very day).
Although my mother was never a big football fan (she’s from Lousiana), she would sit and watch games with me. It was nice having her there even though I knew she would have rather been doing anything else. Her presence gave me comfort as I agonized over the Oilers’ losses.
Despite the challenges of being an Oilers fan, I was heartbroken when the team moved to Tennessee in 1999.
The Texans Era
In 2002, football finally returned to Houston. Everyone in the city, including my family, was excited to support the Houston Texans. We were even more thrilled when the Texans won their first playoff game last year.
Over the years, we’ve developed a game day tradition that we call Home Gate. To get in the spirit, we don our Texans jerseys. Each family member, except for me, has an Andre Johnson jersey. I’m the only one with an Arian Foster jersey (I’m a sucker for a football player who rushes for 100 yards and studies philosophy).
Next we make “Fancy Football Snacks” to dine on. Allow me to explain the origin of “Fancy Football Snacks.” For some reason, my children were not born with the Texas football gene (my daughter is the only child who has the stamina to watch an entire game). Despite my attempts to make them football fans, they never showed any interest in the game. To entice them to watch the games with me, I created the moniker “Fancy Football Snacks.” They were intrigued.
“What are Fancy Football Snacks?” they asked.
“It is a cornucopia of game day manna poured down from Heaven,” I replied. Their blank faces told me that I needed to explain further. “In other words, it’s nachos, wings and BBQ.”
“Yay!” the yelled in unison.
Now “Fancy Football Snacks” are a regular staple at game time.
I get things started by firing up the grill and cooking some ribs, chicken or Cavanaugh sausage. The kids prepare the living room ready by placing a blanket on the floor (to catch any food that may drop), settting up a folding table and chairs, and picking the drinks (they usually choose juice boxes).
During our party, we violate two house rules – no eating in the living and no television during meal time. However, I’m okay with breaking the rules for a couple of hours of family time.
It’s always exciting to watch Matt Schaub connect with Andre Johnson in the end zone. Or to see Arian Foster burst through the line for huge yardage. Or to watch JJ Watt torment the opposing quarterback. Because we spend every Sunday with these players, they almost feel like a part of our family and we are proud when they perform well and supportive when they have bad days.
I cherish the Sunday afternoons we spend watching together. It’s a great time of fellowship, bonding and feasting on “Fancy Football Snacks.” The Texas football tradition lives on.
(See more photos in my Google+ album)
* Not an actual law. At least not yet.
Question: Does your family have any sports watching traditions?
P.S. – The Texans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars to extend their record to 9-1.
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