Staff Chat: To Football, or Not To Football

Article by staff

The Topic: Football, The Super Bowl, and specifically The Super Bowl in Houston
The Chatters: Annalia Luna (Shipping and Returns Manager), Augusta Bartis (Inventory Manager), and Ülrika Moats (Merchandiser and Gift Buyer)

AL: Welcome to our staff chat! This is the Girl Cave here, (Annalia, Augusta, and Ulrika), who work in the back of the store. We’re talking about football because the Super Bowl is this weekend and it’s kind of everywhere.
So, what is your first memory of watching football?

AB: Actually, I’ve been watching football for forever. My dad’s a football referee, and has been since before I was born, so I grew up going to football games on the weekend, and it’s always been a large part of my life. So I can’t remember the first time because it’s been from before I could make memories.

UM: I have no idea. I have no clue. I’m from Florida, from Tampa area, we had the Tampa Bay Bucks before they were bad—

AB: (whispering): Yeah they’re bad.

UM: Oh they’ve been terrible for years. It’s embarrassing.

AB: But they have a pirate ship at their stadium, which is cool.

UM: I can’t remember the first time I watched football, but I remember having NFL pencils in elementary school, in my little pencil holder. Oh and I was obsessed with Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

AL: Oh snap! Well maybe we can come back to that, now that you’re in Texas.

UM: Yeah, let’s.

AL: Well I am from Wisconsin, from cheese and Packer country, so football was always really present in my life. I don’t remember the first time I watched it, it was always kind of omnipresent like for Augusta.

AB: Were your parents really into it?

AL: Yeah, the anecdote is that during the games it’s the couch that yells. My parents are really vocal, so during the game they’ll jump up and cheer. We’ve always had cheese-heads and pom-poms, that people have given us throughout the years.

AB: Yeah we have a cheese-head too.

UM: And Augusta yells too.

AL: Well our next door neighbor was the matriarch of a gigantic family from Illinois, so they love The Bears, so for a few years we had a series of prank wars.

AB (whispering) Rivalry!

AL: Da Bears.

All: Da Bears.

AL: So are you both football fans?

AB: Yes, like I said I grew up watching football every weekend. I’ve more games than I can count. My dad is a college football ref, so we were always more into college football than pro football, so it’s a new thing to live in this big city with a big professional team.

AL: Do you have a team?

AB: Well, I like for the Texans to do well… but they usually don’t. Or at least since I’ve lived here they haven’t been consistently good.

UM: Yeah, no.

All laugh

UM: I am not a football fan. This is the second city I’ve lived in with a pro football team, and I think maybe I may have gone to one Bucks game? College football in Florida is huge, but yeah, no, it’s not something I pay attention to. It’s like baseball—if I’m forced to go to a game, it’s more about eating food and hanging out. I don’t really pay attention, I have no idea what goes on in the game. I basically didn’t even do well when we had football in seventh grade, and we had to take a test—I failed it.

AB: So you’re not an expert?

UM: Nope. I didn’t even try. Our middle school gym teacher was friends with my mom (who was also a school teacher) and told her “Ulrika didnt even make an abortive attempt.” My mom wasn’t surprised.

AL: Yeah, I’m definitely not a fan. Maybe if I’d grown up somewhere else? But in Wisconsin everyone eats cheese, drinks, and watches football. All the major holidays would revolve around when the game was on and when we’d be eating. It was kind of a weird and sad thing for me that I didnt fall in love with it. I guess I’m kind of bitter about it I guess.

All laugh

UM: I watched the Super Bowl in college, actually. I went to an arts school, and when you have a Super Bowl party with a bunch of digital arts majors, no one pays attention to the game but you could hear a pin drop during the commercials, because that’s what we were all watching it for. From all the parties I don’t really remember much of anything but talking about the commercials after—who had the best ones, and what type of structure, and did they use special effects, etc.

AL: Yeah, I’ve gone to Super Bowl parties for food, honestly—

UM: Well you’ll do anything for food.

AL: And I’ve watched the half-time show for a few years. When I was in college our school’s choir was in the half-time show with Madonna, so that was pretty cool. That was a big deal, we had to keep it top secret until it happened.

UM: Oh, I forgot they have a half-time show…

AB: Yeah, sometimes it’s good. I’ve watched the Super Bowl—again, usually it’s for the food and because a friend is having a party. My teams that I like very rarely make it to the Super Bowl, though…

All laugh

AB: Sometimes we would do a contest of who we thought was going to win, and we’d all put in money, but the team I picked never actually won, so I guess the trick is to bet against my picks.

AL: Do you guys have any opinions about it being here? Have you ever lived in a city where the Super Bowl was held before?

UM: Yes, in Tampa. So yes I have opinions.

All laugh

UM: I mean, I come from an area with a pro football team, hockey team, soccer team, and baseball team. So there’s just always something going on.

AB: Well I think it can be good for Houston, in that a lot of people who don’t live here will come in and get to see the city, hopefully explore some of the other aspects of Houston, like the good food that we have, and our culture, and maybe even come to the store and get some books…

UM: And they can actually see Houston as something other than people usually expect it to be.

AB: Right, I think people don’t really understand Houston a lot of the time. But it is going to bring in crazy traffic, and all the cool places will be overrun so next weekend I’m just going to stay home and hermit.

AL: Well, what are some good books about football do you think?

AB: Well, the classics are books like FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and THE BLIND SIDE, which are great books by popular authors and are also accessible to people who don’t really give a crap about football.
There’s been a lot of recent non-fiction books about football too, talking about the prevalence of injuries and concussions.

AL: Yeah, I’ve been interested in that book by S.C. Gwynne THE PERFECT PASS—we just had an event with him. And Steve Almond wrote a book called AGAINST FOOTBALL, a sort of treatise about the things you were talking about: injuries, money that gets spent in weird ways, the strange political ties to different teams, etc. U

UM: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever read any sort of sporting-type book or memoir. Except FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.

AB: Did you watch the show?

AL: That’s the important question.

UM: I know people who liked it, but…

AB: It’s just like a small town drama. (whispering) It’s like my life.
But really it’s like a lot of small towns, where football is king, that’s what everyone does on Friday nights, not just high-schoolers, everyone goes. Even if you don’t have kids playing on the team, even if you’re not related to the team, it’s just what the whole town does.

AL: Well that’s kind of comforting to me, because it’s about the community aspect then, it’s about being there with the people around you.

AB: Yeah and it’s a way to support the school, and a lot of times people do a lot to help out the team. Say if some kids cant afford uniforms, people in the community will raise the money for them. And I think a lot of times that’s the only way some kids are going to college, if they get a scholarship to go and play. So it’s a huge thing for small towns like where I grew up.

AL: So even when a lot of people don’t care about the intricacies of the game, it’s not just about the game, it’s a big cultural touchstone.

AB: Well and I think it’s weird that there’s just so much money involved—like, so much money going to pro-football players, but when they get injured they’re often immediately dropped. And then a lot of times, players develop long-term brain injuries from concussions that affect them the rest of their lives, and we all just sort of pretend that doesn’t really happen and keep watching. So there’s this whole “warrior idol” aspect of being a pro-player, but when you’re injured or retire, your just gone. And there’s no official support for ex-professional players, and a lot of them have money issues because they’re entire work experience is playing football and they have trouble getting a job after. So we use these people for entertainment, and then once they’re done, there’s no help afterwards. It’s basically a modern-day gladiator spectacle.

AL: Hmmm, yeah I’ve never thought about it that way.

AB: Well, we put them in an arena and say “Okay, fight for our entertainment.” And then people get injured and we all say “A new one please!”

AL: Well as people have been talking more about these issues, have you noticed any changes in how injuries have been handled?

AB: Well there is now a more rigorous protocol for recognizing and treating football-related concussions. In recent years there’s been a lot more focus on that issue—articles written and movies made about it—so they take concussions more seriously now. So if you do get a head injury on the field, they make you leave right away instead of going back on the field, they run more thorough tests, they make you pass certain test before they let you back on the field.
But there’s more to do, like, what about little kids? How do we teach kids and teens to be safer on the field before they even get to college and professional football? There’s always more research to be done.

UM: True.

Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream Cover Image
ISBN: 9780306824203
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Da Capo Press - August 11th, 2015

Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape Cover Image
ISBN: 9781617754913
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Edge of Sports - September 6th, 2016

Against Football: One Fan's Reluctant Manifesto Cover Image
ISBN: 9781612194912
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Melville House Publishing - August 18th, 2015

The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501116193
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Scribner Book Company - September 20th, 2016

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393330472
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 17th, 2007

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