Friday, November 25, 2011

Purple Jersey

Baltimore Ravens Terrell Suggs #55
A month ago I popped into a local sporting goods store a couple of hours before the Sunday football game. We were heading out to the Baltimore Ravens versus the Tennessee Titans game, my first NFL game since the Oilers were playing in Houston. Flipping through the rack, my eyes land on a jersey chosen for one pivotal detail--it was my size. My son approved the oversized pair of fives emblazed on the front and back.

“Cool. Terrell Suggs plays defense, like me,” he said. Excellent. Jersey in hand, we headed to the registers.

“Has this one ever been arrested?” I nervously asked the sales clerk. He shook his head no, looked down and stifled a laugh.

I like football; I watch a few games a year on television. I love it when both teams play well, but our team wins. I hate to see any team fall apart and make costly mistakes. I think about the players in the locker room after the game, reading the newspapers the next day and facing their coach the next week.

But stadiums are filled with football lovers. Fanatical fans whose mood and even life outlook hinges on the final score. The intensity is tangible and infectious. I looked forward to the game and to the high-energy in the stands. Go Ravens!

The next week I was still pumped up from the game and ready to don new attire for my first Ravens Friday. After seven football seasons in Maryland, it was time to join the ranks of my kids, friends and community in support of their favorite team. With a couple of hours to kill at the mall, no one else seemed to be in Ravens gear. I even started noticing funny looks from strangers. Turns out the team played on Monday night. Real members of the Ravens fan club had probably already planned their weekend around the football schedule. So my first Friday as an official fan was a bust.

The following Friday I tried again. This time I see purple jerseys everywhere. Grocery store, elementary school, pedestrians in town, both kids and adults were geared up for the game. Touchdown! I got it right. But then the questions started. ‘”How ‘bout that play last week?” and “You think Flacco can…?” and “”Got big plans for the game?” Even in Pennsylvania they were suddenly rooting for the Ravens in the upcoming Steelers game. “I sure am glad Roethlisberger isn’t comin’ in here today.”

I don’t know. Is this because of past accusations or some recent decrease in his performance on the field? I don’t know much about either. I never worried about small talk before, but I never wore the uniform of a knowledgeable fan either. Really, I just wanted to fit in. Wearing the jersey was not a lifestyle choice, just a way to show a little hometown pride. I longed to have a team to root for, to belong. How was I in over my head just wearing a jersey? I left it hanging in the closet for a few weeks. I don’t have time to check the football schedule and watch every game just to wear a purple shirt.

They played twice this week, on Sunday and again on Thanksgiving Day. With no worries I wore my new jersey, purple socks and front-zip Ravens sweatshirt on Black Friday and stayed home with my family. No one asked me a thing about football. Go Ravens!

Images courtesy of my husband, David Hartman.
Visit David's Photo Site to see all game shots.

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