Something Different: Confessions of the Evil Stepdad, Football Edition

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“And now for something completely different…” – Monty Python

As those of you have read BourbonAndVinyl before likely know, we’re very focused on music here. One might easily say we’re “overly” or “maniacally” focused on music here… The Rock Chick thinks I have a problem, but hey, that’s just marriage talking. On occasion, like Monty Python, I do like to focus on something completely different… (Humor: The Key To A Strong Marriage – Burt Reynold’s “Sharky’s Machine”). And since the dreaded holidays are bearing down on me, my thoughts have turned to family.

The holidays usually bring my thoughts around to family, something I’d always neglected in my youth, but a lot of this was brought on by the Rock Chick’s annual Christmas Party that we hosted last night. I call it the Rock Chick’s Christmas Party because despite it being held at my home, I don’t do a whole lot to help in preparation… (cue the Grinch music, “He’s a mean one….”). My oldest, dearest friend Douglas was unable to attend due to an illness in his family, which only seemed to reinforce my thoughts about my own family. And yes, Rich was at our Christmas party last night and I preempted his inevitable request for Oasis by playing them, even before he got here. I think we burned through their whole catalog and Liam Gallagher’s new album… Anything for the guests. The holidays are for giving! The Rock Chick is still sleeping it off on the couch…

My relationship with my family has always been complicated, even before I became a long-feathered-hair, Van Halen-blasting, teen miscreant. Perhaps the most complicated relationship for me was the one I had/have with my father. My epic battles with my father were the stuff of a Springsteen song… Adam did indeed raise a Cain. But long before all of that, back when I was but a whelp, my father and I did have something in common… For better or worse, I was raised in the midwest, in Kansas City. It just so happens there’s an NFL franchise located here, the Kansas City Chiefs. My father has been a season ticket holder for the Chiefs since their stadium, Arrowhead, opened in 1972. We strictly avoided the living room when my father was watching the Chiefs on television as there were shouts, screams, swearing, invectives to the football Gods, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothes and general bad vibes coming from the TV room in those days… By 1974 the Chiefs had gotten slow and old and frankly, terrible. It was a different game back then…. Lenny “the Cool” Dawson, our quarterback (the most critical position) was 39 and looked 59, probably too many cigarettes and Fanta sodas…

Despite all that anger coming from the living room, for some reason, as a frail young child (I probably weighed 80 lbs and 10 of that was hair, even then), I made the crazy choice to cross the threshold of the living room, into the “crazy fan zone” and sit down on the couch across from “my father’s chair” (that no one was allowed to sit in, save him) and watch football in the presence of the crazy demon. I even had the temerity to ask him about the rules of the game (what’s this crazy “point after kick” thing). It was like Ulysses crossing into Hades to talk to the ghosts of his fallen comrades from the Trojan War, it took some real curiosity and stones to do so. My brother thought I was “nuts” and stayed upstairs in his room, listening to Beatles and Doors albums, but then again, he’s always been smarter than I am. The adrenalin of celebrating when the Chiefs (rarely) did something good, or lamenting when they did something bad was too intoxicating for me, even at my tender age. Pull the bar down firmly over your knees and enjoy the ride…

It was in that ancient year 1974 that the bottom fell out of the Chiefs’ franchise. They fell to 5-9 on the year (they only played 14 games back then) which cost the only head coach they’d known, Hank Stram to be fired. By December, it was fucking cold and even my father, a life long salesman, couldn’t sell people on going out to Arrowhead and attending   a Chiefs’ game. It was on a cold and dreary day that December the door of my bedroom opened, without the doorknob even turning and there was the (then) giant figure of my father standing in the doorway of my room. He always burst into my room unexpectedly, he just smashed the door open, I don’t think he even gave a thought to knocking, like he thought he’d catch me smoking a Camel or something. He looked around my room, with his usual air of suspicion, and said, “Put on something warm, you’re coming to the game with me today….” Apparently he’d noticed me sitting on the couch across from him in the living room during games, which surprised me, he usually never acknowledged my presence… This was going to be great! My first actual Chiefs game!

It was freezing. We lost to the Oakland Raiders, our arch-nemesis, 7-6, which is like watching a zero-zero soccer game. I didn’t have any cold weather gear, my father had neglected to think about that so I spent halftime and most of the third quarter in the heated men’s room, which nowadays is unthinkable. A week later, it was even colder and he took me to the Chiefs-Vikings game and we got our ass handed to us 35-15… When I wasn’t warming up in the bathroom, I sat to my father’s right, teeth chattering, wondering why I’d gotten on this train. But that was it, despite the cold, I was hooked. From then on, I was always at my father’s right… well, to be truthful, only during the shitty, cold games to begin with, but pretty soon, it was just an afternoon with him and I. Even during those awful, feuding, teenage years, there was this unofficial cease-fire that would happen on Sunday afternoons when we watched the Chiefs… where we would just go out and share our mutual love of football. And, while the Chiefs did suck, at least we got to see some great players from other teams… I saw Walter Payton, Earl Campbell and so many other great players just put up highlight reel games against the hapless Chiefs… For me, it was more than the game, it was a peaceful afternoon with my old man. Being a Chiefs fan was our shared family curse.

In my 20’s, I took a job for a large corporation and in their infinite wisdom, they sent me to Arkansas, my years in exile. I hated it there and one day, up and quit. My father went into mourning. The usual rage and despair he vented on the Chiefs was suddenly directed toward me. I got home in February, with a U-Haul, no money and no prospects. He didn’t speak to me until that following September. He burst into the room I’d moved back into, still without a knock, and said, “We leave at 10 am tomorrow….be ready…” and I realized, we were going to the Chiefs game. I resumed my seat at my father’s right hand. It took years, but sitting at those games with him finally healed a lot of bad shit between us…not all of it, but enough.

It was after the turn of the new millennium that I met the Rock Chick. It was a wild, dizzy, intoxicating, complicated love… With her came her daughter, a package deal. Rock Chick Mini-Me was a young whelp herself when I met her… And like me before her she had a complicated relationship with her stepfather. For years her mother and she had lived together in this “girl’s club house,” no boys allowed… And suddenly there was this interloper, me. This crazy dude with all these things called “albums” that she wasn’t allowed touch. In my defense, if she didn’t know what they were, she shouldn’t be mucking about with my records… but I digress. My stepdaughter loved her father and any sign of affection or allegiance to me was a betrayal of that love… it’s complicated when you’re a child of a broken marriage. Our relationship was, to say the least, strained… There were times when I’d pick her up from school and she’d turn her body completely away from me. She utterly despised me or did a great impersonation of someone who did… I wasn’t the most, ahem, mature person myself… I like to say my stepdaughter and I grew up together. I kept trying to develop a relationship with this child and nothing was working. The Rock Chick kept encouraging me to “get in there and be nice!” It was worse than dealing with my father during a Chiefs’ game.

Soon it became common knowledge in my house that avoiding the living room during Chiefs’ games was wise… I was in there watching the game and often there would be shouts, screams, swearing, invectives to the football Gods, gnashing of teeth, rending of clothes, thrown hats and empty beer cans and general bad vibes coming from the evil stepdad when he was watching the Chiefs… My stepdaughter once asked me, “what’s the big deal about football?” I told her, “there are two things you should always know something about or boys will think you’re dumb… music (always know who sings what) and football (you never want to be the girl who says, look they kicked a home run).” Which, admittedly is stupid advice, but it’s all I had to go on at that time. By that stage of the game, I’d largely given up on forming any kind of relationship with this child. I thought to myself, I’ll grit my teeth until this person turns 18 and goes off to college… I love her mother that much, I can do that standing on my head…

And then something magic happened… One Sunday, while I was watching the Chiefs, probably fucking up another game, this young girl, no more than 70 pounds and 10 of that was actually hair,  had the guts to cross the threshold into the “crazy fan zone…” I looked over and out of nowhere (I hadn’t noticed, I was so caught up in the game) my stepdaughter was sitting next to me on the couch. She even had the temerity to ask me a few questions about the game…. “what’s this crazy ‘point after kick’ thing…” Suddenly, I wasn’t watching games alone on Sundays any more. I was watching with my stepdaughter seated next to me, instructing her about the finer points of the game. She’d ask all manner of questions. I don’t think that watching football was what turned my relationship with her around but I did notice she wasn’t turning her body completely away from me in the car any more…

It was during one of these games, sitting on the couch, when she asked me, very timidly, “Do you think I’d ever be able to go with you to a Chiefs’ game?” She had noticed that my father would always come by and we’d go to the game together, all clad in red… “Uh, well, honey, you realize that would mean spending like, six hours, your whole Sunday with just me?” This was a girl who once shouted at me from the deep end of a pool, “I hate you.” I wasn’t prepared for this… She smiled and said, “Yeah, I know, I think it’d be great…” I called my father, who I like to call, The Hard Guy, and said, my stepdaughter would like to go to the game this week. Now, my father is not an emotional man, but he knew the struggles I’d had with this child. “My God, man, does she realize that entails spending six hours alone with you? Even I struggle with that….” Ah, dad. I replied in the affirmative, yes, she seems to realize that. I can’t remember exactly what was said, but I remember my dad very emotionally going into this Gettysburg Address type speech about the passing of the Chiefs’ torch through the generations that came out of nowhere, like his appearances in my room as a child. He was thrilled. Although, to this day I think it’s just because he wanted to get out of going to the game and spending six hours with me…in his defense it was going to be cold that weekend.

And so, the following Sunday, the majesty and splendor of a big-time sporting event unfolded before my daughter’s very eyes. It was cold. She spent half time in the heated ladies room. But that was it… she was hooked… and whenever possible, like this upcoming Christmas Eve, she’ll be sitting where she belongs, at my right hand, watching the Chiefs game… The family Chiefs’ curse and the torch has been passed. Win, lose or draw for my Chiefs, it’s already a win for me.

Happy Holiday Folks!

 

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One thought on “Something Different: Confessions of the Evil Stepdad, Football Edition

  1. Editor’s Note: I decided to change the graphic on this post to the actual picture of Lenny “The Cool” Dawson enjoying a butt and a soda at half time of the Super Bowl so non Chiefs fans might better understand what I was talking about… In doing so I realized that I had made an error. He wasn’t drinking a Fanta soda, it’s a Fresca but in my defense, I haven’t seen a bottle of Fresca since my Grandmother passed away. Thank you, B&V.

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