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Tag Archives: football

“This Is Us” and the importance of rituals, even if they seem weird

by SweetMidlife
Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that's weird that you think it's weird.

Perhaps taking a Purple People Eater to a sports bar every week seems weird to you. But that’s weird that you think it’s weird.

SPOILER ALERT FOR A VERY POPULAR TV SHOW!

Leslie here! Lynne and I don’t live close to each other, so our Monday-morning quarterbacking of TV shows is part of our enduring togetherness (We also like talking, and seem to like talking about the same things, so we’ve found maybe the only other person who will endure in-depth 20-minute dissections of one episode of “Survivor.”) “This Is Us,” NBC’s next-level “Parenthood”-like exploration into emotional manipulation, is not one of those things that no one likes but us. EVERYBODY likes it, and cries about it, and then goes on Twitter and cries so more. Fans like us all seem to agree that it’s one of the best new shows this season.

But there’s something a lot of us can’t agree on, and that’s Toby, the too-enthusiastic love interest of Kate, a gorgeous, talented but insecure young woman who lets her lifelong struggle with her weight (and the baggage of her mother’s apparently early disapproval of it) make her hide her considerable light under a basket. Toby, who she met at a weight support group, initially seems like an encouraging factor in Kate’s life, pushing her out of her comfort zone to, say, use that gorgeous voice to sing to the folks at his aunt’s retirement home, or be chauffered around LA and be a star, like her sweet, pretty, famous twin brother.

But increasingly, Dude’s behavior has bordered, at best, on overbearing and at worst completely and insufferably creepy. He’s right that she throws herself into her brother Kevin’s life at expense of her own, but he seems to be mad that she doesn’t choose the whims of him, a guy she’s known for a week at that point, over her twin brother who also happens to be her employer. (He is, however, right that stalking and then accepting a job with his ex-wife is cray.)

On Tuesday night’s episode, Toby steps up the overbearing behavior to a disrespectful level, by ignoring something sacred to sports fans – the game day ritual. Honestly, it’s rude to ignore someone’s gentle but emphatic refusal to change the way they do something that means more to them than to you, no matter what it is. But when it’s about sports, whose personal importance is usually tied to deeply-seated details like national and regional identity and family tradition, you need to step off. I have a friend who broke up with a guy once for that same thing, and honestly, Toby deserves the same.

I feel strongly about this because I am related to, by blood and marriage, people with very strong sports rituals, that seemed quirky and inconvenient until they let you inside of them. My Granddaddy Streeter would retreat down the hall to his bedroom after dinner and lie in the dark to silently listen to Baltimore Orioles games on the radio. If we were very quiet, we were allowed to sit there with him, quietly bonding over strike-outs and home runs and the sparkling crack of the bat. It seemed like an inheritance. And anyone who ever met my late husband Scott knew that he had as many sports-related rituals as he did Ravens Jerseys, including buying football magazines before the NFL draft to study the upcoming picks, and then before the season to do his fantasy draft. He also brought a dancing Purple People Eater doll we called Purpie to every Ravens game he watched at Kirby’s, our local Ravens bar, and made it dance at every Ravens touchdown. It was fun, it didn’t hurt anyone and it was cool to have a thing.

Kate’s thing, apparently, is watching football by herself. That should be enough explanation, and she doesn’t owe anyone else more than that. But Toby decides that if he doesn’t get her motivations it must be sad, because Toby seems to need to worm his way into every part of her life in some supposed attempt to break her out of her shell. So he won’t accept “No” for an answer when she declines his invitation to watch a game together. Because Toby’s appointed himself Kate’s personal confidence guru, he can’t give her credit for choosing to do things he doesn’t get, because he doesn’t allow her the autonomy to know the difference between stuff she does to hide and stuff she does because she just wants to. She’s a person, not a project, loser.

Anyway, because he’s a pushy bastard, Toby does his usual public declaration thing that’s seeming less and less spontaneous and more and more like bullying, when he makes a homemade invitation to a supposed football party at his place, and passes it to Kate across their weight loss meeting. Nothing says “I respect your boundaries:” like involving a bunch of other people in it, particular because he assumes correctly that she’s easier to coerce when other people are watching. So she shows up, reluctantly, to his house, and he and the random friend he’s also invited yap through the whole thing and actually pause the game to keep yapping, so that Kate almost misses a touchdown.

So she bails, as you do when you aren’t having any fun at an event you got badgered into in the first place. Toby shows up at her house demanding an explanation, because how dare she not find his pushiness charming! So she explains that football, particularly Steelers games, was her family thing (she and her twin were conceived in a sloppy bar bathroom during the Super Bowl), and that they always watched together. Then she explains that they still do, in a way – her father Jack (whose absence in the show’s present-day scenes was, until now, a mystery) has passed away, and she sits with his urn and watches the games.

There are writers who think this is a sad cry for help, which seems awfully judgey. Everyone’s rituals are not yours. Everyone’s life is not yours. People keep their loved one’s ashes for a reason, and as long as they aren’t smoking, eating, or having untoward relations with them, I don;t know what is weird about silently enjoying an activity they would still be enjoying were both still alive. I was sometimes annoyed by his insistence on always having to watch Ravens games, even if we were traveling and it was a pain in the butt to find somewhere broadcasting them. Sometimes it seemed selfish. But he asked for one afternoon, once a week, for like four months, to be in his element, and it was OK with me, because he gave so much of himself to everyone else.

The people who love you should respect, if not completely understand, the things that are important to you. If they don’t, they don’t deserve you. Sorry Toby.


On bullying, ball players and not defending mean as the status quo

by SweetMidlife


Leslie here!

I am not the sports expert, in a way that would make me understand the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins. The family expert would be my husband, a former high school soccer player and the decorator of our “Jersey Room” featuring the sartorial splendor of the Baltimore Ravens and Baltimore Orioles, as well as ┬áthe University of Maryland. I have never been in a professional locker room, or even a collegiate or high school one – the only thing I’ve ever done that qualifies as athletic is running, and that’s in the slowest sense of the word. The only locker room I’m in is at L.A. Fitness, and nobody’s trying to bully you as much as they want to get dressed and go home.

So let me be the first to say that no, I do not understand the intricacies of NFL culture, or the toughening that it takes to put yourself in the line of men who are trying to hurt you for hours, week after week. I can’t tell you what that does to you or what you have to tell yourself to throw yourself out there, because I couldn’t do it.

But I do understand bullying. And when people think that the fault lies with the people who “let themselves” be bullied and not the people who go out of their way to bully people, we have a serious problem.

In other words – if you’d stop bullying me, I wouldn’t have to stop you from bullying me. You have the choice not to bully me. So don’t. It’s that simple.

It happened to me in school, in different ways, several times, from bigger or more popular kids calling me ugly and ridiculing me in the hall because I was weird, to being called a racial slur every day for weeks by a middle school classmate who eventually pressed a stapler into my hand when the teacher left the room, to having a high school classmate (who happened to be a football player) sitting behind me for weeks, calling me “White Girl” because he said I acted white, and threatening to beat me up until I reported it and he was switched to another classroom. Most of the time, the system protected me. Sometimes I just sucked it up and walked faster. Maybe the kids who did that had emotional issues that propelled them. But it sure wasn’t my fault that they did it to me.

As an adult, I understand the factors that make kids mean to each other, and why kids who feel helpless might take that helplessness out on other kids who seem weaker – Jonathan Martin’s former high school coach has said it didn’t surprise him that such an eager to please, talented kid would be an easy target because he isn’t going to necessarily say anything.

So, yeah, maybe a grown man, particularly a big man who makes his living based on his physicality, should be able to say “Back off me.” Maybe he should be able to settle it himself. It seems crazy to take it. But if that guy is in an environment where the younger players are expected to take a certain amount of abuse that’s meant to be harmless, and he takes it for a while to get along, it’s harder to stop it when that crosses the line to extortion or possible threats and harassment. There are conflicting reports about how close Martin and Incognito may have been and how voice mails that appear to be threatening could have been taken out of context. We don’t know.

All we know is that there is obviously a culture that says “It’s OK to go a little rough” and then has problems setting limits, that some players feel comfortable forcing others to give them money, and those players not in power go along with it maybe thinking something worse will happen if they don’t. Do they have to be in that environment? No! And that’s why Martin left. He decided to remove himself, which is what a man – an adult – does. So why is he being called a wimp? He tried to take it and he couldn’t. Where are we as a culture that we look at this situation and say “Stay and be harassed?”

Here’s the things. Kids, and apparently adults, can be mean. And the more power they get, the more they know that no one is going to stop them, they can get meaner. Telling a victim, “Well, it could be worse, shut up about it” is the same twisted logic I was supposed to follow last week when someone stole the case off my phone but left the phone. Wasn’t it better than them stealing the phone? ┬áSure. But you know what would have been even spiffier? THEM NOT STEALING ANYTHING. It wasn’t OK .

Look, people are going to be mean to you sometimes. Life is not going to be fair. Crappy things are gonna happen and sometimes you have to suck it up. And hard things really do sometimes toughen you. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

The problem I have is when the status quo protects the thing that’s trying to kill you.


Five things I will proudly do while watching the Baltimore Ravens (w)in the Super Bowl on Sunday

by SweetMidlife


by Leslie Gray Streeter!

1) I will wear one of my husband’s big Ravens jerseys and not worry about whether I look fat.

2) I will yell “O” at the “O say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave” part of the National Anthem just like all the other Raven fans at the bar we’re going to will, because that’s what we do and we don’t have to worry about seeming disrespectful because we’re reverent in our own way. Also, it was written in Baltimore, at the Harbor, basically, so it’s kind of ours.

3) I will be tempered with the purple shots of whatever it is that they’re handing out every time the Ravens score a touchdown, because I expect it to be a lot.

4) I will be kind to whatever 49er fan wanders in, or comes with Ravens fan friends, because there’s no point being evil. Also, I don’t want to be in the middle of a drunken fan riot. No one likes a riot.

5) I will pray for the safety and good will of all players, no matter what team they are on, because God doesn’t care about who wins a football game. He cares that everyone makes it out safely. Really.

But I’m rooting for the Ravens, you know.


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