For the record, I am not writing some sarcastic post about how much I don't care about sports, what a book nerdy, gender stereotypical girl I am about all things sweaty and ball filled (heh, heh) and yardage and team jersey related. This post is not going to be that. I could write that in my sleep. Instead after a charming weekend heavily seasoned with smack talking and beer drinking, friendly rivalries and rabid Badgers, I can kind of see the benefits of football.
Joe and I drove up to Madison to attend the inaugural Nebraska Wisconsin Big Ten football game in early October. Joe and his brothers grew up in Omaha and as a rule anyone born or raised in Nebraska is inoculated at birth with that Big Red team spirit. Weddings are planned around games, grocery stores play the game over the sound system for the four lone shoppers, movie theatres sit empty, everyone watches the game. Everyone. So when Joe's brother Jim moved to Madison, Wisconsin with his wife (who was born and raised there,) a city with an equally rabid fan base, two things happened. Jim was torn between his two teams, home team and adopted team, and now that they are in the same conference, the annual rivalry will be an exciting family weekend for years to come. Or at least exciting for the fans. People like me get excited about the brats and the cake pops and the fall weather and the chance to observe drunk 35 year old bros argue and tussle like little kids, and running around after the actual little kids. But the enthusiasm is kind of inspiring. Nebraska and Wisconsin fans may trash talk but everyone is so nice about it. It's that Midwestern thing. Hospitality and generosity and gritting your shiny white teeth behind a cordial smile, all while thinking, "we will crush you."
We spent Friday just hanging out with Katy and the kids. Reading and playing and running around. It's always fun to drop yourself into someone else's routine and craziness for a couple of days. I love just hanging out at Jim and Katy's house. It's warm and comfortable and lovely and filled with the kind of joyful family chaos that only houses filled with several children can sustain. It's fun to peek into their lives and run after the boys and have them explain the games they like to play or read books or watch Connor doing very important projects outside. That night we ran and picked up Jon Sands from the bus station while listening to one of the filthiest songs I've ever heard. Thanks, Jim. And then the Sands brothers argued over Garrett's popcorn, now another family tradition.
Then Saturday was game day. The kids were decked out in handmade rivalry shirts, whipped up by Katy. Even Tierney was wearing the required red. We had lunch and did all the pre-game regular Saturday stuff. And then I got to meet one of my favorite internet based friends, Emily of And Her Glow Has Warmed the World!
It felt like we'd know each other for years. Just easy. We shopped and wandered on State Street for a bit, mocked our husbands together, looked at strange and overpriced antiques and became actual real life "in person" friends. Having only met a few of my online based friends, I still have this slight hesitation when I do meet strangers. I hope that the version of this online person that I think is so great is just as great in real life, and that they feel the same about me. Because how awkward would it be otherwise? But guess what? Em is even better in person. Plus she comes fully equipped with her adorable and sweet husband Jay, who is funny and quietly mischievous and an excellent bank jingle writer.
So we ran around in Madison and then headed over to the pre-game party to end all parties. Katy's parents, Tom and Mary Jo, are incredibly hospitable and fabulous people. They invite a huge number of friends, neighbors, their kids' friends and sometimes I think random people who just walk in off the street to their house for a huge party. There is food and food and more food. Drinks flow, laughter and hijinks ensue. It was a wonderful time. And if all football games included parties and people like this, I might become a fan. And a huge thanks to them, and Jim and Katy, for inviting us all and Emily and Jay too.
After fortifying ourselves with brats and dips and chili and cake pops, and the best cookies in the world from another internet friend Melanie at Two Smart Cookies, (Emily brought plenty to share with the whole party) we parted ways. Joe and Emily and Jay headed off to the game with Jim and Jon while Katy and the rest of us not going to the game did a little clean up, played with the little boys in the driveway, passed around the sweetly sleepy Miss Tierney for a bit until Katy and I headed back to the house with the kids to finish watching the game in pajama'ed style on the couch. Gossiping and half watching the game and in my warm cozy bed reading by 11. It was a substantially good end to our weekend.
Thanks again to Jim and Katy, Tom and Mary Jo, and Emily and Jay for making this such an excellent football based weekend. This almost makes me want to actually go the game next year. Almost. Let's see if we can convince Emily and Jay to drive down to Nebraska and go with us.
Most photos by Joe Sands. He of the excellent 1970's Husker hat inherited from his father.