Last Sunday was my first without the NFL. It felt good. It felt right. It felt familiar.
When I was little, I was a 49ers fan. I was a 49ers fan because my father was a 49ers fan. That’s usually how those things work. I remember my father and I would watch 49ers playoff games. I remember we would tune in if the 49ers played on Monday Night Football. I remember reading in the newspaper and Sports Illustrated about how the 49ers were doing. But that’s about all the attention I paid to the 49ers.
As for the rest of the league, I knew the Bears had a cool quarterback who rode a scooter and a giant o-lineman named after an appliance who sometimes ran the football. I knew they made music videos and had a coach with a mustache and gum and a cool sweater vest. I knew Dallas was a big deal and their coach wore suits and a hat like men used to. I knew the Raiders were the worst of the bad and Lyle Alzado looked like a villain and Howie Long a super hero and yet they were both on the same team.
And that’s about all I knew of the NFL.
Sundays, we would work on the yard and drink out of the hose. In the late afternoon, my dad would barbecue with a tumbler of really tinny-smelling stuff in his hand. He would extinguish his cigarettes on the leftover ash pile beneath the grill. In the winters, sometimes we’d go skiing. In the summers, sometimes we’d go swimming. In the fall, sometimes we’d rake leaves and saw branches off trees.
There wasn’t a lot of time for watching football, but there was time for being outside and throwing one.
This is what happened the first Sunday I gave up the NFL: I woke up early with my baby boy, before the sunrise. He had a bottle in the gray of morning and we talked. We read some books together. I packed him up in his car seat and we went and got a New York Times and some coffee for his mother.
On the ride home, Marvin Gaye’s Got to Give it Up came on the radio and he started to punch and kick and smile and scream.
We returned to the couch and read the paper together. He fell asleep. I read some more. Shortly after he woke up, his grandmother came over. He sat on her lap and they enjoyed one other’s company. She brushed his hair and changed his outfit. They told each other secrets.
His mother and I went for a long run together. We started on a golf course and wound through neighborhoods bordering the Pacific Ocean. We hopped on trail through a nature preserve and observed an abandoned farm goose set loose in a riparian zone. She felt bad for the honking white creature whose wings didn’t fully work and thought we might get a farm goose and drop it off as a companion. “At least then he wouldn’t die alone,” she said. We wound down through the bay-front properties and fantasized about how many wishes it would take to own one someday. We ended up sprinting back toward the golf course to break an hour.
Upon our return home, we re-hydrated and showered. The baby’s mother is a horticulturist. She took him outside and she worked curating and readying for sale her succulents and bonsai trees. He lay on the grass and looked at her planting and pruning and potting. His eyes grew big every time she approached him to show what she’d just done. His eyelids flickered and cheeks reddened as he stared up at the trees. This outdoor time spent “helping” is his favorite. He laughs and talks at the sun sprinkled through the leaves and when the breeze picks up he screams with delight. He’ll do this for hours until he’s ready to eat or fall asleep again.
I sat for awhile on the back deck and watched the scene before me. Behind me, in a dark room, the TV remained off. I looked out on the near horizon and saw the marker-blue of the ocean; tiny whitecaps from wave sets acted as seams. I opened a book and read some more.
I cleaned the bathrooms and did the dishes. We put in a load of laundry and made a list of to-dos for the coming week. Sunday evening crept up on us as shadows from the Eucalyptus began to dim the light of our living area. We decided to order pizza and drink a little wine, still watching the last grains of weekend fall and feeling a little lazy on top of it all.
My son got a bath. His mother dressed him in his PJs and rocked him to sleep on the couch. Once he went down, we downloaded a movie but it took about an hour for the wheel to stop spinning. It was a little too late to start a feature, so we just ended up watching a couple episodes of Bored to Death. It’s one of the few shows we both like though we seem to laugh at different parts. We ended up discussing whether we were going to try to drive up to San Francisco for a couple of friends’ birthdays at the end of the month. We yawned consecutively and made our way to bed. Our child in his crib, arms stretched out, breathing deeply. His body a heater. His little face lit from within.
This was my first Sunday without the NFL. A Sunday I’ll always be thankful for. A Sunday I didn’t want to end.