The saddest day of winter
The saddest day of winter is nearly upon us.
It’s not the shortest day. That one already occurred. It’s not necessarily the coldest, either.
It’s surely a day of melancholy, but it’s not a day of mourning.
In fact, it’s a day of festivities, of parties and eating too much and perhaps imbibing as well. It’s a day of being with friends. It’s a day of tables groaning with plates of hot-sauced chicken wings, platters of spiced shrimp, slow cookers of pulled pork, mozzarella sticks that are coated and fried, bowls of dip and baskets of pretzels. It’s a day to ice beer in a cooler, and to reach for another brew whenever the mood strikes.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday.
And it’s the saddest day of the year, because after the pageantry, the first-quarter uncertainty, the halftime entertainment, the final seconds of gridiron conflict and the eventual winner, comes the realization that there will be no more football Sundays until the preseason rolls around next August.
No more queso and tortilla chips. No more hot dogs smothered in chili. No afternoons lubricated with oily fried foods and crisp beverages. None of the guilty pleasures that accompany a day of general, restful inactivity, punctuated with occasional lusty cheers.
I grew up on football. I was born on a Sunday in the District of Columbia, which makes me a Washington Redskins fan by birth. The story goes that after making sure I had the requisite number of fingers and toes, my father left the hospital to go home and watch the game on TV. Later in life, I joined him at the old RFK Stadium, in end-zone seats that my mother acquired when baseball left Washington and the old, enormous scoreboard was removed to add bleachers.
I was in the stadium the day in 1974 that the Redskins vindicated themselves against the Miami Dolphins, beating them 20 to 17 after losing to them in the 1973 Super Bowl. Along with 53,000 other people, my dad and I made our way to the parking lot afterward, cheering all the way.
Although Mom always provisioned us with a thermos of hot chocolate for the game, we often nearly froze our tuchesses off. For those of you not familiar with Yiddish, that means those metal bleachers were cold on our behinds. These days, I enjoy my football at home, by the fire, via television.
But the legacy remains. My parents’ season tickets have passed to me. What were end zone bleacher seats at RFK Stadium are now 20-yard-line, lower-level seats at FedEx Field. I let my husband and son enjoy them. I stay home and make something that perfumes the kitchen with good smells.
I have affection for the early-season games, in the sunny warmth of September or the gold of an October day. But I almost can’t wait for the first cold snap to chill the air, for that football Sunday feeling. And a cozy football Sunday hits its zenith once we’re fully in winter’s grip.
So, I’ll savor what’s coming this Sunday. The Broncos against the Panthers. Steady Peyton Manning against stunning Cam Newton. Friends cheering. A bottle (or two) of brew. A plate (or three) of wings.
And then, see you next season.