FLINT - Annie, my 13-year-old daughter, is going to be a football cheerleader this fall. So my wife the lovely yet formidable Marcia - figured she should know something about the game.
So she began explaining it to her.
Yes, she Marcia - explained football. For you to understand how weird that is, you would have to understand where she falls on the "sports fan" continuum.
Way over to the right on this continuum you have guys who paint their chests and sit outside in subzero temperatures freezing their whoozits off. These types also ice fish.
In the center would be those people who name their kids after their favorite quarterback and buy their minivan in official team colors.
On the left are people who casually follow sports and who occasionally buy squares in a Super Bowl pool, provided they are not more than $10 apiece.
Then a mile and a half to the left of them - way past the people who think "Glee" is a bit too competitive - is Marcia, who is not only indifferent to watching sports, but whose official personal credo as it pertains to athletics is, "I don't sweat."
So this, I thought, overhearing Annie and Marcia's conversation from the next room, is going to be good.
"OK," Marcia began, "so do you know what first and 10 means?"
"Why would I need to know that?" Annie said. I should mention that Annie makes Marcia look like a sports fanatic. After Annie made the cheer squad I teased her about never having seen a down of football. Her response: "What's your point?"
Anyway, Marcia answered Annie's question this way: "Because of that cheer that goes 'First and 10, do it again.'"
"Do what again?" said Annie.
"Get another first and 10."
"Yeah, but 10 what?"
"Yards, I think."
"And what do you get if you get 10 yards?"
"Um you get to, you know, go again."
"For 10 more yards first and 10, do it again, see?"
"I guess, but why do they want 10 yards so bad?"
There was silence, so I knew that one stumped Marcia.
"Well, it's like this. You get five downs. And if you don't get 10 yards with the first four, then you have to punt."
"What's a punt?"
"That's where you kick the ball away to the other team."
"And then what happens?"
"They try to get first and 10, and then you cheer 'Push 'em back, push 'em back, harder, harder!'"
"Push 'em back where?"
"Honey, I don't know. Just backward, OK? That's just what your team does when it's on defense and other team is trying to first and 10 you."
At this point, I felt the need, as a responsible father, to join the conversation, so I asked Annie if she knew what a penalty is.
"Sure," she said. "That's where the referee hands you a flag."
"No, sweetie, he throws it."
"On the ground."
"That's dumb. Why doesn't he just wave it? That way he wouldn't have to go pick it up."
That was actually a pretty good point.
"Let's try something else," I said. "Do you know what a tight end is?"
Marcia interrupted, "I know what a tight end is. Your father used to have one. Now, not so much."
"Uhhhr, I haaaate it when you two talk like that," Annie said, hiding her face behind her hands. Ever since she turned 13, her mom and I are huge embarrassment-creating machines. "It's so gross."
"OK," I said, "let's try something easier. How about this: What's the point of football - what are the teams trying to do?"
"That's easy," Annie said, beaming. "Trying to score more runs than the other team."
Runs? Sometimes I swear she can't be my daughter.
That said, I'm certainly not going to hold it against her. So, she's not a sports fan, so what? We all have different interests. They like fashion, for instance, and I don't have a clue what a raglan sleeve is. Vive la difference.
The two of them do, however, remind me of an old football joke:
A man took his girlfriend to her first football game. They had great seats right behind their team's bench. After the game, he asked her how she liked the experience.
"I really liked it," she replied, "but I didn't understand why they were killing each other over 25 cents." "What do you mean?" said the man."Well," said the woman, "they flipped a coin, one team got it and then for the rest of the game, all they kept screaming was: 'Get the quarterback! Get the quarterback!' I'm like. . . Hello? It's only 25 cents!"
EDITOR'S NOTE - Andy Heller, an award-winning columnist for The Flint Journal, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. For more of his work, visit his blog at blog.mlive.com/flintjournal/aheller. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.