Unless I’m unceremoniously caught in the crosshairs of a conversation about, say, the evolution of neuroscience or the results of last weekend’s rodeo, I can pretty much hold my own in a discussion about anything, if I in fact want to be part of it. But every so often, something makes me feel like sister outsider, like when a woman in a meeting make a passing joke about a conversion point.

The whole table broke out into a fit of guffaws. Not me. I snarfed off the tip of a Twizzler instead because I didn’t know what the heck they were talking about. That and I don’t do too well with the fake laughing, even if I would’ve gotten the joke.

I wish I was one of these women who understand football, who can talk about it with just as much authority and bravado as guys do. For some reason, it just doesn’t come as naturally to me, and what little bit I do learn constantly flees my memory and leaves me hanging when it’s time to dig it up. But I so want to be caught up in the excitement and the hype. I want to trash talk and poo poo on other people’s teams. I want to recite stats and complain about calls and know background on players, beyond who’s cute and who’s just really good at his job. I want to learn the great mystery that is American football.

I didn’t grow up in a household with a father or brother or uncle who was an enthusiast, where I could pick up the finer points of pigskin knowledge. (My granddaddy was a boxing and baseball fan, not so much on the football.) Now I’m not saying it’s a man’s sport, but most of the women I know who love it learned everything they scream at the plasma screens on Sundays from a dude they spent a lot of time with. How is it that I can pass calculus, articulate a fairly clear thought in another language and assemble an entire Ikea bedroom set by myself but I can’t retain the rules and regulations of this game? C’mon now. I’m not the sharpest tack in the box but I’m also not a complete box of rocks.

Now that football season is officially back, I’m ready. Sort of. I won’t be painting any letters across my stomach and flashing my flesh in subzero temps or decorating my car in those tacky little banners and seat covers. But I do have my NFL-issue Reebok jersey with ‘Janelle’ emblazoned across the back, I’ve got my fantasy teams all listed for the week and I’ve got my squad all picked out to cheer and act crazy for (J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets!). Most importantly, I have my own little celebration jig — a mix between the Dougie and the Cha Cha Slide — to hit when they score.

Now if I just understood what the heck was going on on the field besides touchdowns, end zone dances and the halftime performance, I’d be good. At the very least, I can make friends with the snack spread that almost inevitably goes along with watching the game, which is fine by me. I may not know the regulations of what’s going on on the field, but I do know my way around a hoagie pretty good.

But I have a secret weapon: Get Your Own Damn Beer, I’m Watching the Game! A Woman’s Guide to Loving Pro Football by Holly Robinson Peete. Bless every hair on that lady’s intuitive head. So now, instead of calling someone with a question and either giving them the satisfaction of brandishing their know-it-all-ness or exasperating them because my ignorance is a mid-game inconvenience, I just pull out my little book, which is already dogged-eared and highlighted with notes in the margin because, well, I’m a geek. The info on the NFL’s website could as well be written in Yiddish, but she breaks down the complexities of football into digestible morsels and even makes me laugh from time-to-time. So it’s just me and Holly and this book, taking it one game at a time until I’m able to crack my own football-related jokes. They may not be funny, but at least I’ll finally know what the heck the joke even is.

Loading the player...