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The Guy Chronicles

Football Prenup: Key to a Happy Marriage

November 08, 2000|Chris Erskine

There is no real explanation for my genial nature and ceaseless, senseless optimism, other than I married well and watch lots of football--primarily the college game, where every fall hope springs eternal.

"Dad, come watch this hook and ladder!" the boy screams as he watches the Nebraska game on TV. "You gotta see this hook-and-ladder play."

"Please don't scream in the house," my wife says calmly.

"Did you see that hook and ladder?" I whisper in her ear, as if reciting a dirty poem.

"Yeah, I saw it," she whispers back.

See? I told you I married well. Like most smart, young brides, she required me to sign a prenuptial football agreement, which prohibits screaming or throwing pillows at the TV--even after interference calls.

It hurt me to sign it, but I loved her more even than I loved Mike Ditka. And I needed a roommate.

So here are the terms of the prenuptial football agreement, signed in blood in the presence of her mother and three humongous hairy people who I think were her uncles--though one of them might have been an aunt:

Prenuptial Football Agreement

1. No Astroturf in the house.

2. No eating on the couch.

3. No cursing. Ever.

4. No throwing pillows at the TV.

5. No doing reenactments of favorite plays in football history--such as the Immaculate Reception--in our living room, while wearing only underwear.

6. No screaming "Yeah baby!" so loud that the cat gets all freaky in the head and starts losing its hair and making devil sounds.

7. No fumble drills during commercials.

8. No barking, spitting or eye gouging. Ever.

9. No comparing the appearance of certain ugly nose guards to her old boyfriends--even if the resemblance is uncanny and legally indisputable.

10. No throwing little rubber footballs across the living room (including screen passes and little safety valves to the backs).

11. Be considerate of fans sitting near you. Behavior that is disruptive to others may result in ejection from the living room.

12. No face-painting the dog.

Now, this is a pretty standard football prenup. Twelve rules, most of them consisting of boilerplate stuff that lawyers keep on their hard drives.

The only items she added were the ones about her old boyfriends and the cat. Like most women, she is unreasonably protective of her cats.

"You're scaring the cat," she said the first time we watched football together in the late '70s.

"It's just a stupid cat," I said.

It was then that I realized it wasn't just a stupid cat. It was like a reincarnation of every close friend she'd ever had, every soul mate, every good listener with which she shared intimate secrets late in the night. That's how women see cats. As keepers of their souls.

She was so mad about the cat that when I asked her to sit on my lap and feed me Doritos, she refused, even though when we first met she said she'd be glad to sit on my lap and feed me Doritos for the rest of our lives, freeing up my hands to do whirlybird gestures at the TV and throw pillows at the refs.

Then I mentioned the cat, and the next thing I know, she's making me sign this football prenup and we're having a few kids. As you've probably noticed, life happens pretty fast. All of which brings us to today.

Oklahoma 24, Nebraska 14, second half just underway.

"Yeah baby!" screams the boy as Oklahoma scores again.

"Yeah baby!" screams the little girl.

"Oh my God," my wife mutters, throwing her arms in the air, inadvertently signaling a touchdown.

*

In the late afternoon, we go out to the empty high school field to practice extra points and field goals and throw the ball around a little, like families do on fall days when the trees are blushing.

"Here, let me kick," says the little girl.

"Me first," says her brother, who's been kicking extra points for years now.

So the little girl watches her brother nail extra points, watches him cream kick after kick through the uprights. First from 15 yards, then 20. Even 30.

Then the little girl tries, from the one-yard line, with a little blue UCLA football that's apparently made of Flubber, because somehow it actually goes through the uprights on her first attempt.

"Touchdown!" she screams, convinced that this game is easy.

"Yeah baby!" screams her brother.

Eventually, my goal is to get the whole family kicking extra points--even my lovely and patient older daughter, who doesn't have much time for football these days, what with studying calculus till she's cross-eyed and filling out college applications.

I try to explain to her that kicking extra points might be a nice thing to list on her college applications, under extracurricular activities.

"Kicked extra points with my dad," she'd write, which would be spotted by some sharp-eyed admissions officer at Brown or Dartmouth, where they are always looking for students with the right stuff, not to mention reliable place-kickers.

"Extra points?" my lovely and patient daughter asks.

"Yeah, we're all kicking them," I explain. "Even Mom."

"I'll pass," she says.

"We do that too," I say.

"Maybe next time," my daughter says, looking at me cross-eyed, like I'm some sort of calculus problem. Which I probably am.

"We'll save a spot for you on the team," I promise her.

"Thanks," she says.

Next week: Touch football with the guys.

*

Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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