"Mommy, Mommy, what's that mean?"
"It means the damn season is almost over," Rosalie explained, and she bade the children sit round her feet and listen. "Once, when I was a child growing up long ago, the season would end at Thanksgiving. Then Christmas, now January. By the time Kimberly is grown, it will last 50 weeks a year. The league office will set aside two weeks late in March for a mating season. Like those antelopes on the TV. Do you want some more grape Kool-Aid? It's very good. I made it myself from an old family recipe."
Little Jerry handed over his cup and, seeing this, Kimberly stumbled up and put her cup out, too. Rosalie filled them both. "Hey," little Jerry exclaimed, "she didn't eat all her mashed potatoes."
"The poor thing is destined to grow up into an antelope's life," Rosalie said. "Let her have some grape Kool-Aid. It's the least we can do for her."
The fact is, like so many other women in America, Rosalie had come to view pro football as straight one-on-one competition for her man, and because she was some honey she was not used to being beaten in any competition where a man was the issue. Naturally, when first she sensed that she was losing Jerry to The Football, she had fallen back on all her best assets—but none of the usual surefire workaday little gimmicks succeeded.
Jerry just kept watching the games and fondling his regulation NFL football that had been autographed by two live Colts ("Best wishes, Ordell Braase" and "Yours, 43, Lenny Lyles"). Finally, in exasperation, Rosalie came downstairs late one Sunday afternoon, stood right next to the TV set, systematically removed all her clothes, spread her feet some distance apart, put her hands on hips and pouted, the way she had seen the girls do it on the covers of dirty magazines.
Possibly in a lopsided AFL game, it might have worked, but Rosalie happened to pick a crucial series of downs in a tough MUST-game with the Lions, and she didn't stand a chance. Jerry was not aroused, or even amused. He just growled: "Watch out you don't knock against the horizontal," and then he said, "Judas Priest, why does Unitas keep trying end runs," and "Moore is open on the down-and-out every time," and things of that nature. Rosalie finally began to get a chill and had to go upstairs and take a hot shower.
Certainly, in those early days of marriage, Rosalie could not have imagined that things were going to get worse. She was no novice to football. In high school, Rosalie went steady for almost two years with none other than Toby Geyser, who is still recognized as the greatest player ever to come out of the state of Maryland. But Rosalie found out that the professional football fan was an entirely different beast from any mere player. The fan was engulfed by the thing.
There were those glad to profit by this craving, too. For instance, in the early 1960s, when Rosalie and Jerry were first married, only the Colts were on television in Baltimore on Sundays, and then only for the road games. This was known as The Policy. Soon, however, The Policy was modified so that other league games from other time zones were also piped into Baltimore. This made television doubleheaders. Also, there were suddenly whole other doubleheaders coming from the new American Football League, which was invented by another channel. Although Jerry professed to despise this interloper, never passing up an opportunity to characterize the AFL as "the Mickey Mouse league," this bias did not interfere with his devoted attendance before the set when any non-conflicting AFL game was offered, even those that involved Denver, with its funny striped stockings.
As the '60s wore on, Rosalie did learn to garner some consolation from the knowledge that their happy home was not alone in suffering from this dread social disease. For a long time she had been reluctant to admit to friends how different Jerry was during the season, but once, at a girls' duckpin bowling party at Johnny Unitas' Colt Lanes, she introduced the subject and was amazed at how many of her friends immediately followed her lead and began to spill their very guts out, too. Nearly to a housewife, they all had the same accounts to tell, and Rosalie even took some pride in the realization that at least Jerry maintained more of a physical presence than most husbands. Many of the neighbors were none the wiser that he was totally transformed during the season.