I love football. It’s quintessential fall to me, and I love it, and last weekend I was in South Bend for the ND/Pitt game.
I’ve been going to Notre Dame football games for as long as I can remember, first as a kid, then as a student at SMC, and now as an adult, and hopefully I’ll keep going to them well into my old age.
There’s a comfort in rituals, and these football Saturdays are filled with them. Sweating your ass off in the bright sun of the stadium when it’s hot those first few games, and anxiously cheering through the wet slop of an exciting game in the rain. Sneaking in bottles of booze to spike coffee and hot chocolate, Tailgating, and eating enormous quantities of food, including, but not limited to bruschetta, fried chicken, bratwurst, Italian sausages, potato chips, brownies, diet pop, beer (at legal age). Sometimes pasta salad.
In college, my girlfriends and I would descend upon my parents’ tailgate at every home game, drinking Miller Lite and generally talking shit and nonsense to ourselves, to fellow fans, to my parents, to whoever would listen. There was always So. Much. Food. that my parents very lovingly and nicely shared with us, delicious in its homemadeness after how many weeks of dining hall grub.
Dad usually spent the first portion of the tailgate setting up tables and chairs as Mom set out the food. He’d stand back and socialize while everyone else hefted food onto their plates and into their mouths, and when everyone had had their fill, he’d go ahead and make a plate for himself, leaving the rest of us to loll about patting our full bellies. It was Big Stan’s moment of quiet amidst the chaos, a moment that was inevitably broken by one of the many women surrounding him.
My friend Blitzer sidled up to him one tailgate, a beer in hand and three in her belly, as he tried to enjoy his moment, which on this day included a heaping portion of pasta salad on his plate.
“You know, Big Stan,” Blitzer started talking at him. “That pasta salad is really good.”
Dad barely flicked a glance at her before going back to his food. Blitzer continued on talking at him, one hand on her hip, the other waving flagrantly through the air.
“I mean, I really like pasta salad, and this one is good. Except it has olives in it. And I don’t really like olives I mean they’re okay but I could do without them and I’ve never seen them in pasta salad before don’t get me wrong the pasta salad was good but I just don’t really like olives and yap yap yap yap yap yap…”
My dad just stood there with a blank look on his face as she babbled on, not stopping for a breath.
“I normally really like olives but I just picked them out of my pasta salad and I thought it was really good, you know? You know what I mean, Big Stan?” Blitzer finally stopped talking and turned to my dad.
Dad chewed thoughtfully for a moment, then swallowed, looking directly at Blitzer. “I’m sorry, Blitzer,” he said very politely. “You must have mistaken me for someone who gave a shit.”
Dad wiped his hands on a napkin and smiled at her, leaving her speechless as he walked away.