Times article by Marcia G. Moore
Can A Big 10 Alumna Find Happiness in the Ivy League?
I should probably begin by explaining to
you Easterners that I'm from Ohio. I was
born in the shadow of the Ohio State
University stadium and, although I was a
girl, my father saw to it that I received
the standard education of any Ohio child.
I attended every Ohio State football
game. By the time I was 3, I could sing,
"We Don't Give a Damn for the Whole State
of Michigan. We're From O-HI-O!"
I knew that Hopalong Cassidy might also
be the name of a movie cowboy, but that
first and foremost he was a great Ohio
State running back.
One of my earliest memories is of
struggling up our driveway in shoulder-
high snow. My father, an Ohio State
fanatic, had tickets for the Ohio State-
Michigan game and refused to let anything
as inconsequential as the Blizzard of '51
keep him away.
After high school, however, my football
education was thrown for a loss. First, I
am an alumna of Northwestern University,
which, as everyone west of Princeton knows,
is not noted for its outstanding football
Then I made a serious fumble: I moved
East to attend an Ivy League college and
met a man who had attended two Ivy League
I was impressed because he was the first
man I had ever met who did not think that
Ignace Paderewski was a Notre Dame
linebacker; he was intrigued because I was
the only woman he had met who did not think
that Vince Lombardi was a nightclub singer.
In the blush of first love, we did not
realize that we had at least one
unfathomable difference: Easterners, I
learned, use football as an excuse to
enjoy tailgate picnics, fall foliage and,
at Columbia games, the half-time antics of
Paying close attention to the
proceedings on the field, or displaying
those proceedings, is considered uncouth.
"Did you see THAT!" I demanded of my
fiance at the first game we attended
together. "Dartmouth was red-dogging our
quarterback!" (At the same time, I jabbed
him sharply with my elbow, causing him to
spill his hot mulled cider.) The people in
front of us turned around to stare.
"Well, yes, I suppose he was," my fiance
replied. "But you don't have to get upset
We looked at each other, and immediately
realized an irrefutable truth: East was
East and Midwest, Midwest. If we were to
become a matrimonial team, we would have to
declare certain subjects out of bounds.
Following our marriage (on an autumn
afternoon quietly scheduled by my father
not to conflict with the televised Big Ten
championship game), we never mentioned
I kept to myself all the witticisms
about Harvard philosophy majors playing
tackle. The truth was, I was too vulnerable
to retaliation: Even my husband could not
have failed to notice that my alma mater
was suffering the longest losing streak in
the history of collegiate football.
This game plan seemed to work. Crisp
October Saturdays found us strolling
through Central Park or watching sailboat
races, my husband's idea of an exhilarating
sport. The smell of the hot dogs, the roar
of the crowd did not beckon, as in former
[I'm sick of formatting the columns... The rest of the article is uninteresting, but i'll include it for those of you who are interested:]
By the time, sone years later, I gave birth to a 9-pound son, only my father
thought to notice his grandson's potential for gridiron greatness.
"Look at those hands!" he would demand of the bemused New Yorkers viewing
the babies behind the hospital glass. "Those hands are going to throw great
forward passes some day!"
My father bought football jerseys in size 12 Months. And he sang Baby John
to sleep with medleys of marching songs ("Hit them hard and see how they
fall! Never let that team get the ball!") He talked of taking his grandson back
home to see some real football, and he dreamed of the day when the child of
his child would intercept a long bomb or sack the quarterback.
However, he did not live to see it happen.
"I signed up for the football team today!" my son told me one day last
spring. "The coach says he's going to try me out as a tackle."
"That's just wonderful!" I said, beaming fondly at the 5-foot 11-inch,
170-pound hulk before me. "Think of how proud Grandpa would be!"
"Couldn't he play tennis instead?" my husband asked. "A lot of kids get
hurt playing football. "
The time-out that had existed longer than our marriage was over. We faced
each other over the line of scrimmage.
"I met the high school principal this evening," I told my husband some time
later. "And do you know what he said? He said, 'Oh, yes, John Moore, the
football player!' " I waited for a reaction. "He knows that John's a
football player, and John's only a freshman!"
"Too bad he didn't say, 'John Moore, the essay writer,' or 'John Moore, the
geometry whiz,' " my husband replied. We exchanged stony looks. For the first
time in years, the voices of television sportscasters began to be heard in our
house on weekend afternoons. I sat down to watch with John.
"What kind of penalty is it when the referee waves his arms like that?" I
asked. "Personal foul." he answered. "Why did they get a personal foul?" I
persisted. "They tackled him out of bounds." He turned up the TV volume.
"Who are the guys in the orange pants?" I asked.
I had seen John's expression before on my father's face. It was reserved for
women too stupid to know a forward pass from a first down.
I was insulted, and, in a way, I felt I had let down my father. After that, I
bought a book entitled "How to Watch Football" and studied it
My husband and I went to the Mountain Lakes High School field for the opening
game. I could tell he was uneasy. Could his wife, who shopped at The Talbots,
ate raw clams and who had not pronounced an "R" in 15 years, be suddenly, like
Eliza Doolittle at the Ascot races. about to reveal her true origins?
The cheerleaders bounced up and down and adjusted their socks.
"Our team's like an alligator," they chanted. "They're real, real sharp!"
"Aren't they cute?" my husband asked.
I smiled, and said nothing about real cheering: "Hit 'em again, Hit 'em
again, HARDER, HARDER!" and "Rah Rah Ree, Kick 'em in the Knee..."
We applauded politely when the Mountain Lakes team jogged onto the field. It
won the toss and elected to receive. The kick was good, and Mountain Lakes ran
it back to the 40-yard line.
"They're off to a good start," my husband said. "Yes, they are," I
agreed. The tepid pleasantries lasted until the first play, when Mountain Lakes
was thrown for a loss of three yards. I knew instantly what was wrong.
"Come on," I called. "You boys have got to be more aggressive!" My
husband glared at me. "That's a fine way for a mother to be talking," he
I realized he was right. I had sounded just like an Ivy League twit. Scarlet
Ohio blood, diluted from years of living in the East, began boiling in my veins
once more. I leaped to my feet.
"Stomp on 'em, Mountain Lakes!" I shrieked. "Make 'em eat the
My husband moved his seat, but I hardly noticed. Several minutes later, there
was a flag on the play and the referee signaled: "Holding, Mountain Lakes."
Around me, little clumps of Ivies were sitting in silent embarrassment. How
could their sons have done anything so unsportmanslike?
From the dim recesses of my memory arose the standard Ohio response to such a
penalty. "You need glasses, ref!" I yelled. In the row behind me I heard a
chorus of boos. Booing at a football game! I had not heard such a thing for
nearly 20 years! I turned around to introduce myself. "I'm from Ohio," I
explained. "I'm from Minnesota," the woman replied. "My husband won't sit
with me, either. And these people just moved here from Chicago."
From then on, my enjoyment of the game improved immeasurably.
At home at last in a football stadium in New Jersey, my compatriots and I
voiced noisy approval for Mountain Lakes' yardage gains. We also shouted raucous
suggestions to the referee and we hooted happily when the other team fumbled.
Mountain Lakes had the ball on the 4-yard-line. It was third down and goal to
go, there were 90 seconds remaining in the last quarter and the score was tied.
The Midwestern claque, knowing that there is, of course, a time to shout and
a time to keep still, shuffled its feet nervously and eyed the scoreboard. The
Ivy League mothers stopped working their needlepoint. Even my husband, who had
spent the last two quarters at the concession stand with some sailing cronies,
returned to the stands to watch.
The teams faced each other. The center snapped the ball, and the quarterback
handed it off to the running back directly behind John at right tackle. The
lines collided with a crunch of helmets and shoulder pads. The biggest play of
the game was in motion.
My baby boy, I want to tell you, went crashing into that line, making a hole
you could drive a truck through. The ball carrier scrambled through the opening
and dived into the end zone. Touchdown, Mountain Lakes! The Mountain Lakes crowd
cheered. The Midwestern contingent stamped, whistled and bellowed. Even my
husband managed an enthusiastic "Good Play!"
And somewhere in the vast firmament, I know that my father was watching. He
was jumping up and down on the clouds and throwing his halo in the air, making
the vaults of heaven echo with a roaring victory cry.