Our kids might outgrow us, but we don’t seem to outgrow them. Liz Kitchens sure hadn’t outgrown her college-age son when he wanted to go to his university’s football game on New Years Day. In fact, as she writes in this piece for BoomerCafé, her devotion to her son resulted in a Purloined Pigskin.
I rarely follow football; since “I could care less,” why would I? But I do keep up with Northwestern University’s college team since my son attended graduate school there. Northwestern played Alabama’s Auburn Tigers in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on January 1st of this year.
My son, his girlfriend, his dad (my former husband), and another Northwestern alum gamely arose at 7 AM on New Years Day for an hour-and-a-half drive through pouring rain to get there before the 11 AM kickoff. Oh, and I went too. We joined a sea of purple paraphernalia when we took our seats in the end zone.
It rained… and rained… and Northwestern did not fare well. Down by two touchdowns at halftime. I suggested leaving after the third quarter if the weather and the playing did not improve. Even my die-hard son agreed. But just my luck, the game and the weather did get better. Much better. Ponchos and parkas were discarded. Northwestern came back in the third quarter and tied up the score. Auburn scored again though and their running back spiked the ball over the goalpost. He threw it so hard, it went up in the stands. (Note: excessive celebration penalties were imposed here.) Then Auburn’s kicker lined up to make the extra point. But someone had failed to get the end zone net up in time to catch the ball. So instead, it sailed into the end zone and into my son’s seat. Fans all around scrambled to get the ball, but David managed to scoop it up and tuck it beneath our pile of ponchos. Now, I promise, my son was not raised to steal, nor was I. Nor was my former husband, who is a circuit court judge. But at a baseball game you get to keep an errant ball if it comes your way. Who knew this sports protocol did not apply to football? Certainly not me, the non-football fan.
So it is a very weird feeling, having an entire stadium looking in your direction anticipating the return of the game ball. Our band of brothers decided to do nothing though, which seemed to work because the game resumed with a new ball. After about ten minutes I said to my son, “Why don’t I put the ball in my backpack? No one will think a 56-year-old woman is interested in keeping a football.” So I did, and proceeded to watch an exciting quarter of football, albeit with a pounding heart.
Ten minutes later we heard a booming voice behind us say, “Somebody’s going to jail tonight if that football isn’t returned.” We turned around and there was a police officer, threading his way through the end zone. He’s pointing an accusing finger at my son. David’s outstretched hands were empty, as was the rain gear he held up for inspection. After questioning adjacent fans, the officer turned a suspicious eye on me. I’m told I resembled a flasher as I repeatedly opened and closed my raincoat as if to say, “I have nothing to hide.” He pointed to my backpack saying, “I assume there’s just clothes in that bag of yours.” I don’t think I really responded, I can’t remember, I was so scared. I actually would have been happy to return the stupid ball at that point; our little lark was losing its appeal. But I would have looked like such an idiot at that point, pulling the football out of my backpack. Interestingly though, as the cop persisted in his menacing intimidation, none of the fans around us fingered me. I decided I would wait a little while and then, exercising some discretion, leave my seat and return the ball.
Meantime, my son was a wreck. He was mulling over how he was going to inform the man to whom I’m happily married now that his wife was spending the night in jail. Both our stomachs were churning. There were now four policemen standing at the railing above us. David’s dad volunteered to be my attorney. But then something weird happened: nothing. Nothing happened. They left us alone. Northwestern had scored again, forcing the game into overtime. And finally the game ended….with an Auburn victory, sad to say. My lawyer/ex-husband and I, the purloined pigskin in tow, exited the stands one way, my son and friends departed in the opposite direction. We were immediately swept up in the crowd and out of the stadium. I refused to discuss the caper for fear of being overheard.
I didn’t hear my cell phone ringing as my son frantically tried to reach me, thinking we had been stopped or seized. Our level of paranoia was perhaps out of proportion relative to the potential consequences. But the intimidation impressed upon us by the police was sufficient to make us fearful.
The next day, still shaken from our petty larceny, the fabulous five of us who’d gone to the game signed the ball to commemorate the experience. I was Lightfingers Liz Kitchens. But remember, I could care less about football, so I didn’t keep the ball for myself. I gave it to my son. I love him so much. And he loves sports and Northwestern University. I knew this would be a big deal for him. Little did I know just how much.
Check out Liz Kitchen’s blog – click here.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle