Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Football First (the pre-game show) ~ New York Stories 3

They say that American football is a metaphor for US foreign policy. It’s the only contact sport where you can hit everyone and anyone even when they don’t have the ball.  All in the objective of protecting or annihilating the quarterback, a presidential figure who calls the plays from huddle to huddle. Of course, it’s convenient to forget about that mayhem on ice I prefer, of which the peace-loving Canadians and the vodka-soused Russians are traditionally the most accomplished practitioners. 
I, however, had an altogether different mind-set about the pigskin parties so much a feature of the American fall. Columbia University, not recognised as an Ivy League sports powerhouse such as The Crimson Tide, The Bulldogs or indeed the Big Red C in upstate New York, I eschewed for my first glimpse face to face of the game at the professional level when my godfather, who had seen Joe Willie lead the New York Jets to Superbowl triumph, told me he would organise a trip for me to the Meadowlands, their out of state home shared with the New York Giants in New Jersey. Confused? I was. I had hoped to go to Shea Stadium where the Jets had played when the Beatles performed there too. Besides, I would then be able to boast “Samantha does Shea” just like Debbie did Dallas in a famous film of yore. Nevertheless, easily impressed by a man who would openly admit to watching a Joe Willie perform in public I leapt at the opportunity.
On the appointed Sunday, a brisk, fresh, sunny, autumnal day, a limousine drew up outside my ob/gyn’s house in Riverdale and whisked me away to cross the Hudson River. Inside, cocooned in the comfort of his custom Cadillac, was a well-groomed man of average height in a well-tailored suit, well-polished shoes and well–knotted tie. He introduced himself as Teddy and told me he had represented my godfather for many years.
Now I, of course, had a teddy when I was little but it hardly crossed my mind that I would think about having one then. My rather short, green (I had done my research), A-line skirt rode up high on my thighs as I sat next to him in the back of the Caddy and I saw out of the corner of my eye that Teddy did not miss a trick. Well he was a lawyer after all. He closed the screen between his driver and our pleasurable tête-à-tête and offered me a glass of champagne.
He quickly plumbed the shallows of my ignorance of the sporting spectacle in which we were about to participate. I countered with a bold interrogation of his antecedents. His family were certainly of establishment New England stock. They had a summer house on Cape Cod which he casually invited me to visit. He had gone to Yale as an undergraduate and later to law school at Harvard. I don’t know why but the thought of Mary Jo Kopechne crossed my mind and I squeezed my ass tighter into the opulent leather seat as we crossed the Hudson. A reflex action I suppose. Somehow I felt safe as long as Teddy had his tie on. In any case the driver managed the car professionally smoothly, I ne’er spilled a drop of my champagne, when we took the George Washington Bridge. And with the Martha Washington supporting from below, like a good Tory squirearchy wife should, there was not much chance of us ending up in the drink.
I began to feel rather hot in the confines of the heated limousine and moved to pull my figure-hugging, black, cashmere sweater over my head. In so doing I snapped the thread that held my string of South Sea island natural pearls, a gift from my ob/gyn. They scattered on the floor and not waiting for any move from Teddy I swooped down to gather them up, dropping them one by one into my darling black Chanel purse.
Teddy seemed to be genuinely sympathetic to my plight although I found his amusement at the relative position of my head to his knees disconcerting. As  I leaned forward trying to pick a pearl from a join in the lush carpet he seized the moment, another legal trait, exploiting the opportunity. He commanded me to adopt the position. This certainly confused me. It was way too soon for any of that.
Obeying his instructions I crouched down facing the front of the car, one hand clutching my purse, acting as the pigskin, set in a transverse position on the sward. He explained he was demonstrating the snap, the action that commenced every scrimmage, the holding position and the holding stance of the line. From behind me his voice calmly issued clear guidance on how I should kneel on one knee.
Now I had every reason to be alarmed as the word snap in my limited experience always preceded the word garter and I hoped that my suspenders supporting my fine denier, semi-nude, black stockings would be sufficiently elastic to resist any of the stretching that I was being put through. He continued to explain the role of the centre, the position I was playing, asking me to bob up as he delicately lifted my skirt and almost reverently inserted his hands between my spread legs. This was no grope, you understand, only the gentlest of contact with the bare skin above my stocking from the back of his hand as on the third “hut” of the count he asked me to hike the purse back to him. After a couple of attempts in slow motion we did it at full speed and I thought I was getting the hang of it. He showed me how the position was designed to be stable by seizing my ass and pressing it down and swaying me from side to side.
All this exertion and excitement made me thirsty so I resumed my seat and asked for another glass of champagne. While Teddy poured I examined my legs, seeing a ladder in one of my stockings. This would never do. I murmured something about roughing the snapper. It seemed appropriate. In my preparation for the day I had read about penalties for roughing the kicker and roughing the quarterback. Teddy admitted that there was in fact a rarely used penalty to protect the centre as well, but that it was used against the opposition not one’s own QB. I gave him my best sardonic look as, always the practical one, I dived into my purse and retrieved a spare stocking, neatly removed the damaged article and secured the replacement.
Ever the gentleman Teddy reached over to pick up the discarded stocking and slid it into his pocket. I so liked a neat and tidy man at the time. I suppose I still do. As we approached the stadium I finished my champagne, put on my cashmere sweater, shook my hair into place and applied a quick covering of lip gloss with the aid of my compact. Teddy looked on seemingly very pleased with himself. My exposure to American football had begun in earnest.

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