The Boffin is the master at coming up with news articles to amuse me, and he didn’t let me down this morning. Being a New York Jets fan (That’s an American football team for those who are not familiar with sports in the U.S.), he was keeping up with the goings on with the upcoming game with the Miami Dolphins at Wembley this weekend. Apparently, the Jets shipped over 350 rolls of toilet paper along with their other supplies.
The Jets’ rep claimed it was all about keeping the same routine since the teams would be out of their comfort zones in England. The devil is in the details and throwing in some extra bog roll into the shipping container was no big deal. Now I can understand that as far as meals and practice routines, but if a player is thrown off his game because of what he uses to wipe his ass, he picked the wrong occupation.
“I fumbled because the hotel only had Andrex Classic White!”
Tell that to the rugby players, dude.
I think the world now knows how to defeat American athletes in international competition. Just force them to use foreign bog roll.
It’s midway through Sunday lunch somewhere in England. Roast beef with all the trimmings. There sits, on your Nan’s prized serving dish with the dainty pink roses delicately painted around the edges, the Last Roast Potato. You want it. You crave it. And you know that the rest of the family is secretly vying for it too, including, whilst smelling of his usual Old Spice, Uncle Colin who managed to usurp The Last Potato of Loveliness the last five Sunday lunches. You need to make your move now.
“Excuse me, does anybody else want the last roast potato?”
The grizzled stares come your way. Your family shakes their heads and mutter their noes while you grab the Golden Starch of Deliciousness as your trophy for your clever timing and your Montgomery-like battle strategy. For you, you Clever Clogs, have triumphed in possessing The Last Roast Potato.
The complete inability to say, “I want _____,” at the dining table is one of those strange English etiquette things that I have no idea how to explain. All I know is that you are treated as if you grew another eyeball if you so much as lay claim on the last of anything. Being that most people do not have the refrigerator and freezer space to hold lots of leftovers, the English do not have the propensity to make extra to ensure everyone gets to stuff themselves silly. So, we are left with Last Roast Potato standoffs like the ones we see above.
The Boffin here…let me interject: One of the joys of a Roast Potato is the crack of the crust as you slowly break it open with your knife or fork (usually the latter). If cooked correctly, they are crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. As a result, the last roast spud cannot be shared because only one person will get that pleasure while the other scenario leaves two people with two piles of mush. If an argument does ensue over whose turn it is to get the last potato, then Uncle Colin usually reaches over and surreptitiously solves the problem.
In my family, if no one would touch the Last Roast Potato at the table, once the plates were clearly away into the kitchen, the food was fair game. Since we weren’t bound by etiquette at the dining table, we could reenact Lord of the Flies with tubers. And don’t think this mode of behavior is only tied to potatoes. The Last Yorkshire Pudding has left many resentments amongst relatives.
OK, it’s Karen again. Let’s flip the coin. Imagine, if you will, a poor unsuspecting person who didn’t know the game. A foreigner. An American. Someone like yours truly who actually took the roast potato when it was offered, but I was also a guest who was eating roast potatoes for the first time. So I was creating an English etiquette wormhole. I can imagine what was going on my my hosts’ minds because I certainly felt the tension.
“Must be gracious to our foreign guest who loves our food and is thanking us profusely, but she is taking the Last Roast Potato! Neurons short-circuiting!”
It would help if the U.K. issued a pamphlet to us when we first entered the country.
“Don’t talk in lifts.”
“A chicken salad sandwich has cooked chicken with lettuce and tomato. What you want is chicken mayo.”
“Don’t take the last roast potato or Yorkshire pudding when offered.”
We had to do something else besides look at toilets.
For those who are not familiar with American football, Lambeau Field is home of Green Bay Packers, the National Football League (NFL) franchise that makes its home in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Within its city limits, we are talking about a place that contains about 104,000 people with approximately 306,000 in its expanded metro area. This is a team that does not have a huge fan base at its doorstep.
However, what it does have is intensely devoted, loyal and deep, and its national following carries the banner just as high. Starting in 1919, the Packers is the oldest team in the NFL that has stayed in one location. (The Decatur Staleys became the Chicago Bears, and the Chicago Cardinals eventually became the Arizona Cardinals.) So, the franchise has been there for nearly 100 years. Not only that, the Packers have won 13 NFL championships, including four Super Bowls. Five of those championships were under the helm of Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach after whom the famed Super Bowl trophy is named. And I haven’t touched upon people and events like Donald Driver, the Ice Bowl, the Lambeau Leap, Bart Starr, and host of other references.
So, even if you are not a Packers fan, this is home to quite a bit of American football history.
With that in mind, yesterday, the three of us decided to partake in the Classic Tour (the comparatively cheap hour long one) of the field. Since I have become a lapsed rabid, football fan, my attitude was to just take in the atmosphere and info and go with the flow. My recommendation is to get there early to get ahead of the rest of the hoard sporting Lambeauners. It is basically like being at a game or training camp as far as T-shirt, cap, and jersey donning of the crowd is concerned. And it is understandable. This is Packer Mecca.
Our tour guide, Kevin, was quite genial with a Dad-style humor who dearly loves his Packers. Let me put it this way. He has been on the season ticket list for 26 years. He is about number 13,000 out of about 114,000. He can will his spot to his granddaughter and hope she gets the coveted seats eventually. No exaggeration.
All of us on the tour were out-of-towners, so he really enjoyed giving his spiel to a fresh set of ears. After taking us to the plaza where the statues of Curly Lambeau and Lombardi, Kevin told us how Lambeau, a clerk for Indian (Meat) Packing Company, asked his boss for money for uniforms for the football team he was organizing and how it all snowballed from there.
From there, we got to see how the other half lives from the box seats.
If you look around, you will see something…or not see something, as the case may be. Notice the minimal amount of advertising. The Packers are a not-for-profit, publicly owned franchise with shareholders and a board of directors. The board has made a conscious decision to keep advertising to a minimum to cover expenses. Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a profit off of your football team, but one of my issues with the NFL is how excessive it has become. It is lovely to see a team who has reined it in.
From the heights to the depths, we got to the cool part…the home team’s tunnel. They even played crowd noises for us as we walked out, although I think the Bears would eat the Boffin and Sprog alive with their lax attitude.
And being able to walk on the field. Wow.
And aluminum benches that will “keep you cold during the winter and hot during the summer,” according to Kevin.
My uncle and cousin recently went to a game here in the middle of winter without building themselves up to the cold, and I am thinking about the windchill and uncomfortable seats and came to a conclusion. They obviously wanted to test their endurances and give themselves a real football fan experience. The reality is that they were nuts. And I only say this with love, guys. Mwah!
So, what did I take away from the tour? I really enjoyed the experience from a football history standpoint. But I have to say, I still have my issues about what the NFL is now, which is a separate post entirely and has no place here. If I ever do go back to the NFL (not looking likely at this point), I would consider the Packers as a team. I think I could pull off the look.
Sports fans worldwide like to get on the Americans cases about our lack of enthusiasm over soccer or football, even though things are changing in our corner of the word. But the playing of the sport is not my concern today. I want to give a small etymology lesson.
Being divided by a common language, our friends overseas use the word “football” while we use “soccer”. But that wasn’t always the case.
To make a long story short, when association football (soccer) gained popularity in the upper crust schools like Eton and Rugby, several clubs met in a tavern in London in October 1863 and created the Football Association and the foundation of the rules that we see today. In 1871, some members of the Football Association split off and formed the Rugby Football Union to differentiate their rules of their game, especially with the whole using the hands and passing the ball thing. At the time, the names of these games were shortened to “rugger” for rugby and “soccer” (see the “soc” in association) for football. Eventually, especially with the American troops learning to like soccer while in Europe, our using the word left a bad taste in the British mouths, so they gradually switched over to football like the rest of the world.
In summary, the Britons like to get on our case for using a word they created in the first place. And they wonder why we rebelled.
Now, the question I always hear is why do we call American football “football” when the ball is passed and carried most of the time? It’s because of its origins, and the name stuck. In the first collegiate game between Rutgers and Princeton in New Jersey in 1869, you were not allow to throw or handle the ball, but there was plenty of brute physical contact. The game looked more like a combination of rugby and association football. So we preserve our history in our own ways, even though the game changed to include scantily clad cheerleaders and partially inflated balls. Yes, Tom Brady, I went there.
So hopefully, I gave you a little sports trivia to pass along to your friends. They will be impressed. They may buy you drinks and be in awe of the spectacle that is your brain. Or it’s more likely they’ll think you are a wazzock. You’re welcome.