August 8, 2011


A very odd thing happened in our family on Sunday. Something that, I'm one hundred percent sure, has never occurred in the 15 years that Will and I have been together. There we sat, the four of us, at a sporting event. A game had just ended and players for the next were filtering onto the field when Will said "Well, we better go." and I replied, wait for it...

"Do we have to?"

Now for those of you who watch sports, that might not seem strange. But trust me. It is. I hate sports. I would rather stick pins in my eyes than watch an actual football game all the way through. Unless my children are playing (and if I'm honest, even if they are) I'm totally bored at a soccer game. I once infamously ditched my husband and father in law at a Nascar race and watched Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version, naturally) on the in-car entertainment system in the parking lot.

It's not all my fault. I wasn't raised in a sporting family. Other than a slight lingering and DNA induced interest in Arsenal, I never once heard my father show interest in a professional sporting event. It's just who we are. We talk (a lot) we read, we write, we cook, we play. But we do not watch sports. (Well, now a days my parents sometimes watch Mizzou football and my brother somehow came out of childhood with a mild interest in sports, but in general, we are not sports people)

So what was this miraculous sport that had me glued to the hard metal seats of the bleachers? Gaelic Football. Yes, Gaelic football. I know. You didn't even know you could watch Gaelic football in the US (Heck, you probably didn't really know there was such a thing as Gaelic Football, right?) But you can, and we did, and I loved it. But not for the reasons you might think.

Yes. I love Ireland and just about all things Irish. But no, that's not where this is coming from. Although, I do have strong feelings about some teams that stem entirely from conversations with cab drivers in Dublin. (Root for Dublin first and after that, anyone playing against Cork) and that probably helps. However, my interest in Gaelic Football goes back much further than our time spent living on the little green island. All the way back to Highschool PE in Pendleton, Oregon and a teacher called Coach Freeman.

As you may have guessed, I didn't do sports in Highschool. I joined the Dance team primarily because it filled the PE credit at the school I attended for my first two years. After that, I became a master at getting out of whatever we were doing in PE that day. Until Speedball came around.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how a coach in a very small town on the far side of the US came to adapt Gaelic Football into the sport we called Speedball (and thought he invented for us) , but he did, and we were crazy for it. I was crazy for it. I even got myself a pair of cleats and talked the teachers into letting me play with the guys. As much as I hated PE before, I loved it now. It even became, of all things, my favorite class for a while.

So fast forward a decade and there I am, sitting on our red couch in our apartment in Ireland, a book in my lap, ready to grit my teeth through yet another sporting event on TV when I realize, "Hey, I know this game! I LOVE this game." Because Speedball, as it turns out, is pretty much identical to Gaelic Football. (It's also similar to Aussi Rules football, by the way, except I think the Australians use a rugby ball instead of a soccer ball)

Living in the US has, as you may have guessed, limited the amount of Gaelic Football watching that I've been able to do. I haven't' seen a game in years. So when I my dad reminded me that there was a New York Branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association, I looked it up before he had even finished his sentence. And there it was, a game, straight up the subway line from us, the very next day. Three, back to back games, in fact.

So we went, and watched, and the kids ran around with a bunch of other kids, kicking a ball and making a racket that no one seemed to mind because, well, that's what kids do, and we had a great time. So great that I totally forgot to take any pictures, never picked up my knitting once and didn't look at a single page of my book, which when it comes to me and sports, is unheard of. Holy cow.

I think I'm in danger of becoming an actual sports fan. Oh New York. what have you done?

Somebody save me.