Like most men, I have always enjoyed sports. I played some intramural basketball in high school and college, but I was never good enough to make a team that really counted.
Watching sports was more my style. I have always been good at watching real athletes compete. Just don’t expect me to make a long putt or throw a game-winning pass.
In the past few years, I have developed what I think could be an award-winning sports-viewing skill.
I settle into my nest — that’s what Debbie calls my end of the couch where my newspaper, laptop, food, and beverages can be found. I settle into my nest to watch golf or a professional football or baseball game. Then, I recline, get comfy and thoroughly enjoy the show.
At some point, a commercial will come on and the sound of the commercial will meld perfectly into a dream. As soon as the commercial is over, I’m wide awake again.
That’s right. Selective napping. I never miss an important play or score. It’s a gift that I have perfected over the years. I can nap through at least half of the game and still not miss anything important.
Several decades earlier, when the Bengals were still coming to Wilmington for their summer football camp, my friend Mike and I would meet at the college early in the morning to play racquetball. This was before the YMCA was built. Some local racquetball freaks would meet in the early hours of the morning to play for an hour or two.
The college allowed us to play in the old courts down near the swimming pool area. Mike and I always started early and played until other people showed up to take over the court. By the time we finished, we were nearly beat-to-death and exhausted, but feeling great.
When the Bengals were in town, we would often be finishing up when the football players would start walking in for their first workout of the day. Most of the players would be talking to each other and didn’t even see us.
One hot morning in the early 1980s, we were sitting on the steps outside the entrance, catching our breath and sweating as we recovered from our hard-fought morning racquetball match. It was the year after the Bengals appeared in their first Super Bowl.
Mike and I were surprised to see legendary coach Paul Brown walking toward us. As usual, he was wearing a sportcoat, tie and his trademark fedora. He looked up as he drew near. He nodded at us, and I said, “Good morning, Coach. How are the guys doing so far?”
He amazed us by stopping, sitting on the step, and chatting with us for several minutes.
We were both surprised. The Coach wasn’t known to be very talkative. One of his more famous quotes is, “When you win, say nothing. When you lose, say less.” That morning he must have felt like chatting. Today, coaches spout off whenever a camera turns toward them. They could take a lesson from Coach Brown.
Starting a few weeks ago, we have had plenty of college and professional football to watch and enjoy. On Monday we’d have the college football championship game between the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide. Football fans throughout the country were ecstatic about that match-up.
This coming weekend, the NFL wild card games start. Between the AFC and the NFC champs and the six teams that have qualified for wild card play, there are 14 teams in the chase for the Super Bowl trophy.
It all starts this coming weekend and will continue until the big game on February 13. That is when Super Bowl LVI will be played in Inglewood, California.
Until then, I’ll have plenty of opportunity for enjoying football — and napping in my nest.
Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and former Clinton County Commissioner.