Seventeen years ago today was a Monday. The Cleveland Browns returned to the field for the first time in four years and they beat the Dallas Cowboys by 3 points. My boyfriend, being from Pittsburgh, was a natural enemy of Cleveland anything. He was, by law, a Steelers fan, but I’ve always suspected that if he’d been born with free will, he’d have chosen them, anyway.
Being of somewhat average intelligence with a strong sense of right and wrong, I naturally detested the Cowboys. I grew up in a virtual football desert; The Carolina Panthers didn’t exist until I was an adult, which is probably why I don’t count them as a real team, even as they turn 21 this year. Wipe that look off your face, neighbor; it’s the same as when you couldn’t embrace green ketchup even though it tastes the same.
Carolina Panthers. Green Ketchup. There’s a choking metaphor in there somewhere.
Speaking of choking, Miami Dolphins. That was my team, I thought. Most of my school buddies chose to pull for the closest teams to our north or to our south – Redskins or Falcons. I chose my team by far more scientific methods; I thought Dan Marino was gorgeous. Years and years later I’d realize I was really only his fan. The rest of the team just didn’t interest me that much.
“I’m going to marry him. What’s his name?” I declared just moments before he lost the last Super Bowl he ever played. It’s possible, I bet, that I’m the jinx he could never shake.
But seventeen years ago today, he wasn’t playing, and neither were the Steelers. We were simply celebrating the return of Monday Night Football. We cooked several pots of chili and invited some friends over. The Browns emerged victorious and the bowls were all loaded into the dishwasher when we lay down to unwind on the couch before bed. I was not expecting what happened next. At least, not that moment.
See, I totally ignored that whole don’t get your meat from the same place you get your bread rule and started dating a co-worker. He had a goofy sense of humor and perfectly straight teeth; apparently the only standards I possessed at the time. One day he overheard as I was espousing to another co-worker the superiority of Dan Marino over every other human, living or dead. He stuck out his hand to shake and said, “Hi. I went to high school with Dan Marino.”
And that’s when I was sold.
I may as well have ordered a side of Brooklyn Bridge or beach front property in Arizona because as it turned out, he only went to the same high school as Dan Marino. Thirteen years later. But that’s another story.
A year and a half after his little white lie, I was laying on the couch with him in my apartment when I said, “Hey, you know what I really want?”
He said he thought he did, and told me to close my eyes. I complied and after a few seconds he told me I could open them.
He was still lying there, beside me.
“Where’s my chocolate?”
He looked confused.
“You said you had chocolate.”
“What? No I didn’t!”
I looked confused.
There, sitting on top of the afghan I’d thrown over us was a square box. It contained the thing I’d been anxiously avoiding for a couple of weeks.
On one occasion he’d asked if I ever looked through the jar of sand I kept on my kitchen counter. I saw the tip of the diamond and a couple of gold prongs poking out and said, “Why? It’s just sand,” before quickly leaving the room.
On another occasion he asked me to bring him something from the dresser drawer I’d designated as his. The box was right on top, but I moved it to the side and took him the item he requested.
If my memory serves me, there was another near miss, but I’ve forgotten the details. I definitely didn’t expect or want what he was trying to give me. Before him, I’d dated a guy who casually said he thought I’d look good in a dress he saw in a magazine. It was white. So I read between the lines and did the only proper thing; I waited a few days and told him I moved to Alaska.
But there I was, trapped between him and the sofa cushions with an afghan and two ton diamond ring on my chest. It was almost a karat, but the weight. Oh my God, the weight.
He asked the obvious question and I said yes. It would have been rude not to.
That sounds like bullshit, but it would have. I did not want marriage, but he did. And since it meant something to him, but not to me, it seemed a small price to pay for someone I had come to love.
Plus, I’d grown up a little bit since that time I didn’t actually move to Alaska.
Ten years later, I suspect to the day, Mr. I Didn’t Really, Actually, Truly Go to High School with Dan Marino went on a business trip and fell into the vagina of the co-worker he’d been making fun of on the way to the airport a few days earlier. At that time, Dan Marino had been retired nine years, and was hiding the illegitimate love child he’d created when he fell into a co-worker’s vagina. Be careful, guys. It is a va-jungle out there. Apparently.
I’ve gotten rid of both the Dolphins and the Dan Marino paraphernalia that’s been foisted on me, usually by in-laws, over the years. Except for a few pictures in each of the kid’s rooms (and the kids themselves), I’ve also rid the house of any ex-husband memorabilia.
I wouldn’t even bring this up, and anniversaries like this one would go completely unremembered if not for the Facebook Memories feature. But lest you think this is all depressing commentary, let me assure you this is actually very, very good news.
I don’t actually follow football anymore. My team was probably never really my team, my player let me down, and I have remarried a man who’s far more into soccer and is content to let me ignore that sport, too. But the laws of space and time dictate that if this is the seventeenth anniversary of a preseason football game, this – here, now – must also be football preseason, too!
Unless the laws of physics have completely broken, autumn is on the way, ya’ll! Here’s a recipe so you can celebrate, too. Leave out the karats.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 onions chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
3 pound brisket
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, no casing
2 pound butternut squash, diced.
3 (14.5 ounce) cans peeled and diced tomatoes with juice
3 bottles of Shiner Bock (pour the other three on your garden to kill slugs)
3 cups strong brewed coffee
4 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
3 (14 ounce) can beef broth
3/4 cup chili powder
1/2 cup cocoa power
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoon dried oregano
3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 teaspoon ground coriander
3 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon wasabi paste (or to taste)
5 (15 ounce) cans kidney beans
5 Anaheim chili peppers, chopped
3 serrano pepper, chopped
Place brisket in large roasting pan. Brown Italian sausage and add to brisket pan.
Sautee onions and garlic in the grease from the sausage, add to brisket and sausage. Pour in the tomatoes, coffee, tomato paste, beans, and broth. Add all dry seasonings. Roast at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Cook Anaheim and serrano peppers, 5 to 10 minutes. Add to roasting pan, along with one Shiner Bock and return to oven. In one more hour, add another Shiner Bock. In another hour, add the last Shiner Bock and the diced butternut squash. Continue cooking until the brisket is easily pulled apart with a fork.
Remove from oven and do that, then stir all together. If you prefer more heat, you can add habanero to the skillet with Anaheim and serrano peppers. They make my teeth hurt, so I don’t use them.
Serve with your favorite toppings; we like sour cream, cheese, and fresh green onions.
Oh, and bread. Preferably homemade, but if you don’t live with Martha Stewart, use whatever you like.