A day is coming when college football will be threatened — by your kid’s birthday party. Don’t get me wrong. I love my 3-year-old son. He’s more than I will ever deserve. But his birthday is in October. And when you’re a college football-addicted Southerner, that causes problems. Get over it, you say. It’s one Saturday. True. But he has friends. And they have fall birthdays. And mamas view birthday parties like their own weddings. You’re not getting out of it.
It’s bad enough to go to your kid’s friend’s birthday party any time of the year. Standing around talking to people you care nothing about except that your kids are the same age? Dreadful. But during football? The worst. Already this fall I’ve twice been drug away from the ESPN (ahem, I mean FoxSports 1, command center). Party No. 3 is on the docket this Saturday.
The first encounter was not a problem. It was early in the year. I watched my Clemson Tigers dismantle S.C. State and then took Junior to the party at 4 p.m.
But I learned an important lesson by watching what NOT to do. As the kiddos ran wild around the house, I settled in with the other dads, a clan of Dawgs die-hards, to watch Georgia dick around with some Texas directional school. You can see it now, dads huddled around the tube. Moms keeping the kids from killing each other as they plotted how to kill their husbands later.
At one point my buddy was so distracted by the game that he missed the first half of “Happy Birthday” and barely got the camera turned on in time for the candles. My wife told me later his wife was pissed — as in there-won’t-be-any-more-kids-to-have-birthdays-for-a-good-long-while pissed.
So when my son’s toddler tip-off came around during the Clemson vs. Syracuse game (and the Georgia-Tennessee ACL-fest) I was prepared for the challenge.
Here are five DOs and DON’Ts to survive college football season birthday parties.
1. DO get involved with the planning
Your first reaction to birthday party plans is to just rubber stamp every detail and every purchase under $50. “Sounds good, honey.” Do not do this. Get involved. Look up the football schedule and plan accordingly. The big CBS game is probably on at 3:30 p.m., so suggest a 10 a.m. party. You’ll miss Lee Corso’s picks. You’ll probably feel better about yourself. And it leaves plenty of time to cleanup and find a TV before kickoff.
Can’t make it happen? Suggest a Sunday afternoon party. Admit it, you only care about the NFL for fantasy anyways. You can track that on your phone in between asking your uptight neighbor, again, what he thinks about fall fertilizers. Ugh.
2. DON’T schedule a road trip
If the party and the game are going to coincide, you need to play that game at home. This is no time for a road trip to the nearby state park for a big cookout. You need your wifi, your various TVs and the friendly confines of your home to juggle Duck, Duck Goose! and Johnny F-ing Football.
If it’s another kid’s party at some remote location, find an excuse not to go. But doing this after you already turned on the noon game won’t fly. By Thursday morning, you already need to be laying the groundwork about how busy you are fixing things on that honey-do list this Saturday.
3. DO recruit a scapegoat
This is crucial. If you want to get laid between now and the Sugar Bowl, then Uncle Verne’s chortling in the background of the party to be someone else’s fault.
The way I see it, you’ve got two options. Option No. 1 is someone from her side of the family. Maybe your father-in-law or brother-in-law. Chances are they can get away with parking it on the couch to watch the game instead of helping grill hot dogs. Mama might be annoyed, but hey, it won’t be your fault if they just won’t turn off the TV. Meanwhile you’re just trying to share some quality time with her dad or brother. You didn’t even notice Jadeveon Clowney standing over there on the sideline on third down and long.
Option No. 2 is your irresponsible, unmarried SEC fan friend from work. Your wife already hates him. So when he shows up and starts flipping through the scores, yammering about the problem with Bama’s O-line, it’s just par for the course. You can even go ask him to turn down the volume, and pause to see another Bulldog shred his knee.
4. DON’T watch on your phone
This is way too obvious. You’re supposed to be celebrating the birth of your child — the day your wife suffered for hours in a hospital bed because you couldn’t keep your pants on. You can’t be that guy in the corner staring into an iPhone. You think this is an easy solution. No, it’s an easy ticket to the dog house.
But you CAN volunteer to take pictures. With your phone. “Smile, kids! Say, cheese!” Now check that score. Take some video of the Lightning McQueen cake and candles. Now pull up that highlight clip. Boom. You’re making memories and memorizing the box score at the half.
5. DO give it 110 percent
This might be the most important tactic. Get up early. Cut the grass. Wash the dishes. Take out the trash. Go pick up the balloons. And do it with a smile. Build such a big lead that you can pull the starters by halftime.
Once the party starts you’re a hero. When you disappear for 10 minutes to the garage to find some tape, no one will notice that you spent most of that time watching Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins dismantle the ‘Cuse secondary. Light those candles, sing like you mean it. Then slip away to see Tennessee fumble it away in OT while Grandma’s scooping ice cream.
You’re World’s Greatest Dad and your fanhood remains intact. Happy Birthday, indeed.