William PerryOctober 14, 2009
I don’t feel like talking about baseball again just yet, so let’s talk about something else. This William Perry card is one of a few football cards I own. They all came as a group, along with some basketball cards, at the end of a stack of random baseball cards given to me as a gift last Christmas. In the card, from 1991, the Fridge is midway through his storied career, looking relatively svelte, though his too-small helmet does look as if at any moment it may fly off his bulging head like a popped champagne cork.
The last two weekends I’ve probably watched more regular season football than I’ve watched in any two consecutive weekends since I was a kid, the first weekend because I was badly hungover and could not focus on anything else, and the more recent weekend because I had just watched my favorite baseball team go down in flames for the year and so stared at the television in a kind of shocked torpor. I don’t remember much of what I saw. Large middle-aged guys in suits behind a counter flirting with one another, followed by large young guys in uniforms wrestling. A debilitating injury or two.
Football players don’t stick out to me, but the Fridge was an exception. He was a good defensive tackle for a while, and in his first couple seasons, when I was a teenager, he was a pop culture sensation. (In the years since then he saw periodic aftershocks of his moment in the spotlight, though his days of TV appearances and boxing matches against Manute Bol may be over, sadly, as he now battles a debilitating disease.) In his brief, entertaining prime he appeared in national ads and TV shows in addition to his role in the Bears’ Super Bowl season and in their “Super Bowl Shuffle” video. His fame, which seems to have derived from his preposterous size (which wouldn’t stick out quite so much in the today’s game of ever-more gargantuan bone-crushers, I don’t think), his colorful nickname and boyish, bubbly personality, and his occasional hilarious but fairly effective cameos as a short-yardage rusher, climaxed with a rushing touchdown in the Bears’ Super Bowl rout of the Patriots. Who didn’t love the Fridge?
Actually, I didn’t love him at that moment, being a Patriots fan, but I’ve never cared enough about football to really generate any hate for anyone. That’s probably why I spent last weekend staring at the sport—it’s not riddled with any lacerating emotions for me. It’s not life versus death, good versus evil. I don’t know why baseball is. A few days ago I was talking about baseball with a friend of mine who has never been a big sports fan.
“Why does it matter to you that the Red Sox win?” he asked.
I couldn’t come up with a reason besides the circular proposition that it matters to me because it’s always mattered to me. I’ve been trying to imagine that it doesn’t matter to me when they lose. I’ve been reading more. I’ve been watching more football. Last night I rented a movie. I played my guitar a bit when the movie was over, and I haven’t done that in a while. Then, before I went to bed, I responded to an email from a friend of mine who is a Red Sox fan, and in the email I found myself arguing that the team was going to come back stronger next season, hopefully with the addition of a young, potent bat to the arthritic lineup. I found myself looking forward to next season.