After the meal we all ventured back outside. While in conversation with her father I was summoned by her cousins and uncles to join in a football game. Clad in a business-casual longsleeved polo, my favorite jeans, and the nicest pair of sneakers I owned, I was hoping that this game would be nothing more than "tossing the ol' pigskin around" or at worst a game of two-hand touch.
A full-scale tackle football game ensued. One that put me on a team with some pretty sizable men, but against my girlfriend, her father, and two brothers. If they didn't like me, they weren't going to get a better opportunity than this to prove it.
I volunteered to be quarterback, after no one else on the team seemed to be incredibly enthused about the prospect of doing it themselves.
My rationale was: I won't get hit as much, thus not ruining my clothes. Wrong. My other rationale was: It's an opportunity to showcase my athletic prowess in front of the future inlaws. Didn't matter.
I was hit almost every play. Brought to the ground frequently. My jeans suffered some intense grass stains. My shoes, which from the beginning of the game I had determined would be, like it or not, sacrificed, were indeed thrown before the altar of mud and the greenest winter rye. Rationale number 1: debunked.
I was still holding out for rationale number 2 though. During one possession I side-stepped a rushing uncle, cousin, neighbor, or mailman, I can't recall who, and bombed a touchdown pass downfield. As I did however, I heard the "rrriiiiippp!!" of tearing fabric and looked down to see the collar of my shirt had been nearly torn off by the defender. Awesome.
We didn't keep score, which was nice. It would've debunked my second rationale. But after many apologies about my shirt, I was no longer concerned about it. Laughter and trick-plays abounded. A couple of bruises later and hits which seemed to say "Welcome to the family, kid" and I was finally ready to call it a day... but they weren't. We played for another 30 minutes longer than probably anyone there wanted to, but it was a blast.
I can't recall many of their names, perhaps that was due to the number of times my head collided with a shoulder, the ground, or both, but I appreciated being taken in so warmly.
Next time I'll bring an old T-shirt and some lawn shoes, but I'll be ready.