THE FIRST two weeks of the football season have reinforced an awful truth: My family doesn't care about the Eagles. They care about junk food. I've carried that secret for years, but I refuse to bear the burden alone anymore. It's become much too heavy, so I'm laying it at my readers' feet. Now maybe my family can begin to heal.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I'm naive to believe that they'll change after all these years. In LaVeta's case, you're probably right. But it's not too late for the children. There's still time for them to see the light. Maybe I can get them to succumb to positive peer pressure by convincing them that the cool kids are Eagles fans. Maybe in five years or so my son will meet a hot girl who's really into football. Maybe in 10 years my daughter will take up a career in sports science. Then I can finally have real father-child conversations with them - you know, talks about the spread offense.
Until then, my life as an Eagles fan must go on. I must watch the games. I have to read the articles. I need to learn every shred of information about the team. That way I can call other fans idiots while listening to their inane ramblings on sports-talk radio.
More than anything, though, I need someone with whom I can watch the games - especially the late ones. That's the situation I was facing in Week One, when the Eagles were on Monday Night Football. So, with the wife and kids uninterested, I turned to our cat, Styx.
The results weren't pretty.
The adventure started when I invited Styx into the living room, a gesture that interrupted her usual night routine of hanging out in the basement. As she lounged on the floor, I went upstairs and closed the bedroom doors - you know, so she wouldn't run upstairs and wake the family when I started yelling like the crazed fan that I am.
For the first few minutes, everything seemed to be going fine. Styx settled down next to the couch and stared at the TV. She looked at me curiously a time or two as I gestured at referees and shouted at players. But when she figured out that the guys on the screen weren't doing anything food-related, things began to change.
She walked in front of the television once or twice. She ambled into the kitchen. She hung out in the dining room for a little bit. By the time she came back to the living room, the Eagles were rolling. LeSean McCoy was running in for yet another score. Eagles fans everywhere were rejoicing. The hype machine was about to spring into action.
None of that mattered to Styx. The guys on the screen who were running, jumping, catching and tackling did not have food, toys or catnip. Therefore, they were irrelevant, as far as Styx was concerned.
Unimpressed by the bright lights and vibrant colors on the screen, Styx strolled upstairs. I turned down the TV so I could listen. I heard her meow once or twice, and if I were a betting man, I'd wager that she was saying, "Someone get me away from this maniac. He's trying to force me to watch things that don't involve feeding me."
That's when I knew. Styx is just like LaVeta and the kids. She doesn't care about football, only food. The difference? Styx is much more ruthless about it, because Styx is from the streets.
LaVeta and I have often imagined her meowing the lyrics to the 1979 Randy Crawford hit "Street Life." "'Cause there's no place she can go. Street life, it's the only life she knows."
At least that's the way Styx sees it. Why else would she forgo the luxury of watching an Eagles game in high definition on a big-screen TV? Why else would she refuse to meow even as Shady McCoy was running in for a touchdown? Why, other than her allegiance to the streets, would she refuse to pledge allegiance to the Eagles?
I'll tell you why. Styx is a cat, that's why. But she'll wise up, because next time, I'm going to do what I have to do to make her watch the boys in green. That's right. I'm going to give her some food.
By the time I get finished with that cat, she'll be meowing the lyrics to the Eagles fight song and doing her own little touchdown dance. She'd better, because she's my only hope.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.