BY CLINTON PAWLICK
Admittedly, bringing my own caprese salad to the Seahawks’ game might have been a bit much. But I am trying to embrace change and eat healthier. Not that a two-foot long hot dog is outside the realm of possible for me. I could probably eat two. But I’m saving my extra calories for barbecue in Kansas City. We’re going this year to an away game with our friends Chuck and Melissa, and I’ve vowed to eat barbecue at every meal. I figure if I eat strategically during the home games, my away game gluttony will have less outward effect.
“Are you serious?” Jen asked. She was looking at my little GladWare tray of tomatoes. These were a deep hue of almost purple, sprinkled lovingly with gray sea salt, adorned with basil from our single-pot garden, and dressed with an extra virgin, cold-pressed Italian olive oil from the tree Yvonne, Jen’s best friend, got me a couple Christmases ago.
“She didn’t get it for you,” Jen said to me. “It’s supposed to be for us.”
“Right,” I said. “You can think that, but we both know the truth.” I winked. Really, I didn’t know any truth. I just liked the little tins of olive oil that started arriving the following spring. When Yvonne gave us the adoption papers over the holidays, I thought it was one of those “do-gooder” intangible gifts. Like adopting a zoo animal or an iceberg. I didn’t think we actually were going to get something out of the deal. So I was surprised and grateful when this turned out to be a toy I could really play with.
I use it daily, and I didn’t see anything wrong with bringing a little taste along with me to our first preseason game. “Yes, I am serious,” I told my wife. “I read the regulations. You can bring your own food to the game.”
She shook her head. I watched her reach for her phone. “You’re not actually going to take a picture, are you?” I asked. Jen maintained silence and messaged my appetizer to our little group of Seahawks’ friends.
Change was all around on Friday night at Century Link. It wasn’t just me. Fans could take pictures of themselves in front of a giant Super Bowl XLVIII sign the Hawks erected under the northwest stands. Inside the stadium there were upgrades of a video nature with a few new screens and updated graphics on the scoreboard, which replaced the monochrome Lite Brite stuff from seasons past. Nothing dramatic, but subtle changes.
Even the Seahawks looked a little different. Not so much compared to their usual dominating home presence, but certainly when set against last week’s boring preseason opener against Denver, which had all the fizz of a flat soda. I was a little nervous at first on Friday night with the Chargers, but as the Hawks’ moved the ball downfield with confidence, my anxiety dissipated.
After Robert Turbin crossed the goal line, I reached into my NFL-approved clear plastic tote for the next course of my stadium meal — peppered turkey with arugula and deli mustard on a Macrina baguette. I was mid-bite when Jen said something weird. “Is that a woman?”
“I didn’t notice,” I said. It’s reflex and exactly what I’d say even if Ashley Judd sat down next to us, and I’ve had a crush on her forever. It’s my marriage protocol. Do not notice another woman when you are with your wife. It’s bad form and can only lead to trouble.
“Right there,” she pointed. “One of the officials.”
“I can’t tell,” I said. It felt like a trap, and even though I could clearly see Jen was correct, I refused to admit it. Only after she pressed again, did I acquiesce. “Might be,” I offered.
As I sat there finishing my Hawks’ Box (there were apricots, too, and a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square each for me and Jen), I tried to remember if I had read something about the possibility of female refs in the NFL. I hoped so. We now have female sportscasters and sideline commentators, which fact would have been inconceivable back in the “Leave It to Beaver” re-run days of my childhood. Now a network’s complement of men and women is de rigueur. I liked the possibility.
It’s what I emphasize to my boys. Be who you are no matter what someone else says. Find out what you love and pursue it against obstacles and criticism. Belief is a powerful thing.
Nick and I had had the conversation just days before He spends summers with us and the balance of the year in Texas with his mom. It’s my own imperfect situation. I have two children. Jen and I have none. And though she loves my boys as if they were her own, the reality remains. It’s something I cannot change. Opportunity for us looks different than what we had expected, but if we embrace what we have, I know our possibilities will grow. And we’ll demonstrate for Nick and Chris how to live well in spite of setbacks.
Nick and I were on the couch talking about everything from cello lessons to straight teeth. He’s about to enter seventh grade, and he’s learning the weight of societal pressure. It turns out that not everyone in his circle thinks playing an orchestra instrument would be cool. Boys just don’t do that. They go out for football. That’s why he has me and Liberal Bootcamp, the term I use for his Seattle summers. I insist that having your own ideas is better than following the norm. Be kind. Be yourself. And above all, be kind to yourself. Fitting in may be the easiest path. But if you are claustrophobic like me, it can be suffocating.
On Saturday, I searched the Internet for confirmation of what we saw at the game. And buried low somewhere in a world of tweets and comments were a few lines from Bob Condotta announcing that Sarah Thomas was the line judge in the Seahawks’ second preseason game. I was intrigued.
A former college basketball player and now a pharmaceutical sales representative, she has officiated football at the high school and college levels. This year she worked the Cleveland Browns’ minicamp. Along with Maia Chaka, she is part of an NFL developmental program, which could bring female officials into the regular season in 2015.
This is ground-breaking. I had never expected to see a progressive NFL. But as I continued my searches, I found more developments. Like W.O.N. Women Officiating Now. It turns out that the NFL presented a Women’s Officiating Academy in Charlotte, N.C., in July to encourage interest among females.
I like the way we are headed, and having a woman on the field as part of an officiating crew seems to me no more farfetched than having Earl Thomas returning punts. Both are plausible. So, here’s to hoping that Earl will run one back with Sarah saying he was in-bounds all the way.
Clinton Pawlick and his wife, Jen, live in North Seattle. They love the Seahawks, good friends, Washington reds, and their two cats, Malcolm and Ink Pot Pie.