The Calvinbowl

Matthew has been asking me to play “football” in the living room lately. His end zone is the back door; mine is the couch. The goal is still to get to one’s own end zone with the ball, but the similarities end there.

His version of football is more like Calvinball; the following are some of the assumptions he’s been playing under or rules he’s been forced to introduce when his chips were down:

1 – To score a touchdown, he need only throw the ball and hit his end zone; I need to fall onto mine while carrying the ball. Most of the times I do this, the touchdown doesn’t count. If it does, it’s worth a point. His touchdowns are worth anywhere from 3-6 points.

2 – If he touches me, I’ve been tackled and have to surrender the ball immediately. I’m not allowed to tackle him, although I am allowed to tickle him. I’m also allowed (and encouraged) to pick him up and drop him onto the couch — but that doesn’t count as a tackle and it doesn’t score anything for me; it merely makes him giggle.

3 – When he scores, he immediately gets to hike the ball for another offensive series; if I score, I have to let him hike the ball for his next offensive series.

4 – When he is hiking the ball, I’m not allowed to assume a defensive crouch — I’m to stand back, roughly half the distance to his goal. Additionally, I’m to stand with my legs spread apart, so that he can duck through them if he needs to. In fact, I’m to walk with my legs spread apart, so that he can duck through them if he needs to.

5 – He often needs to.

6 – Halftime occurs when I can’t catch my breath; it consists of me opening a snack for him to enjoy before I sit down to rest. The game ends at bedtime or when I concede.

I’m sure there are more; I’m feeling a little absent-minded due to multiple concussions and a leg injury that occurred when I landed on the couch with my shins sticking partially over the end — not quite far enough for my knees to bend and let them dangle safely — and he landed on them in a tackle that he deemed as “fair” upon review. To top it off, during one play, he threw the ball at my face from about two feet away — my own Marsha Brady moment.

Still, I sensed an opportunity to let him sneak in a score — something that cracks him up. He gets a huge kick out of thinking he fooled me, like when he points behind me and shouts, “Look, Dad — a monster!” Then, when I turn to look, he runs for his end zone, taunting me with his laughter. So I figured I’d play up my injury, just to give him the satisfaction of scoring when I wasn’t looking. I dropped to my knees, put both hands over my face and moaned, “Oh, my nose, my nose! Boy, I hope Matthew doesn’t score while I’m out of commission!”

And did he? Nope. Instead, he continued to throw the ball at my now-covered face, laughing the whole time. Good thing our ball is nothing more than an old balloon. That’s one Calvinball stipulation that worked in my favor.

About Dan Bain

Dan is an award-winning humorist, features writer, emcee and entertainer from Raleigh, NC. His collection of humor essays, A Nay for Effort, has earned him fans from one end of his couch to the other. Why not join them and buy one? (You won't have to sit on his couch.) Dan will donate 10 percent of the book's proceeds to education. You can check it out at; thanks!
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