red lobsterIt suddenly became fall this weekend. The kids in our building have returned to school (to the delight of everyone), the wind is blowing brisker, and walking to work this morning I saw that even the drug dealers and hustlers had on their new fall sweaters and sweatshirts – still with the creases running down the middle of their sleeves.

But the best part of fall is, by far, the football Sundays I spend with Ben. Yesterday was cool enough to close the windows half way and to slip on socks – by the time the first game started at one we had settled into our hoodies and nestled under blankets on the couch. We ate snacks and napped and read during halftimes.

The stakes were raised for the night game, however, when my New England Patriots played Ben’s San Diego Chargers. Not only are we both unhealthily emotional and competitive when it comes to sports in general and our sports teams in particular, but we usually also wager Things of Great Importance when our rival teams play each other.

Last year, for example, when the Patriots lost to the Chargers during the regular season, I had to buy Ben a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye. This year’s prize was even more coveted and precious – a dinner for two during the Endless Shrimp promotion at Red Lobster. That’s right – the winner would get to select from classics such as Garlic Shrimp Scampi, Hand-Breaded Shrimp, Shrimp Linguini Alfredo, or pick the more exotic Coconut or Buffalo Shrimp. All on the loser’s tab.

My Red Lobster “problem” started as a joke. Whenever one of their commercials came on, I would complain in a trashy and whiny voice that my boo never took me to Red Lobster even though there was one nearby, in the same mall as the Target and Mrs. Field’s Cookies. Then, perhaps also as a joke, we went there “on a date” one night and had a pretty great time eating shrimp and those delicious cheddar biscuits they give you.

On the train ride home, we sat next to some single girls who were obviously checking Ben out, and I did my best to hold my Red Lobster leftovers bag so that the Red Lobster logo was clearly showing and talk loudly about how my boyfriend took me to Red Lobster every weekend and obviously loved me very much. And about how I wasn’t lonely.

It was a night we wouldn’t soon forget.

So – as the Patriots and Chargers took the field, tension was high. The cool, setting fall sun glinted off of LT’s scary black visor and Tom Brady’s chiseled face looked especially determined and chiseled. I was worried that the Patriots were distracted by the cheating scandal of the last week (you can read about it in this great article that Ben wrote) and that the Chargers’ running game would be hard to stop.

But the Patriots opened with a 69-yard march down the field and didn’t slow down for the entire game. Brady looked good and determined and chiseled, Randy Moss looked as good as Randy Moss crica 2001, and the team in general looked filled with angry, talented vengeance. It ended 38-14, not so much because the Chargers look bad this year, but because the Patriots were doing so, so well.

But really, even though the Patriots won the game and I won the bet, there weren’t any real losers that night. Ben and I both got to watch three solid football games and on Friday we will both don a couple of autumn sweaters and eat equally obscene mountains of shrimp at our favorite sit-down chain restaurant.