Disclaimer: I'm getting a bit tired of reminding you that I don't own NCIS at the beginning of any story. It's a free website and I'm obviously getting no profit from writing any of this, so it seems rather pointless anyway.
Summary: Tony DiNozzo wouldn't miss watching 'The Granddaddy of Them All' for anything, even if that means he needs to explain the game to his partner.
A/N: This story is mostly just an opportunity for me to write about the superiority of The Ohio State University Buckeyes, and also to attempt to explain the cultural significance of college football to my non-American readers (with an Ohio State bias, of course). But it's mostly the Ohio State thing. And to any Ducks fans... sucks to be you :)
NCIS Special Agent Tony DiNozzo didn't know what was worse—his hangover from the New Year's party at a former frat brother's house the night before, or the way the Buckeyes were currently playing football, if 'playing football' was a phrase that could be used to describe what was going on at the screen.
"Oh, come on!" he shouted at the aforementioned screen as the Ohio State player fumbled another ball, the rest of Georgetown's Rhino Pumphouse and Bar giving similar reactions. "Another beer," he said, directing that at one of the two busy-looking bartenders, holding up his now-empty glass. She gave a quick nod as she grabbed another glass and filled it from the tap.
"And just how many of those have you had?" He almost tossed the fresh beer in his hand in surprise, managing to avoid losing all except a few drops that trailed down the sides of the glass to soak his fingers in their sticky goodness. He quickly turned around—well, as quickly as he could in the standing-room-only bar, surrounded by over a hundred people in scarlet and gray—to face his partner, wearing an amused expression on her face. It took him a few seconds longer than it should have, but he recovered, giving her an almost-teasing grin.
"And just what are you doing here?" he asked in return, ignoring her question. "Are you studying for the 'BCS Bowls' section of your citizen exam?"
"I do not even know what that means," Special Agent Ziva David replied calmly as she gestured for a beer.
"Bowl Championship Series… Never mind, that'll take too long to explain, 'cause it's actually pretty redundant." Judging by the loud groans filling the room around him, he missed another botched play while talking to her. "And now you're making me miss my game," he accused.
"I did not make you do anything. As you often remind me, I am a probationary agent and thus do not have any actual authority to do anything."
He opened his mouth to respond, but found that he had nothing to say to it. "Well, yeah," he said lamely, and knew by Ziva's smirk that she knew she won that round. "Now, pay attention, because I'm not going to waste my time explaining it over and over," he said, indicating one of the many TVs in the room. "We're cheering for the Buckeyes—"
"Thank you, Tony, I would not have been able to figure that much out on my own."
He grinned at her sarcastic reply. "Now, Probie Ziva, what have I told you about interrupting me?" he teased. "What I was going to say is, Ohio State is the champion of our conference, the Big Ten, which is actually a bit of a misnomer, because there are eleven schools in the Big Ten—Alright! Go, go, go… That's what I'm talking about!" He was grinning as he turned back to her. "That was a good play. Not a touchdown, but a hell of a lot closer than we had been. Now, where was I?"
"The eleven teams of the Big Ten."
"Ah, yes. That's not important. The other team, with the green jerseys, is the University of Oregon Ducks, the champions of the Pac-10—ten colleges on the Pacific coast. They became Pac-10 champs when they beat Oregon State University at the Civil War—"
"I thought the Civil War was fought in the 1860's?" Ziva asked, now thoroughly confused. She took a long swallow of her beer, wondering if alcohol helped make this make sense.
"Well, yeah," he admitted. "But the Civil War I'm talking about is the game between University of Oregon and Oregon State University. I was actually rooting for the Beavers—Oregon State—because one, they're not as good of a team, and two, then the Rose Bowl would have been between OSU and OSU."
"So this game is a big deal, then?" The question was partially in jest, because she knew it would leave him flustered, and partially out of curiosity, because this whole phenomenon of college sports was like a subculture that fortunately was not on the citizenship exam.
"Is this game a big deal? Is the Pope Catholic, Ziva? Is the Earth round? Is Woody Hayes not a god among men? Is this game a big deal?" She took another drink from her glass, mostly to cover the smirk that was now on her face. "Well, I wouldn't really expect you to know that last one, but yes, this game is a big deal. It's the granddaddy of them all." She rolled her eyes at that. "No, really. That's the tag line of this game, 'The Granddaddy of Them All'. It's the oldest of the BCS bowl games, played for the first time in 1902 and every year since 1916. It actually used to be called the East-West Football Game, back in 1902, but we don't really talk about that first Rose Bowl game."
"Was one of the teams the University of Michigan?" Tony's eyes narrowed to that. "We have worked together for more than four years, Tony. I have learned that when you do not talk about a football team, it is the University of Michigan football team."
"Well, at least you're learning it right, then." Ziva rolled her eyes again as he was distracted by what was either a poor play by Ohio State or a good one from the University of Oregon, judging by the look of anguish on his face and the groans of the people they were crammed amongst, and remained distracted until someone turned the sound off from the televisions at the appearance of the Oregon marching band at halftime, to instead play what she recognized as the Ohio State fighting—or was it just 'fight'?—song, which many people in the bar sang along to in a horribly-pitched and almost drunkenly incoherent manner, and she was beginning to think this entire game was designed simply to allow spectators to get drunk. "We actually started tonight pretty strong," he said, resuming his instructions. "We got a touchdown pretty early in the first quarter and a field goal not too long after that. Oregon got pretty close to their endzone at the end of the first quarter and I thought they were going to have a touchdown early in the second quarter, but they ran out of downs by not being able to catch the ball in the endzone."
"I do not think I understood half of what you said," Ziva admitted, draining her first beer and calling for a second, which arrived just as the sound was turned back to the television when the Ohio State marching band took the field.
"Yeah, and it would probably take too long to explain," Tony said. "Anyway, right before you got here, the refs called a touchdown to Oregon for someone literally reaching the football across the endzone line after he was already tackled. It's sixteen to ten now at the half with Ohio State leading."
The teams retook the field from the marching band, which Ziva did have to admit to herself was pretty good, both musically and in their ability to make designs on the field while playing, and Tony continued his education about the game of football as the second half of the game commenced. Between his explanations and judging the reactions at various plays, she was actually getting some of the points of the game, which wasn't as complicated as she thought, once she actually paid attention. She did still have questions, though, such as why so many of Oregon's plays were reviewed—to which Tony replied simply, "Because their coach is an ass."—and why both teams kept going for field goals instead of touchdowns, which were worth twice as many points. Tony didn't really have a good reply to that one, but he did cheer for about two minutes solid at one of those field goals.
The game ended a few minutes before 8:30 pm, right after the Ohio State Buckeyes scored a touchdown to bring them to twenty-six points, to the University of Oregon Ducks' seventeen. "Why are they stopping?" Ziva asked. "There is still more than thirty seconds on the clock, which I have realized usually means about five minutes of real time."
"Because it's impossible for Oregon to win," he said gleefully, not really explaining the remark. "First bowl win in four years! Terrell Pryor, you really did it. I'm sorry I doubted you for those middle two quarters." He continued to talk to the television, and Ziva rolled her eyes and ordered another beer, wondering if maybe she should switch to something stronger.
It was probably an hour after the game ended that they finally left the bar, after a few celebratory rounds of shots and introductions to so many of Tony's fellow alumni that Ziva knew there would be no way of keeping them straight. Besides, most of them were drunk middle-aged men wearing red jerseys, so it's not as if there was anything distinguishing about any of them.
"So this is where you disappear to every Saturday in the fall when we are not working," Ziva commented, nodding toward the bar as they walked up the sidewalk in the direction of Tony's apartment, which was almost a mile away in the biting cold wind. Ziva was about to suggest hailing a taxi, but without saying anything, Tony switched which side he was walking on, blocking most of the wind from her.
"Pretty much," he nodded. He turned to face her, an unreadable expression on his face. "If we're still on speaking terms next September, feel free to join me. After a season or two, you'll forget there was a time you ever failed to understand football."
She gave a laugh she didn't quite feel, still stuck at the 'if we're still on speaking terms' comment, which she knew she earned. She hadn't exactly been the best friend—or even partner—to him in the course of the last year, and it was only in the last couple of months that she began to realize how empty that left her and for how much she missed hearing him joke around, even for how annoying he was when he was doing it.
As he unlocked the door to his apartment and began his roundabout way of offering her a place to crash for the night so she didn't have to face the cold again, Ziva decided that after watching her first-ever Rose Bowl, it was time for her to follow another American tradition, and made her first-ever New Year's resolution: that this year, she was going to be a better friend and partner than she was last year. And with how low she had set that bar during 2009, she figured it was an easy enough resolution that she might actually keep it.