The NFL ran a contest that ended this past week. They invited people to send in their story about why they love football. The grand prize was tickets to the Super Bowl. So what the hey, I took an hour and wrote a story to enter in the contest. Unfortunately for me, the online entry system didn’t work when I tried to enter my story. Oh well. It didn’t make it to the contest, but just so as not to waste it, I’m posting it as this week’s blog. If you are not into football I will forgive you if you skip this one. I have seen a lot of anti-football commentary among my leftist friends and acquaintances lately. I’m afraid I’m going to have to be un-PC on this one, folks. Here’s my little story about why I love football.
I am the most unlikely person to love football, but I do. I’m a pacifist vegetarian who never played team sports while growing up. I am hopelessly uncoordinated. I can barely open a bottle of aspirin without banging the back of my hand on a door. My friend Annie could beat me at the fifty-yard dash in elementary school and Annie was in a wheelchair.
How can I explain my passion for football? I have an obsession with the game. I don’t paint myself orange or dress up like a pirate. But I did once sit through a Raiders v. Chiefs game at the Oakland Coliseum in the pouring rain. It took me a year to save up for those tickets and I got to see Rich Gannon throw a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice in person. Usually I watch from the comfort (and economic austerity) of my own couch, curled up with my cats. Cats and football? You betcha. The name of my Fantasy Football Team this year is the Fluffy Kittens. And my cats think Sunday is the best day of the week because they can sit in my lap for long periods of time while I watch. Except for when I jump up and start hollering with excitement, of course. Then they go flying every which way.
I once heard a woman say that football is soap opera for men. Actually there’s some truth in that statement, because a big part of the attraction of football for me (even though I am not a man, ahem) involves getting to know the players, hearing about their career paths, their background, their accomplishments, and their lives. Knowing their personal stories makes their performance on the field even more inspirational. For instance, I imagine the challenges for Jay Cutler and his parents as they managed his diabetes so that he could develop his talent and become a professional athlete. And I admire Michael Oher for overcoming such extreme childhood trauma. When Tony Dungy became the first Black coach to win a Super Bowl, the moment transcended football.
In recent years, with the advent of Fantasy Football, the game has taken on a new dimension for me. Football has become a magnet for fun family time. My children have grown up and left home. My brother and his children live on the opposite side of the country from me. But on Sundays in football season, our family Fantasy Football league, called the Yabbadabbadoo League, is on. Ron and I (in NorCal) talk on the smack board with Yael and Akili and Akili’s fiancé Tina (in SoCal), my brother and his two young sons (in Pennsylvania), a teenaged friend of one of my nephews (in Massachusetts), and a nephew from my husband’s side of the family (in Baltimore). Football brings our family together across the miles, keeping the cousins close and giving us an opportunity to joke around with our grown children. Life is good, courtesy of football.
Seriously, I find infinite life lessons inherent in football. The game is a phenomenal teacher. As John Madden said, “Football is a game of inches.” In football, as in life, one never knows what hair’s breadth forward movement will tip the balance and take you to your goal. I love the drama of football, the passion that brought the players to the field, the commitment that keeps them there, and the effort that drives them to win. I can’t imagine life without it, but why would I want to do that?
Here is a photo of Akili on game day in 2012 with his kittens. He obviously inherited my propensity for combining cats and football.
And here is a picture of me at the famous “Concussion Bowl” when Colin Kaepernick started for the 49ers (against Da Bears). Alex Smith and Jay Cutler were both out (concussions) so we got to see the second string QBs and one of them happened to be Kaepernick. So this is a photo of me watching history in the making. I saw him throw his first touchdown pass to Vernon Davis ever live from the stands.