Sunday, January 15, 2012

Dear NFL Sundays...

Ach. The Pack is out of the playoffs. I am battling the oddest feeling…one I have never felt before. I used to scoff at other people who took football so much to heart that they felt like crying when their teams were knocked out of the playoffs or lost the super bowl. But yeah man, I am totally sad.

Let’s rewind just a bit here, and let me tell you that this time last year you would not have heard those words come out of my mouth. I have never paid serious attention to football before this season. And yes, there are those of you who will say that I am just watching because the scenery is oh-so-good. I am not going to lie to you and say that Clay Matthews and Aaron Rodgers aren’t mighty fine to look at. But alas, like always (you should know me better)- there is a bigger picture for me when it comes to football, and I am not just here to tell you about my crazy crush on Clay Matthews.

Football has been in the background all my life- we’ll call it a major part of my life’s soundtrack. My family ardently loves the Dallas Cowboys- and any real, longtime cowboys fan knows how ardent that can be and it probably gives you an idea of what I learned to accept as normal fanfare (by this I mean defending your team to endless taunts and talking some serious crap)(and humility- the cowboys lost, a lot). I grew up with two older brothers and a single mom, and our mom would cart us to watch games at her friends houses all the time. I learned a few things from this- I seriously love the fanfare of football, and I love loyal fans (even if I don’t like your team, I love your loyalty). I love the camaraderie and solidarity of football fans. But I never really got into the game while my mom and brothers did- yelling at the T.V., talking stats, and making predictions. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this was something the three of them had (and still have) in common that I was just a bystander to. Then a few years ago my son started really getting into football too- I mean really getting into it, all of a sudden he was talking football-ese to my mom and my brothers. He has always been in some kind of sport, but I kind of considered it to be an extra-curricular thing- now I had this growing athlete who couldn't wait to watch and play football all the time. I thought it was cool, but just kind of let it be their thing.

So what changed?

It was kind of a perfect storm- it started at the gym. I can’t really stand to watch a lot of T.V. anymore. I rarely watch anything other than movies or the occasional T.V. show. So last summer I started watching ESPN at the gym because it was the only channel they offered that didn’t make me want to bang my head against the wall. I started getting into it, and it really got me thinking about athleticism in general. I have never been athletic. I love hiking, and I used to ride horses, but I have always been a more cerebral kind of person. I never really played any kind of organized sport. So being (oy) out of shape and hitting the gym regularly I started to see inspiration in watching these football players on ESPN. I am inspired by their strength. I want to be strong.

So then I started watching the preseason games. And when the season started my work started a weekly football pool, so I joined that too. Every week my mom, my son and I would make our picks- and though we never won, we totally loved it. Every week we would watch our teams (we both love the Chargers- but my son loves the Bears and I love the Packers) and before long I started to realize what this common interest was doing for us. We bond over a lot of things, but this time it was different. It was his interest first and he knows a lot about it, so I am always asking him questions and I know he totally loves it. During the games before I would almost always be reading (or doing homework while I was in school) - - we were in the same room but on different planets. As my son gets older (he is 12 now) our relationship has started to change a little bit, and I think football has come along at a great moment. Inevitably there are going to be times as he enters his teen years that he and I won’t see eye to eye, and I love that I found one more thing to bond over.

Reflecting on it like this I love that I can see that it was an interest he chose on his own- that kind of stuff is important to me. Now that I look at my mom and my brothers in this light, I can see what it did (and does) for them too. It doesn’t replace anything that is missing, but it gives us all a common interest. It's fun, and we love it.

It has given me some great opportunities to teach my son about conduct and good sportsmanship. We talk about the players and their public positions as role models, and how they use their positions for good. (Man, if you want a great story of how powerful a player can be as a role model- and incidentally a fierce single mom, huzzah Tricia Matthews- read/watch this story) My son is aware of which ones are out there helping in their communities, raising money for charity, and generally doing good. He also knows which ones aren’t- which ones are in trouble with the law or whatnot, and I use those ones as examples too- they are conversation starters that turn into good lessons.

~As the single mom of a son I am always conscious of positive male role models.~

So I love watching guys like Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Pack who have demonstrated SO many examples of good sportsmanlike qualities this season. I love watching Rodgers’ mom on ESPN say that he just wants to be a good man. I love watching the sportscasters on ESPN talk about what an awesome guy Philip Rivers is, or how much money they all raise for charities.

And I found another great resource for volunteer opportunities- NFL Play 60 is an awesome program that encourage kids to get off their duffs and get active- not only in their everyday lives, but also in their community. Pop on their website and put in your zip code to find some great stuff near you. Last weekend we volunteered at the Arizona Disabled Sports ‘Run, Walk, and Roll’. It was something I found on the Play 60 website, and it was beyond awesome to see my kid out there cheering on all of the athletes that participated. Play 60 is an awesome program- one that we have taken to heart in my house both as volunteers and as we have gotten more active together- together being the operative word. We are hiking and biking more, playing more, and have decided to start running. He plays on a flag-football team and will start tackle football this year. We will see how I handle someone tackling him, but in the meantime we are both inspired to get strong.

So here it is sports-fans. I love the NFL and I am here to pledge my loyalty to my own teams. All season I have been shy about it- I have said I am really just a fan of a few awesome guys on the team, and didn’t want to look like I was jumping on the Packers bandwagon. But I am ready to declare it now. I will always love the Chargers, because San Diego is my hometown, but man, I love the Green Bay Packers. Go Pack go. I can’t wait until next season.

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