The camaraderie, the devotion to team work and touchdowns, the knee they take when a man is down. My perspective in regards to this sport has shifted radically in the past few years. Football helmets clanking still sends a chill down my spine, though.
Friday night lights. The sea of Cardinal supporters in red, black and white band us together. The fan club solidarity feels nice.
My son practices hours and hours each week. He breaks bread with his teammates before the games. They watch film and work out early morning, the next day after a game. I fed them last night, all 85 of them. They ate in silence and came back for thirds. They thanked me and the other food trough parent volunteers, repeatedly. My daughter, my player's twin, baked them brownies. They couldn't believe their luck. More thanks. These kids are kind and gentle, until they don the helmets. And then they are badass boys with numbers sewn on their backs.
I worry about my son's beautiful mind. And his team mates minds. I blocked, for years, any interest in the game of football, because I was certain, the sport would compromise my child's brain. And then I talked to a man. And I watched a man. Both encouraged the turn of the slow ship of judgey me around.
Now, what I witness, is love. Devotion. Brilliance. Grace. Mastery over plays. Instinct and Intuition. I see greatness. My heart fills up full of love and admiration watching these young men express unabashed glee when a teammate struts across the goal line. When a catch is made complete. When they gain extra yards and downs. And when a man goes down hard and struggles to get up, they all go down together, no matter the color of the jersey, offense or defense. They take a knee. They all wait until the player is tended to before the play resumes. This collective honor of another player breaks my filled up heart, just a little, each time I witness this lovely humble gesture. They get up and secure their chin straps and begin again.
My anxiety over the potential head trauma inspired my narrow perspective. Football bad. My reptilian scared out of my wits mind negotiated this judgment. Fear restricts our perspective. IQ points evaporated when I used to watch the game. My fear paralyzed my possibility to enjoy the passes and plays. Something had to change in me or I would be miserable while my son played his favorite game. I had to come to terms with my resistance. I needed knowledge to open me up.
I had some last minute forms to bring to the coaches, so I came to a practice. The players and coaches were all busy with their specified stations and trainers. I decided to observe what these boys did to prep for a game. Helmets were off. The coaches encouraged good sleep, good manners, dedication to the plays and each other. They emphasized safety, over and over. These men reminded the players that the base line concussion tests were happening that day. There would be no play for the ones that did not participate in the new safety standards. These guys are parents too and they want the players safe, just like judgey me. I feel very lucky I witnesses this practice. The ice in me slowly melting once I felt safer. Felt he was safe.
Thankfully the football world and the medical world have teamed up to have base line concussion checks. My kid cannot play unless he follows the new standards of brain care. If he sees stars, he is out. That's it.
I sat next to a remarkable man at a fancy dinner years ago. He seemed stoic and a little arrogant. Handsome as all get out. Instant crush and then he mentioned his son played college football. And that he had too. I was betting this guy inches from me was a quarterback. I have never sat by a real QB before. They kind of all have that Look. I am thinking, "what the hell are you thinking dude?" Are your neurotransmitters still working for you? The likes of your flesh and blood could end up conked out for life if he gets smacked hard enough. And maybe you aren't playing with a full deck, either. Why is it such fun to throw a ball and smash into other guys? I do not Get this stupid sport. Shit, I need to calm down. I catch myself. These thoughts nearly launch out of my mouth. Instead, I share that my son plays ball too, his first year tackling his mates. I made him play flag football before, since I am scared (two glasses of wine) that his beautiful mind may get compromised, I add. How do you stay calm and enjoy the game when the helmets clank? That sound is so unnerving. He looks at me calmly and responds, I too am scared each time my son plays. I have concern that his mind, that his body may be comprised. He loves the sport, though. It has shaped who he is as a young man. There are many good things about playing on a football team, Kay. Just be open to them.
I did decide to be more open after that chat. Open to the glory of the game rather than the potential gore. I needed a perspective shift. I got it. Thanks handsome quarterback man sitting next to me that night. Thanks character building, prowess building coaches that have tucked my son into their teams. Thank you, Coach Paris for seeing each of the offerings these young men bring to the field and utilizing their gifts. You are an impressive conductor to this great symphony of varying talents. I am grateful for the phenomenal care and dedication you unconditionally bestow upon our boys with clanking helmets.
We are 7-0 this season. Exciting to witness the successive wins. I sit a few rows up so the clank is dimmed and I can relax a bit. I take a knee to honor this game that has finally captured my heart.