Friday, September 28, 2012

Watching Football as a Father

I am having a rough start to what is normally my favorite time of the year.  From the end of the Super Bowl each season until the start of the new football season in September I go through the sports-viewing equivalent of hell as seven months of NASCAR, golf, tennis, 6-hour long baseball games, lacrosse and every other boring event is put out for my viewing displeasure.
I must say, I would rather read the vomit bag during a flight to Afghanistan than read the sports pages during this miserable 210-day ordeal.
So, this month should mean great joy for me.  College and NFL football is in full swing and the temperature here in Central Florida has fallen to a downright crisp 90 degrees.
And yet, I am not happy.  In fact, my stomach hurts and some of my thoughts about football are going through a painful evolution.
This is because, for the first time, one of my sons is playing organized football.    This is not his first time playing football, but for the past several years it has been confined to the backyard or some other field where he and his friends play a friendly game of tackle football.
Now he is the starting quarterback for his school's junior varsity team.  He is still playing on real grass.  He is still playing tackle football. is not very friendly.  In fact, it is often downright ugly.
Some of you might be thinking, "What a wimp you are!"  After all, football is supposed to be violent.  I know this.  I played six years back in Oklahoma and was good enough to get a couple of small college scholarship offers.  I was a running back and I loved the contact - all of it - even when it was brutal.
Yet, yesterday I stood there watching my son take a helmet-to-helmet shot that caused his arms to go numb.  He laid on the ground for what seemed like an hour before wobbling back to the bench.    He did not tell his coach about the hit to the head so the next thing I know he is back in the game.  I was not about to be one of "those parents" and yell to pull him out.  He had told me on the sidelines that he felt "o.k" and I figured he was done for the day. 
Three plays later he is on the ground again with an injured ankle.
Meanwhile, the other players during the game against a ......hold on to your seat....Christian school  were repeatedly flagged (and sometimes not) for late hits, unsportsmanlike conduct, facemask penalties and more.  They celebrated these late hits and then had the nerve to pray after the game.  Perhaps they were praying that they would not be struck down by lightening for being hypocrites.
Anyway, that night I was out in my game room flipping back and forth between the Ravens - Browns NFL game and the Stanford-Washington college game. 
More than once I saw huge hits - players getting "blown up" and the crowd went wild.
For the first time in my life I found myself looking at these fans and saying, "What are you celebrating?"
Maybe this is a bit of an overreaction but in some ways I wonder if we are not much different from the people who sat in the stands watching lions eating some unlucky fellow.
I welcome your thoughts...


  1. This is not new. My nephew was told to break the leg of the opposing football player who was scoring against his team and that was 35 years ago. It is currently headline news in Orlando and will continue as long as people feel the need to win.
    I have always been amused at how involved people become while watching sports. They yell at the TV and celebrate "their" victory, but I see no grass stains on their knees. Many fly flags of schools they never attended and cheer teams in cities they have never visited. They know countless meaningless statistics and are more attentive to the past days scores than any issues that truly affect their lives.
    It reminds me of people who are die-hard republicans or democrats. They support and cheer their team but have no idea what is really behind the players. They cannot debate the issues, but they are passionate believers in associating with a winning team and will support anything towards that goal.

  2. I truly feel for you.
    I saw an interview a few days ago with Christopher Nowinski who wrote the book HEAD GAMES, and it was really scary to listen to him when he talked about the serious injuries that occur on the football field.
    The book focused in the concussions and permanent injuries of the players.
    Also when young people play whose bodies are not matured it is even more critical to avoid injuries.
    I remember clearly when my oldest son was hit and did not get up immediately. Those few minutes he was laying on the field were like an eternity.
    But he loved the sport so much, and I am only thankful he had no permanent injuries.
    Many are not that lucky.
    I totally understand your concerns and you are not overreacting.
    You are a loving father who cares about the well being of his son, and that is how it should be.
    As to the hypocrites who pray after a game like this, that is another story in itself.

  3. I grew up in Busch Stadium wearing nothing but Cardinal Red. It's hard to have the same compassion for that sport being so far from home for so many years. In the recent decade I have grown to love the players of the sometimes controversial New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers. That said, the bounty scandal hit "close to heart" in our home. I'm glad to see the players fight for their rights and Goodell to (hopefully) realize he isn't control of a communist community. I think it is repulsive to see that it is in levels as young as the Pee Wee league, but aware that "rewards" for big plays have always been part of many sports. I do not feel that doing so with an intent to injure is in the minds of most players. They are trained to make big plays. Those cowards that continue to do so after the whistle are the ones I feel need to have harsher individual penalties.

    As a mother, my views on many things have changed, largely in tv programs and sporting conduct. I tend to be overly competitive but enjoy seeing my daughter just go give it her all - win or lose. Did I want to pounce the little girl that tripped my daughter as they started off in the Mile Race two years ago in track? Absolutely! However, I kept my composure, believing that it is truly the example we set that is a larger part of their outlook on life.

    I would venture into the political aspect, but will just simply agree with the above mentioned... I have to ensure my Fantasy league is set for tomorrow, thanks for the reminder!

  4. Hey, Nordic-Guy, if you could've seen the game you'd realize just how good a dancer this kid is - he had to scramble on nearly every snap and largely avoided being sacked. In fact, on the play where he was hit in the head it was a broken play and he scrambled for the first down. I thought his forward progress was stopped as he was dragged down by three or four opposing players, then another kid came in leading with his helmet to deliver the hit. In hindsight I think the officials could've avoided this situation by blowing the whistle when forward progress was stopped, but it was a judgment call.
    The bigger issue is the "win at any cost" mentality that pervades our world. Look at the issues behind the Wall Street mess in 2008 and you'll see the absence of business ethics, replaced by a mentality that blurs the line between smart business decisions and greed-driven opportunism. This mentality is painfully obvious in sport because the playing field is under the microscope of parents, coaches, and fans who all want success. That's why I was so thankful that your son's coach took time to explain to the team that he knew the scoreboard reflected a defeat, but that he thought his team succeeded in the most important category - character. The other team was flagged repeatedly for personal fouls, unsportsman-like conduct, and I think one kid was ejected. It would've been easy to get upset and seek revenge for those cheap shots, but that's not what builds character in young men like your son.
    The point is, if we don't teach kids to value character and to make wise choices when they're kids, how do we expect them to exemplify good ethics and wisdom when they're older?

  5. Proverbs 13:2
    From the fruit of their lips people enjoy good things, but the unfaithful have an appetite for violence.