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. But....it 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...