Football season is here, which means that for the next several weeks – 90% of the male population of the US will spend an enormous amount of their “free time” watching games on TV (the bigger the screen, the better), attending football games (Friday=high school, Saturday= college, Sunday & Monday=Pro), and of course every day of the week they will be moaning,
groaning or crowing about their Fantasy League, uh, excuse me, in most cases – make that Fantasy Leagues… because it seems you can’t join just one.
Now, I grew up in a female dominated home – 3 women (mom, myself and my sister) and one male (dad, unless you count the dog…but he tended to be loyal to the person with the food in hand), and I have to admit, we did tend to make Dad as miserable as possible about his “obsession” with football. We whined and fussed every time he tried to watch a game, and sooner or later he would usually give up and let us watch “girl stuff”.
My first husband was never much of a sports fan, so for most of my adulthood, my exposure to football was minimal, but fast forward a few decades – new husband, new life…new lifestyle.
And suddenly I find myself in the midst of a VERY sports oriented family – with a particular emphasis on football. So, for the first time in my life, I found myself attending Friday night high school games, rooting for my stepson as he ran up and down the field, screaming at the refs even though I wasn’t always quite sure WHY I was screaming but hey! you do get caught up in the enthusiasm of the moment.
For 3 years, I never missed a game, through rain and snow, I bundled up and cheered the team on, sometimes to victory and sometimes to defeat. I grew to understand the game, and enjoyed being a fan more with every game. I clapped along as the team came to the home side after every victory and sang their fight song, and endured long, quiet rides home when they lost.
But – I never truly understood the “obsession” until my stepson’s last game in high school.
The game was over, the weather was cold and drizzly, the song was done, and the seniors walked back out on the field one last time, helmets in hand. They stood there, silently, exchanging hugs and pats on the back, and one by one, they knelt to one knee and just looked around, as the lights blinked out around the stadium.
The silence was deafening – and the emotion overpowering.
Most of these boys had played football together since the age of 9, practicing and playing as a team for long months every year, sharing bumps and bruises and injuries, big wins and bigger losses, developing a camaraderie that few women will ever experience.
And now suddenly – it was over. Most of the boys would never again don the pads and the uniform, never again be part of that team spirit. If you play baseball – you can play some form of it for the rest of your life, but football is over for most men with that last Friday night game in high school.
And so is born the obsession with all things football – it’s an ongoing quest to recapture even just a small piece of that team experience in high school, the closeness, the camaraderie that made it worth all the work.
In just a few brief moments that night, I suddenly understand the deep chasm left in these young men’s lives, the sudden emptiness in their hearts, and I felt sadness for a loss that I could never truly comprehend.
My stepson was fortunate – he now plays college ball on Saturday so the “last game” has been delayed a bit. I still don’t share the same enthusiasm for weekend football marathons as my husband and his two sons – but at least I find it easier to understand their passion/obsession, and that goes a long ways towards a peaceful, happy weekend at home.
Of course, having more than one TV has also helped….