Lessons Learned From the Game

We are deep into NFL Football Playoff Season, when every highlight, every victory speech, and every cooler of Gatorade poured is shown on the news, ESPN, YouTube, Instagram, and every other outlet. I always wanted to be a football player. When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was play football in our backyard. I still remember the names of most of the other kids–Lex, Kelly, Danny, Jason, Paul, Jerry, Steve, and David (and I’m talking @1975-1978 when I was 5-8 years old)–kids who were my age and as much as five years older. Notice that these were all boys! I was the only girl on my street and learned an early life lesson in keeping up with the boys!

My father had the nicest grass in the neighborhood, and we had a pretty sizable backyard, so everyone gathered to play football there on a regular basis. That was my first introduction to the game that my parents watched every Sunday while I played Barbies in my bedroom. Because it was my yard, I got to play whatever position I wanted, but looking back, I’m pretty sure the guys made up whatever position I played since I had no clue and was a lot younger than most of them! I actually do remember them giving me the ball sometimes, and I thought I was the biggest playmaker on the field. With a start like that, how could I not fall in love with the game?

By the time I was in middle school, I was a football watcher. Oh, how I idolized Tami Maida, whose story was told in the movie Quarterback Princess (starring Helen Hunt, 1983). I still remember the 1982-1983 season and the amazing Riggins run in Super Bowl XVII in which the Redskins beat the Dolphins 27-17. We even attended the parade in DC after the win. Our school principal, Sister Victoire, actually closed school that day so that everyone who wanted to could attend, a great lesson in knowing that sometimes learning from experiences is more important than learning in a classroom.

As a lifelong fan of professional football, I’ve made many observations of what happens both on and off the field. I think there are many aspects of the game that can be translated into life lessons for everyone.

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Football is Family

IMG_1217I’ve heard the question asked many times.  I’ve felt it in the disapproving looks and seen it in the shake of a head.  I’ve read it on social media in the form of memes and comments.  Many of my friends ask it.  “Why is a nice person like you so fanatical about a violent, physical game like that?”  I have to smile when confronted with the question.  You see, for me, it’s only partially about the game.  As the NFL has touted all season, “Football is Family.”

When I was growing up, most Sundays were for going to church, enjoying a large, family breakfast, doing homework, and perhaps seeing a family-centered matinee (or in later years, renting a movie).  But from the first weekend of August through the month of January, Sunday afternoons were spent with the Washington Redskins.  I grew up in a great era for Washington football.  In my younger years, there were Sonny, Charlie, and Ritchie; and in my teens, we had Joe, Riggo, Art, and the Hogs.  The team wasn’t always good, but it was always there, like family. Read more