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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Love Letter to Football

William Shakespeare told us, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."  I know this to be true because every August, my heart aches for the return of my one true love:  football.

coal region football
High school football in Pennsylvania
Sports fill the entire calendar year, and I care deeply about many of them.  I close my law firm for March Madness.  I build my household budget around boxing pay-per-view events.  I skip church for early NASCAR races.  I've held parties for the Open Championship.  And I have nearly lost friendships over the MLB playoffs.

I am passionate about all those sports, but nothing stirs my emotions quite like football.  I am girl.  I never played the sport.  I grew up in a family of basketball and baseball players.  And yet, it is football that I have elevated to an almost unhealthy position in my life.

What is it about the game of football that sets it apart from all other sports?

First, there is the combination of brute force and intellect.  Football is an incredibly physical sport. Yet, at the same time, football is arguably the most intellectually demanding sport in the world.  The folks who read this blog because of the recipes may scoff at this notion, but anyone who has ever tried to use the more advanced aspects of NCAA Football or Madden know that I am right.  It is not just the coaches who have to engage in this high speed chess.  The players also need to be intellectually active throughout the game.  Football players literally speak a different language in the huddle.  Then they speak it again as they line up and react to the alignments of their opponents.  No matter how freakish the athlete, without the strategy from the coaches and the communication between players, there is no success in football.

cold football fans
Dedicated football fans
Football also captures the concept of commitment to team over self more than other sport.  Coaches in all sports preach that players should dedicate themselves more to the name on the front of the jersey than the name on the back.  But, in football, there are no individual moments.  Quarterbacks may get most of the glory, but they get no success without the toils of five offensive lineman and five other skill players.  Then of course, there are the eleven other men who play defense and rarely touch the ball at all.

Perhaps more than anything else, I love football because it is an appropriate outlet for manly aggression and competition.  America is a nation that was born out of a violent rebellion and grew up prizing rugged individualism.  We live in a society that grows increasingly shy about drawing bright lines and the manly virtues.  Not so on Saturdays and Sundays in the fall.  Two teams take the field, and it is okay to choose sides.  And, football is one of the last remaining places in society where it is culturally acceptable to admire one man or a group of men for physically overpowering another.  Those are liberating feelings.

As the calendar flips towards September, I am thankful once again for the return of my beloved football.

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