Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hate the Players, Love the Game

Chapter 1 of the Big Fall Blowout was supposed to be about football and it will be, but it just didn't seem right talking about football as the NFL was busy crapping the bed, and then its commissioner showed up and took a dump in all of our beds also. Enough people were prepared to boycott the league that if they did, and three of their football-loving friends did likewise, the league might...oh who are we kidding. Nothing would have happened. But we spent so much time shielding our eyes from The Shield, we almost missed the creation of a brand new country in Scotland.
His sister is a fan :-) and, yes, they're called the Redskins. Why not?

I never considered boycotting the NFL. I watched a very large percentage of Pittsburgh Steelers games from 1981-1992 with my grandfather, so I'm emotionally invested. Also, my wife unofficially quasi-diagnosed me with some characteristics that, a generation ago, would have put me on the autism spectrum I'm naturally drawn to and often think in colors and numbers. Even if you hate football, turn on a game for five minutes and just watch the flying colors and numbers. I'm 39 years and still get transfixed. It's like a carnival. I'm not giving that up to try to teach my kids some lesson about how some football players do bad things, particularly when they watch the morning news with me every day anyway.

Let's stop acting as if we woke up three weeks ago and realized athletes can be jerks. Anyone who went to high school and didn't play a sport knows that athletes get their own occupancy lane in the school's halls. One year on the first day of school I unwittingly sat at the football players' table, and while they let me sit there that day, they advised if I showed similar audacity going forward, they'd use the top of my head to get to the hard-to-reach areas of the grossest toilet in the locker room. The quarterback of that team some months later punched me in the sternum during a lull in gym class, for reasons that were never fully discussed or vetted with me in advance. Fight or flight? Neither, both would get my ass even more kicked. Fight, flight, or stand there an pretend nothing much happened
but don't be so cool about it that you get hit again, then check when nobody's looking to make sure your entire chest cavity isn't hemorrhaging.

We of course encourage that horseshit behavior by paying hundreds of dollars per ticket or shrug when the school district spends its entire budget on Astroturf -- when teachers buy all the supplies for their rooms annually, with only the joke of a $250 IRS tax deduction as support. That $250 gets them through October, maybe. So I contribute to the mindset that allows all this misbehavior, no doubt. But I'll deal with that on my own.

All of the above contribute to my relative lack of enthusiasm when my older son decided he wanted to play football. Concussions, yeah, but what if he turns into the guy who punches his classmates for sport because he knows everyone will look the other way. What if he sees another kid in the halls and treats him like a piece of meat? (And, also, concussions.) I can't force him to not do something he likes because I worry about the type of person he'll become. I should let him do what he wants and accept the challenge that would come with molding him into a different sort of football player.
For now, there's no need to worry about all that stuff.  This kid dances in an odd, unidentifiable shape sometimes 10 yards behind his teammates, and his coach needs to corral him and remind him where to line up. When he gets the ball for his (league-mandated) carry per game, he usually rips off a nice gain, even when he stops in the middle of the play to ask his coach which way he should run. He sits the bench a lot, and usually plays satellite positions that don't get the ball. Normally I'd be all up in arms about this (aren't we supposed to just be teaching him the game at this age instead of playing to win?) but I'm ok with it here. If he's the last guy off the bench at this age, he's probably not going to have a long career. And he says he enjoys it, so best of both worlds.

Which brings all this back to the coach. On Opening Day, at the Parent Meeting, the league coordinator encouraged us parents who can't commit the time to coach but who'd like to get involved to "volunteer" with the team, mostly try to herd the cats and help the coach with whatever he needs. When I approached the coach about that after the first practice/game, he told me politely but flatly that he had an old football buddy helping him and didn't need any more help, then told me to sit in the stands and leave everybody alone. He probably thought I was one of those helicopter/hovercraft parents, and I'm sure there are thousands of coaches out there who would kill to have only parents who sat down and shut up, which is what we're doing. He didn't threaten to flush my head down a toilet or punch me in the chest, though, so it was a start.

Football. I love the game. I just can't stand most of the players.

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