My name is Cristie, and I’m a football hypocrite.
I spent the better part of the weekend with football on every television in our house. I got a manicure during the Penn State game, watching the ticker obsessively to see if my beloved Mountaineers were victorious (They were!). I sat at dinner on Thursday with the rest of my family as we reveled in a Dallas defeat, because no matter how terrible our own team is, we all still love a Cowboy drubbing even if we do hate the Eagles.
I love football. Really, really love it. I hang a college flag on weekends, still follow my high school on the internet and hold dear the warm memories of those freezing cold Saturdays spent cheering on the sidelines for my classmates in CYO.
From an early age, I attended schools where football came second only to academics and even that placement is arguable at times. Football is in my blood. And yet…
I have two young boys, and I thank my lucky stars every night that they love to play soccer (the other football in this country). I worry that they’ll break bones and cut themselves wide open, but I rarely lose sleep over head injuries that may land them in a dumpster after having taken their own life, afraid they might be an embarrassment to me.
Quite honestly, I never thought twice about the brutality of the sport until I had my own potential pint-sized linemen, and then all I could focus on was how many times in one game a man’s head hits something else, hard. It was a no brainer (no pun intended) then for me to decide to keep my own two from the sport. Full disclosure, neither ever expressed much interest but when they have I have expressed my fears pretty openly. I am not sure though how much I could have stood against their desires if were much stronger. There are days when I am kinda jealous of my mom-friends who have their own Boys of Fall. If they really wanted to play, I may just have let them play. Luckily for me they chose soccer and I get to rest easy about their brains, barring the occasional header here and there.
But what do I do about my love of the sport? What about all the other sons of someone who have irreparable brain damage because of this game we all love? Can I continue to watch it when I won’t let my own children play? Can I get my boys (and girl) on the bandwagon and then turn around and tell them they can only watch? Can we all love it even if we know it may slowly be damaging people?
None of this is new. There are old timers with horror stories of crippling arthritis and injuries that keep them from living a normal life after their days are over. Lately though, it’s the brains that get ya. It seems everywhere you turn there is a new story of someone paying the ultimate price for their days on the field and some of them never even enjoyed and NFL salary.
I know from the press releases that flood my inbox that the NFL is trying to do something by educating youth coaches and parents alike about ways to make the game more safe. Is that enough? If not, what is? I know there are real problems in the world that should take up more of my mind. But right now, with a fresh new possibly- football-related death in the news, I can’t help but focus on this one. This football problem I have, it’s a big one and I’m here to call myself out on it.
I think I may just go count the days until baseball season.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.