“Football is like life - it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”
It’s easy to use the values in football or sports in general as a guide for the values in life. This stuff I already knew. But as I watched my son learn the sport from the bottom up, I have learned a few new things.
First my football background: I consider myself a modest, sometimes fraudulent football fan. If you are an avid football fan, you will see why soon enough. I like the sport in general; I enjoy watching it and playing as well. Of course, for obvious reasons I have never actually played except for tossing the ball around at the beach or in the backyard. I can throw a decent spiral with speed and accuracy (no real distance however) and believe this is a valuable skill to know although I haven’t personally needed to access it other than to have fun. (Both my children will learn: I have a friend who swears her husband proposed to her once he saw how well she threw a football!) The position my husband and his friends agree that is best suited for my athletic skill however, is wide receiver. Hey, they don’t call me PlaxiRO for nothing. (No, I do not bring loaded weapons to nightclubs.)
I have watched football since I was a little girl with my father. I learned early about downs, extra points, bad penalties, etc. Games were always on all day on Sundays and they still are even if just for the background noises-the rise and fall of the cheering crowds. The games stay on even through dinner. I was raised a Jets fan. (My father is a Jets, Mets, Rangers fan—tough goings I guess—I will save that for another blog post!) The Jets are therefore, by default, my team 1, but I will follow and cheer for other NFL teams as well.
Giants-I will always root for the Giants (unless they are playing the Jets).
Greenbay-I am fascinated with the Packers-their history, the Lombardi years, the extraordinary quarterbacks through the years, the fact that they are a publically owned team, the whole Wisconsin thing, and yes, the cheese hats.
Steelers: And then there are the Steelers, who will always have a special place in my heart. This is directly related to my childhood. I can still see that poster—they were known as “The Steel Curtain” (the original Steel Curtain): Mean Joe Green and three others were on it. They looked so mean and ruthless in the picture. But something about them made me think they were really good at heart-it was probably the Pepsi commercial. I remember liking Swan, Lambert, and, of course, Bradshaw who kind of reminded me of my best friends father who is a really great guy.
Saints-Finally, I like the Saints—I think their quarterback is nice and I love their colors. (Are you starting to see the “fraudulent fan” thing here?)
I will root against the Patriots, the Eagles and the Cowboys at all costs unless their win somehow helps the Jets in a playoff situation.
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This year, I have had a new opportunity to broaden my appreciation for football. My 6 year old, first grader started playing on a flag Pop Warner team. For those of you who know already, football is not just a game; it is a way of life. That’s what they more or less tell you at the big Pop Warner meeting held in the spring to give you an idea of what kind of ride you are in for. For the boys that suit up, vacations during the month of August are completely out of the question. Missing practice is highly frowned upon. In the summer, practices are 5 days a week, two hours per night. The commitment is serious. Our boys, the flag teams, practiced somewhat less, but still a lot for the age range: three times a week for two hours a night. At first, I thought this to be a bit much. I soon changed my mind. Honestly, the first two weeks were spent figuring out the mouthpiece (I officially went through 6 of them), how to do push-ups and jumping jacks correctly, and figuring out who could snap the ball and who could catch the snap. These same boys would actually have to start implementing and executing offensive plays in September; they can barely tie their shoes.
Amazingly, they progressed quickly (once the mouthpiece situation was under control) and they actually started to learn the plays and positions. Every practice was more than necessary. I think at one point, I started wondering why we weren’t practicing more. Taking the complex sport of football and breaking it down to its basic components and then teaching it to little ones is no easy task. Learning football through the children’s eyes from the foundation up helped me also learn a few more things about the game.
Here are my five lessons from football that are all also applicable to life:
1) There is a lot to know (about football and life)
2) There is a lot I don’t know (about football and life)
3) Never underestimate the little guy! (His strength and will comes from the heart: this is true in football and life)
4) Never fear the big guy (afterall, you may be the little guy that he is underestimating: true in football and life)
5) A play CANNOT be executed unless the offensive linemen BLOCK damn-it!
Regarding number 5- Of course I knew this. It’s that I did not appreciate it until I watched these little guys play. Providing your quarterback with exactly 1.27 seconds to catch the snap and run play Sweep 33 is simply not enough time. This is not meant as a criticism to our coaches or the kids. And it’s not for lack of trying. It’s just hard to do. Really, really hard to do.
Real football fans already know this. They recognize important blocks and tackles and know the names of these guys on the line who do it. I do not. Yet. But I am going to start paying more attention.
It is fundamentally clear to me that no pass and no catch and no run will happen unless those guys do their jobs. I apologize now for not thanking them enough. I have heard that football is the “ultimate team sport.” While soccer and basketball and baseball players may disagree, I can see the point clearer than ever before. This is a great example of how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
So how exactly can Lesson #5 be applied to life in general? We all need support systems to be extraordinary. Use them. Thank them. Appreciate them. And make sure we become a part of someone else’s support team. Yes, we already know this. We just don’t appreciate it or pay attention to it. Time to take a closer look. In the words once again of Vince Lombardi- “Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” Be a part of a team and contribute with all that you have. That is what makes the difference.
Thanks little Vikings- again. : )
More words from Vince Lombardi-
“Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist but football is only two things - blocking and tackling.” (This I now fully understand)
“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” (Heart matters most)
“The achievements of an organization are the results of the combined effort of each individual.” (Teamwork works)
“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.”
(I am hanging this one in my office!)