Part of my life

IF I DID NOT have football in my life, I would be a broken, empty man searching for direction.

Go ahead and say it: that’s sad.

Wouldn’t be the first time that diagnosis has come my way following this revelation. At least I’ve come to grips with it. At least I own up to it.

When I was in high school, while watching an NFL playoff game that included one of my teams at a friend’s house, my friend’s younger brother burst into the living room to tell me his grandfather had just called to say he heard over the police scanner there was a chimney fire at my house.

“Aren’t you going to call home?” my friend asked as I looked back at the TV after hearing the news.

I stood up, then sat back down.

“It’s the playoffs, man.”

I KNOW I’M NOT the only man like this. If I were, incidents like Ray Rice’s domestic abuse and Adrian Peterson clearly beating his child would provoke a boycott of the league. Everyone says they care and I believe most fans do. But they don’t care enough to stop watching the NFL.

Process that. Digest it.

Everyone watched in horror Rice bet his fiancée senselessly in an elevator. Everyone’s heard about Peterson hitting his 4-year-old son so hard with a stick that it wrapped around his leg and hit him in the testicle. I heard something about Peterson stuffing leaves in his son’s mouth or something like that. Then Peterson goes and smokes dope while out of jail on bond – probably the worst time in a man’s life to smoke dope. Clearly, Peterson is a bad man after all. Most would agree, but few football fans don’t want to see him on the field.

I don’t watch the NFL to gain insight on how I should live my life. These guys aren’t role my models – they’re names and positions on my fantasy football team. They’re pawns that dictate my mood on Sunday afternoons. I don’t really care about them as persons.

STILL, I APPRECIATE what they bring to my life. Hope. Disappointment. Expectations. Excitement. Raw, unfiltered emotion. Amid the offseason when I have no football to watch, I become very dull and kind of just “blah.” I don’t get a bounce in my step at work on Fridays. I don’t smile on Mondays like I do after my Bills have a big win. I don’t bite my nails over a good Thursday night game.

Football’s also a bonding thing. I’ve found myself at social events with folks who are nothing like me. It’s tough to generate conversation, even awkward. What do you talk about? The weather? Work? Family? Those topics will work for a few minutes, but the weather is about a three-minute conversation and work and family aren’t all that reliable because I hate talking about work and my family situation isn’t like many others, which tends to yield something a bit heavy and “sad” for meeting a new people. Everyone can see through clichés.

But let’s talk about professional football. Boom. I have a friend for life – or at least the rest of dinner.

So remember this, non-football watchers, the next time you attempt to understand fans of the game. We’re not bad. We’re good parents, have jobs and try not to litter.

We just get really excited about something that doesn’t matter to you.

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