Ben brought his pads home for me to wash today. Smelly, dirty, grungy. It reminded me all over again how much I love football season.
Before I had boys, I could take it or leave it. But when I saw what the sport does to them; for them; in them. I fell in love with football.
As a tribute to the start of the season, and a salute to my wide receiver, here is my Philosophy of Football. The years have passed, but I still love it.
I spent my childhood immersed in football. My older brothers played. My dad whooped and hollered every time the Redskins were on TV. So being the mother of five boys, you'd think I would have had an inkling that football would be in my future. But I didn't. In fact, it wasn't until both Tiger and Matt decided to play one year that I became aware of the philosophy of football.
Tiger, my oldest, started his sophomore year and had summertime workouts five days a week. They were considered optional until August 1st, but the players who understood the nature of the game attended faithfully. By summer's end they had a week of two-a-days, then practice every day until 6 pm once school started. Matt, 10 at the time, also practiced five nights a week until the start of the season. And Ben has been arriving at the field at 6:30 a.m. for a couple of weeks now- in the summer. Football jerseys, I've concluded, are earned.
"I have played soccer, baseball and basketball," Tiger announced during his first week of practice many years ago, "but I have never seen such teamwork. I didn't even know it existed."
"How was it?" I asked Matt as he exited the field after an early practice when he was in middle school.
"Great! I wanted to tackle and be tackled. I got to do both."
"It feels really good to get tackled," added Cory, reading over my shoulder.
As a mother, I didn't get that. I still don't, in fact. But I have concluded that boys can learn a lot about life from football. Sometimes you tackle--hit hard but play fair. Sometimes you get tackled-roll with it and get back up. Stay focused, even when you're losing. Be a team player; push yourself beyond your limits. If you fumble--and you will--own up to it, then finish the game.
Football is a philosophy. It is a way of thinking that is steered by grit and tenacity, a state of mind that champions perseverance and determination. And football coaches speak a language that mothers just don't speak--or shouldn't speak, Tiger once said with a chuckle.
Putting my kids in football has cost me a little money and a lot of time. But the impact it has had on both my boys and myself is a fair trade-off in my book.
Football season means spending hours at the practice field, sometimes to only get a glimpse of your son playing at game time. It means muddy uniforms, many x-rays, and a lot of good old fashioned blood, sweat and tears.
Being a football mom has convinced me that my boys need to play at least a year of tackle football. Yes, we've had concussions, and an assortment of other injuries. But, in our family, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
A friend of mine once told me that when he was in boot camp, he compared it to playing football and it didn't seem so bad. Football is hard; it toughens boys up. Knocks the whine right out of them, I think.
And the philosophy of football is one that I want my boys to carry with them long after they've left the field.