On football and life


I went to listen to Steve Almond discuss his newest book called Against Football. It wasn’t so much that I am a passionate hater of football. More precisely, I was wondering what a former fan of the game had to say about how he arrived at the topic. Steve is a talented writer who has really forged his own creative writing path. I knew this book was not a diatribe in the formal sense….I knew it carried some weight. What he said was that it really came down to the fact that he was ashamed of his love for the game despite the growing evidence that football harms people for life and that the industry itself does little to protect those who play it. Furthermore, he said, “We need to write about what brings us shame.”

This stopped me so much that I scribbled it in my notebook.

I looked up the official definition. Ashamed: embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations.

I started thinking about all of which I feel shame for–times when I did not speak out are only the tip of the iceberg for me. Here is an incomplete list:

  1. Yelling at my kids.
  2. Leaving the house when I am angry.
  3. Digging up the past
  4. Forgetting my parent’s anniversary.
  5. Being overweight
  6. Watching my daughter get sick and not being able to stop it.
  7. Asking my husband to interview for a job that did not deserve him. He made himself vulnerable by admitting to some problems he’d had and they did not treat him with kindness and if I think too much about this, it still can make me sick.
  8. Believing in feminism while I stay home to raise kids while my husband is the primary breadwinner.
  9. Having a garden but buying Quick Trip pizza because I wanted a night off.
  10. Sending my son to Boy Scouts though they don’t really support gay rights as a national organization.
  11. Not attending funerals of people who were important to me to important to someone I love.

I am not saying these make sense. I am only saying that my shame comes from something not ringing true for me in each of these things.

So Steve got me thinking about how shame arrives when what we believe and think and feel does not line up with our actions. One of the speakers I heard last weekend said this very thing. She was discussing living a life of integrity. When what we do and say and believe all line up, we are walking in that sweet spot. Something wasn’t ringing true for Steve and that is when he began his closer examination of football, it’s culture, and so on.

And yet walking with integrity at all times is hard. I mean, I don’t think it’s always hard. I just think that our world has really gotten haywire- we trend, you know? There is a trend and we jump on or off ,and we just don’t really think it through. Everything has become so political- food and football and feminism and religion and school. Somehow it ends up being a right or left thing, and yet isn’t all just a human thing?

We are full of dichotomies.We are black and white and grey. And I mostly feel grey. I have rarely drawn a hard line in the sand for anything. It was my biggest struggle as a teacher and lately, I have had to develop a hard line for my son. He’s in a phase where his tone toward me is less than respectful. I simply cannot tolerate it and because I love him more than anyone I want more out of him. He needs to be constantly corrected and there are ramifications for him. I want him so badly to see how he hurts me and then get it so he simply stops.

But lessons are hard to learn and they keep coming at us until we get them and I am not in charge of his time frame. I want to be and that is my lesson. My impulse is to feel shame for his behavior and yet, it is his behavior and not mine. I can teach and he can learn…or not. His behavior does not fit into the life of integrity I wish to live and yet all I can do is stay the course and pray that he will join me.

I admire Steve for just plunging in and investigating and trying to go forth in a way that speaks of integrity for him.

That is our journey, right? To figure out a way that rings true to us and for us and deep inside us and then, have the courage to live it.

Who knew I would get all that from a brief talk about football? But lessons are everywhere if we are paying attention and I guess that is just part of it……paying attention.