Let Football Teach You
As I passed the TV room on my way to the kitchen the other evening, I caught a glimpse of my two guys, father and son, side-by-side in our big armchair. They sat immobile, staring at the television, identical expressions plastered on their faces.
"Aaaah!" my husband yelled suddenly, shaking his head as if he'd just been notified he'd won the lottery - but lost the winning ticket. "You see that, Daddy?" my almost-three-year-old asked, pointing at the screen wildly. "That man is bad! Bad!"
After witnessing this exchange I didn't need to look at the calendar to see what day of the week it was, nor did I need to look at the screen to see what my fellas were watching. The answer was obvious. The day? Monday. The show? NFL football, of course.
The football gene
I don't know which gene carries the football trait, but I do know Benjamin inherited it and it bypassed me. How else can I explain his seemingly innate fascination with - and my allergic reaction to - all things Astroturf and pigskin?
This kid who can't sit still long enough to get his hair cut can somehow remain fixed through four quarters of a game that would have even Bob Costas squirming in his cushy press box seat. Benjamin learned to count using the yard markers on the field as an abacus. And, unlike a normal child who wants to avoid a "time out," when he senses he's pushed me to my limit, he begs me not to "give him a penalty."
At first I was less than pleased to see my baby turn into a miniature couch potato - a tater tot, if you will - each Sunday afternoon. Despite all that Lycra, football has never been among my favorite sports. To give you an idea of its relative place in my life, I'd rank sitting through a game somewhere between regrouting the bathtub and watching reruns of C-SPAN.
Lessons to be learned
I was also concerned that the games were teaching him that violence is an acceptable way of life, that heroes are guys who weigh three hundred pounds, drive Lamborghinis and make millions of dollars for working half the year, and that women's role in life is to stand on the sidelines in skimpy Vegas showgirl outfits and cheer on their men.
Rather than letting my own tastes influence his, though, I decided to look at the sport with more of an open mind. After all, as my husband constantly reminds me, sports - football included - can be teaching devices. For instance, the world of professional sports can demonstrate the value of teamwork and the rewards of dedication, as well as how to negotiate multi-million-dollar contracts and endorsement deals - skills any American child needs to survive in the 21st century.
So, after interrogating my husband about the ins and outs of the game, I came to the conclusion that Benjamin's viewing time was actually helping ready my son for his future. It won't be long before he's sent off to elementary school, and football can prepare him for this transition.
Therefore, in honor of the educational qualities of football, I'm proud to present the following list: "All I Really Need to Know about Kindergarten I Learned from Football."
- Who's in charge: The person with the whistle around their neck calls the shots.
- Paying attention: If you don't listen to the coach - or teacher - don't be surprised to find yourself on the bench.
- Being careful: Stay inside the lines.
- Small but Significant: A few inches can make all the difference when you're going for that first down - or if you're the shortest kid in the class.
- Preparation: It's not a good idea to throw anything unless you're sure someone else is ready to catch it.
- Chalk talk: When they write on the blackboard, pay attention: It's important.
- Avoidance: If someone starts to chase you, run. In the other direction. Fast.
- Order: Lining up the right way saves a lot of grief.
- Improvement: Sometimes progress is a matter of two steps forward, one step back.
- Humiliation: The time you really screw up big will be the time the whole world is watching.
Though you won't find me holding fifty-yard-line season tickets, I won't Stop Benjamin from becoming a fan - or, in his teen years, a player. I may not be able to tell a field goal from a foul ball, but I wouldn't miss the chance to cheer my son on. I do, however, draw the line at the Vegas showgirl outfit.
Even a mom's got to have her limits.