There Was No Football in My House.


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This past Sunday was Super Bowl XLVII.

The Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in what was considered by many as a game for the ages.    Not only did it have Sub Plots a plenty (will a scantily clad Beyonce lip sync?) but it also had conspiracy theories (Did the NFL – Union – Obama kill the lights at the Game? Did Beyonce flash a secret Illumanti code? Really…Google all of the above…). It was a game played to the very last minutes and the commercials were again over the top.

Annually, this has been a moment in the Masters’ household that takes on near religious significance, for we are a football family.  We are a Patriots Family.  We know and love football.

To stress that point, I have watched every single drive, of every single Patriots Game (Pre, Reg, and Post Season), EVERY SINGLE SECOND, since 1992.   That makes it twenty full years, this past season.   

As a father, I know it is my duty and Godly obligation, to be the provider, to attempt to be a moral compass, and to teach my daughters what good men and husbands look like.   I include the responsibility of passing on the Patriots banner to them as well.  I take my passing of the football torch seriously, and have threatened them with eternal haunting if they take a bad course (i.e.: becoming that dreaded Jets fan)

My girls know that we have rules in the house.   Those rules include living by your word, treating each other with love and respect, going out of the way to call out hate and ugliness that we see around us, respecting the divinity that exists at the core of our neighbors, and never, ever, ever, wearing Jets apparel in the house.    My girls know that they are free to discern their own faith, and their own dreams,…but if they become Jets fans they are out of the will, and will be shunned.  No questions asked.

My girls will happily tell you they are Patriots girls too.   They each have their favorite players, and they are often not who you’d expect.    My oldest chooses Danny Woodhead.   My littlest and wife love Vince Wilfork.  Me?  I give all my football affection to the Jedi Master; BB.

In my head I have marked major life events with specific games in almost a rain man like fashion.   I got married in 1994, and actually recorded the Minnesota Vikings game that played that week.   I was worried if I would have the opportunity to watch it during our honeymoon.   It was too early in our marriage to start pushing that envelope.

 Annie was born on September 1, 1997.    The world was mourning the loss of Princess Di and Mother Theresa, and the Patriots had beaten the San Diego Chargers 41-7, on opening Sunday (the day before), on what would be a fairly successful Drew Bledsoe QB’d team, that made it all the way to the Divisional Game before losing to the Steelers in a close 7-6 game.   It was Pete Carroll’s first season as our coach.

Sophie was born on December 23rd, 2001, the day after a Saturday Game, where the Pats moved in front of the Dolphins for AFC East Control.    This season was THE SEASON, and saw the emergence of a rather unknown quarterback with a huge chip on his shoulder; Tom Brady.   I have a Jersey signed by every single player on the roster that day…  It will eventually hang, framed and with honor, in that man cave of the future. 

I live and love football 365 days each year.    I watch the draft, and I am annually glued to training camps.   I study defensive and offensive schemes during the football-less months.   I read everything I can get my hands on, and enjoy the more subtle nuances of the game.  All that said, I must make the confession.

This year…for the first time in my memory…  I didn’t watch the game.

I didn’t watch a drive, a snap, or a single moment of the game.

I shut it off.   Our home was football free.

Why?

It wasn’t the game itself.  Although there was an undeniably, lower level of interest in the game in comparison to games past, it wasn’t the reason.   Without a doubt, the Media markets were smaller than usual, and the hype just didn’t seem to be there.  The hype was lacking in New England for sure.

Without my team in the game (and it still hurts), the interest was certainly less.  Yet, any football game is good if you know what to watch for.  Hype or no Hype football is still football.   I will watch a random sand lot game if I pass one with time on my hands.   True fans of the sport will not think twice.

It certainly wasn’t the shortcomings of the teams involved; ugly as it was.  On one side you had the verbal ugliness of San Fran’s Cornerback Chris Culliver who opened his mouth and let the most ignorant of homophobic comments come drooling out (revealing once and for all you can go to college and still end up an idiot).   He said he wouldn’t welcome a gay teammate – no matter how talented, and adding with all his textbook eloquence; “Can’t be with that sweet stuff, Nah… can’t be… in the locker room man. Nah.”

On the other side, you have the behavioral ugliness of Ray Lewis.   

Although overcoming his history as a suspect in a murder, fathering 6 children with 4 women, and potential doping allegations could be classified as a story of redemption and rebirth, it is ultimately his ugly theology that brings bile to my throat.   When asked about recent doping allegations he chimed “I am too blessed to be stressed”.  Then when he was asked about the game, he preached: “When God is for you, who can be against you”, as if the great Ha Shem is up in his celestial man cave with a Raven’s Jersey on. 

Of course if one decides to search out good theology I would hope that the grid iron is not where they turn.    In the end, I see a Ray Lewis that is held up as a hero and role model by people who can’t see the ugliness and the ego (see that foolish “Ray-Ray” dance).  In the end, both of these guys testify to what is broken about the sport I love with a passion.

Yet, even with Lewis and Culliver aside, there are plenty of good, strong men of character on the field in any give game (see Baltimore’s Michael Oher of Blind Side Fame, or SF QB’s Colin Kaepernick).   Perhaps they are the role models we need and should see.   In the end, a homophobic no name cornerback and a thug with great brand management may not be reasons enough to switch on the Puppy Bowl.

Ultimately, the real reason the game never came on was because men like me spend on average 300 hours per year following or watching football, and we do so at a price.

On Super Bowl Sunday, this football addict turned off the television to remind Stacey, Annie and Sophie that they were higher on my priority listing than football.   I shut it off to remind them if God took away the pigskin, I would be okay, because I have them.   I got my girls and that’s all that matters.

When the rest of the world was sitting down for kickoff, the Masters’ clan was sitting in a nearly empty Thai food restaurant, being silly.    I watched “How to Train Your Dragon” with my girls, and then watched a chick flick, cuddled on the couch with Stacey.   The Game never came on.

In the end, I wanted them to know that I can only sit down on Sundays and watch football because they are healthy, happy and in my life.   Yet all too often, I bark at the television or them when the season is on.   Too often, I become grumpy when the team plays like garbage.  Too often I forget they are in the room, and let the colorful language fly.  Too often I forget that it’s a game.    I am not alone.

Although there is the common myth that women are statistically more likely to be abused on Super Bowl Sunday, there is a connection.   In the study entitled “Football, Family and Domestic violence,” Walter Ganz, Zheng Wang, and Samuel Bradley highlight “a link between the Super Bowl and domestic violence, resulting in an average of 244 additional cases of domestic violence” across the areas they  studied.   Regardless of whether more women are beaten on Super Bowl Sunday or Game Six of the World Series, or Arbor Day for that matter, the reality is that women were and will be hit on Any Given Sunday.  

Domestic abuse is not something that happens once and is brought out by your team losing or a bumbling lineman fumbling the ball at a key moment.   Abuse isn’t predominately a spur of the moment decision to hit another. Domestic abuse is an everyday reality.  Abuse is a way of living every single day for countless women in this country.  Too often, it is NOT about a dropped pass or a missed field goal, but walking the wrong way, saying the wrong thing, or buying the wrong brand of soda that gets a woman hit.   It is senseless and every day.

Every Sunday there are 24 instances of violence against women every minute.   This past Sunday (just like the Sunday before) three women died because of violence committed by those they love.   The Super Bowl doesn’t bring that on its own, but it didn’t help either.  40 million girls and women watched the Super Bowl and saw themselves sexualized, objectified, and marginalized during commercials, half time performances, and thirty second shots of cheerleaders.    Women became boobs with legs, and were reminded that they have an ideal that they need to live up to.

Yet, this year, at the Masters’ house things were different.   I reminded them that they were worth more than any game.   We talked about women who get hit.    We talked about how we like to shove women into tight shorts and tell them to shake their pom-poms.  We talked about how Football is a great sport, with incredible life lessons, statistical mystery, deep primal strategy, and awesome entertainment value.  We also talked about how Football misses the mark.

In the end, the hyper-sexualization, the over the top barbaric like behavior and the countless examples of gladiator like sportsmanship will be the end of this sport I love.   It will be like the demise of boxing, which turned from the sweet science to the something that we couldn’t stomach.  It will happen to Football if we are not careful.  There will be screams when (not if) someone dies on the field.   I do hope that this never occurs, but to see to it that it doesn’t, we need to make sure it sets higher standards for itself.   At least higher than it currently has.  We don’t want that conversation. We like our Bread and Circuses.

This past Sunday, I shut off the television.   As I did, I know there will be at least one memory in my daughters head that Daddy chose them over football.  Hopefully they will remember that no man ever has the right to make them feel less intelligent, beautiful, powerful, smart, or worthwhile – without them giving permission first.  Maybe they will remember that no one gets to hit them. 

In the end, I didn’t enter into fits of withdrawals or succumb to the shakes.  In the end it was a great day, and I didn’t miss the game that much.   The conversation and the time spent together were worth it.   In the end, the best conversation we had all night?    Was as to whether Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai is truly as close to the food of the Gods as we puny humans will ever know.  Next year I hope to watch my Pats return to the big game and as a family we will watch, but if not…  maybe we can attempt to answer that Pad Thai thing again.

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