“A game of life” – Letter to the editor

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When people look at a football game, all they see is a bunch of kids running into each other and banging each other up. “Football is dangerous!”, “Football is a crazy man’s sport.” People look at football as just a game, just a sport. It was not until my final year playing football as a senior that I fully understood what the game of football really is. The game on Friday night means everything at the moment, but football is not about the game. Football is not just the outcome on Friday night. Football is a process, an experience, a memory, and football, above all else, is a love for the process. 

Friday night is the only time you are guaranteed to be able to go out and play for 48 minutes to execute what you have prepared for; however, the game is more than just this. What the fans in the crowd see on Friday night is just a fraction of what the process is all about. When people answer the question: What is the most important lesson you can learn in football?, they will respond with something shallow and generic like, “Learning to work hard.” After playing football for four years of my life, I can assure you everybody works hard. The teammate next to you works hard, the opponent on the other side of the ball works hard, and the coach on either sideline works hard. Football is more than just “putting in the work.” Football is learning to be comfortable being uncomfortable. It’s about having soaking wet feet for a three-hour practice and working through the discomfort. It’s about having an ankle that rolls in the first quarter, but you put the pain out of mind and put your team first to play three more quarters. Football is about doing something dangerous and learning to handle it. It’s about playing a game that you are not always in control of and learning to handle it. After football is over, and your playing days are finished, you are never in control of your life. You are not in control of a pandemic, you are not in control of the stock market, you are not in control of a storm destroying your house. Football teaches you that you are only in control of two things: your attitude and your effort

The game is a blessing that you can only understand after you have walked its path. A man named Troy Vincent once said, “It was God who enabled football to become a transformative force in my life.” Life, just like football, will challenge you. Life will bully your health, disrupt your plans, harm your stability, and not blink an eye in the process. The game, just like life, throws these uncertainties at you and teaches you how to handle them. It might be an injury, or a schedule change, or a bad night on the field, but from all of these things, you learn! It teaches you that when the 5:30 am alarm goes off, there is joy in going to grind it out with your teammates. It teaches you that a bad play is something to learn from for the next game. It teaches you that when your equipment breaks, the weather is freezing, and you forgot the formation, there is still an opportunity to learn from each of these things to be better than you were yesterday. 

Football is all of these things, but above all else, football is the connections you make with people along the way. Football is the largest game in terms of players on one playing field. You are forced to be a part of something bigger to play a role that benefits the team… Just like life. You are just one part of the eleven players on the field where each player has his assigned job, and when all eleven players do their job in harmony, the team is successful. But when Friday nights end and the game has ended for you, you are still connected to those eleven teammates. My father often says, “I have 10 contacts in my phone from high school, that I know without a doubt in my mind, I could call with a problem, and they would drop everything in that instant to help me solve the problem.” The game is about learning to communicate with 10 other people to perform a task. It is no different than the workplace in life where communication with your peers is crucial to your success. Calling out the open receiver before the snap is the difference between preventing a touchdown, or making an important play to benefit your team. Communication is what makes all the difference. Learn to share this responsibility through communication, and I promise your football team will be successful on Friday night. 

The reason people don’t understand the game when they watch is that they have not been a part of the game to understand all of the complex moving parts I have just described. Football is not a game, it is a life coach that will remain with you long after your football career ends. “Football is an honest game. It’s true to life. It’s a game about sharing. Football is a team game, so is life.” This quote comes from one of the greatest football players of all time, Joe Namath. Only because he has played the game, and has been a piece to the machine, is he able to understand the correlation between the game of football and the game of life. 

 

-Tyler Breeding