Can Football be Saved… Again?


I love Thanksgiving. Comfort food and gratitude are a great combination. I also enjoy football and prefer watching a big game instead of washing dishes after the big meal. And if you have children, watching football with them can provide some important teachable moments, especially lately.

I am not an athlete and don’t pretend to understand every rule of any sport. But I can appreciate superior athletic performance, fierce competition and the joy of winning a hard fought battle. But sports battles should remain on the field and should be clean competitions with competitors and teammates who show respect for one another. Or at the very least, don’t abuse one another on or off the field.

And as fans, we should have enough respect for the players who provide for our entertainment, to not wish them harmed.

I cringe whenever athletes are injured and remain anxious until they are on their feet again. I explain to my sons the potential severity of some injuries. How careers can be ended and daily lives complicated. And when the shenanigans of a certain NFL locker room came to light, I reiterated to my sons that love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are a priority everywhere, even in, especially in, the locker room.

Same goes for all sports. We once took our boys to an NHL hockey game. We live in Minnesota. So it seemed like the thing to do. It was fine at first. A family-friendly crowd enthralled by an impressive display of speedy, stick-wielding talent.

But then a fight broke out on the ice. The crowd leapt to its feet, fists pumping the air in unison with their chants of “fight, fight, fight.” Little tikes, as young as three years old, emulated the bloodlust behavior of their dear old dads. My stomach turned.

I’m not delusional in desiring a risk-free life. We encourage our sons to play sports and understand that getting hurt is part of being alive. But I do not accept disabling injuries or unnecessary brutality as ‘just part of the game.’

In a speech delivered by Jon J. Miller, author of The Big Scrum: How Teddy Roosevelt Saved Football, Miller quotes an 1895 letter from Roosevelt saying, “Rough play, if confined within manly and honorable limits, is an advantage…no fellow is worth his salt if he minds an occasional bruise or cut.”

Fair enough. But encouraging players to fight, deliberately targeting opponents for injury or brutalizing the minds of teammates with despicable locker room hazing is not honorable. These behaviors detract from all that is great about sports such as character building, physical fitness, teamwork and overcoming adversity.

If we try to remember this whenever we watch, participate in or coach youth sports. Maybe then, football can be saved.

My Thanksgiving Day Picks: The Lions over the Packers, Raiders over the Cowboys and Ravens over the Steelers. And if you can’t be a good sport, you should be banished to the kitchen to wash the Thanksgiving Day dishes.


Having Your “Poop” in a Group

Each year the hubs is asked to complete a self-evaluation for his employer. This is a common practice for many organizations to help employees set goals and determine how effectively they spend their time. The hubs is not a fan. His complaint, in typical Midwest fashion, is that it feels too much like bragging about doing the job he is paid to do.

I assure him that many people don’t do the job they are paid to do. That showing up day in and day out with clear goals and a strategy to meet those goals is not typical. And yet, those daily grind activities are often what lead to achievement.

It’s the same with writing. If I commit to sitting at my desk to finish a story each day before lunch, deadlines are met and I seem impressive, sometimes even to myself.

I’m not talking about miraculous life-changing triumphs that merit a reality television series. But by taking small steps, one foot in front of the other, every day, stuff gets done.

I remember when our children were babies and I could be found wandering the house bleary-eyed and overwhelmed by piles of dirty laundry, crusty dishes, dust bunnies and unopened mail. It was then that I discovered the beauty of narrowing my focus down to one thing at a time.

I learned that it’s okay to occasionally ignore the big picture when that view immobilizes us with anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. Instead, just do one thing. Keep moving and do the next thing. Eventually, a bunch of things get done and you can write yourself a stellar evaluation of time management and achievement.

But there are pitfalls to having your poop in a group. People will have higher expectations of you. And occasionally you will fail or be sad or get sick. And this will surprise people. Because they wrongly want to believe you have it together all the time. So remember two important things:

  • Don’t hide your setbacks. Perfection is impossible. Acknowledging difficulties makes you a more relatable person. And most likely you’ve learned something worth sharing.
  • Don’t whine. But make sure you have a few people in your life with whom you can share your laments when you feel the need. And this goes both ways. Life is hard for everybody. So be a good listener. Because nobody has it together all the time.

Contentment vs. Complacency

I’m late. But have arrived, an official blogger crashing this cyberspace party. Official only in that I’ve spent a few hours choosing fonts and lamenting over my crow’s feet when uploading my picture. Then I officially clicked ‘post’ for the very first time here at Words by Angela.

The goal of Words by Angela is to be encouraging, to offer up my perspective and remind you that you matter, but not that much, so settle down and don’t take yourself (or me) too seriously. Breathe. Smile. And for now, let’s chat about being content but never complacent.

It’s my theory that Americans struggle with contentment because we confuse contentment with complacency. We resist being content because we think it equals the end of achievement. That it means being happy with never trying anything new, reaching goals or creating change.

Many envision contentment like reclining on a deck chair aboard a cruise ship, sipping a cocktail and watching the world go by. That could be fine for a bit. But eventually, you’ll want off the damned boat so you can explore new territory, taste local food and meet new people. And God forbid there is trouble at sea. Wouldn’t you gladly abandon that imaginary deck chair of contentment to help those in need?

If you think you would still prefer to sit comfortably while others explore, learn or shoulder the world’s cargo during a crisis, that’s not contentment. That’s laziness. Or illness. Or fear.

On the other hand, if our energy is always hyper-focused on the B.B.D. (bigger better deal) like a more elaborate house, a loftier sounding title, a bigger payday or the most prestigious schools for the children, we are are merely chasing the illusion of a contentment that can never quite be captured. True contentment comes from being grateful for what we have and comfortable with whom we are. It’s taking time each day to thank the Creator for our circumstance but always with an eye toward how we can still be useful. It is acceptance without necessarily settling.

So take a breath. Smile and be grateful. But don’t settle on the leisure deck of complacency. Instead, choose to do something every day to strengthen your body, brain, relationships, neighborhood and spiritual life. Be content but never complacent.