On any given Sunday, September through January, you’ll find me anxiously cheering on the Seattle Seahawks from my couch. I jump up and holler during big plays. I yell at the television when the refs make a bad call. I cringe and hide my face when a play gets blown.
I wasn’t always like this. I passively watched football throughout my childhood because it was on in my house. I considered myself a Seahawks fan by default (and because I thought the wide receiver, Steve Largent, was cute).
But after I got married, I started paying more attention to the game. I started asking my husband incessant questions about what was happening on the field. And as I learned the intricacies of how the game works, how strategies are implemented, and how plays play out (or not), I got hooked.
The more you know about something, the more interesting it becomes — even something you wouldn’t think you’d enjoy. I’m not someone you’d think would love football. I abhor violence. I think professional athletes are obscenely overpaid. I think the NFL has done a pretty crappy job addressing issues like domestic violence within its ranks. I think the danger of concussion is a very real and scary reality, and that it was swept under the rug for too long. I think the outfits the cheerleaders wear are ridiculous.
But I love, love, love the game itself. I’m in awe of the discipline and skill it takes to play at this level. When a quarterback is running from 300-pound men who are trying to tackle him, and a receiver is running full-speed with an opposing player trying to keep him from catching the ball, and the ball manages to fly from one set of hands to the other while both are scrambling and under attack — that is an incredible feat of physics. When a running back manages to control his center of gravity in such a way that he can spin and slip run through a crowd of humongous, muscular men trying to stop him, I’m flabbergasted. The physical feats performed in each game blow my mind.
When you actually know what you’re looking at, what appears to be chaotic ramming, pushing, throwing, and running come together in a half-choreographed, half-improvised dance of skill and strength. Granted, some people who fully understand the game may not necessarily love it, but it’s pretty hard not to appreciate what those players and coaches do. They train really hard, and it shows.
I’ve also found that many of the stereotypes of football players simply don’t pan out. First of all, they’re not stupid. Playing at the professional level requires not just physical dominance, but mental agility as well. Players have to memorize hundreds of plays and must have the ability to make adjustments in a split second to accommodate the unexpected. Some players graduate from elite universities with honors, flying in the face of the “dumb jock” stereotype.
And there are some truly amazing people in the NFL. I had the honor of meeting the head coach of the Seahawks, Pete Carroll, a couple of years ago after he read my post about how his coaching has inspired my parenting. He was, and is, one of the most genuine and inspiring people I’ve ever encountered. He’s done incredible work with inner-city kids through his programs, A Better L.A. and A Better Seattle, and tries to help everyone around him be the best they can be in every way. Most players themselves do a great deal of volunteer work in their communities too. As in any group, there are the occasional douches, but a lot of pro-football folks are upstanding, generous, family-and-community-oriented citizens.
So even though the sport has its downsides, and even though my team is out for the year, I’m excited to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday. Football isn’t just a dude’s sport — I’m sure I’ll be joined by thousands of other women who enjoy the sport as much as I do.
Bring on the chips and guacamole, baby. This chick is ready for some football.