My Year Off from Football: Finding the Love of the Game Again

I didn’t watch one entire football game last year. Not college. Not the Steelers. Nothing.

My husband would turn on a game on Thursday or Saturday or Sunday or Monday night, and I’d read a book or go to bed early or simply leave the room. He noticed my absence, but did not question me the first few times I neglected to hoot and holler from the couch. By the time he realized I hadn’t watched a single game, the season was over.

If you know me, or have known me in the fall, or have read the blog, or even flip through the blog archives in fall months of previous years, this lack of footballing comes as a surprise. I love football. Or rather, I loved football.

I wrote about my general disappointment regarding sports stars in the past, but the last year and a half of horrific news out of Penn State pushed me past the point of disappointment and into the realm of utmost disgust, of anger, of fear. I couldn’t bring myself to sit and watch; it made my stomach hurt, my heart hurt. Children shouldn’t be harmed in this way.

Years ago in a LiveJournal community, someone asked the question as to why grown adults with no children playing a given sport would go to a local high school game. The general consensus of the near hipsters blamed this obviously immature act on being too attached to their high school days, of never growing up, of not having anything better to do with their time. I wanted to argue, but couldn’t find the proper words to argue my point.

Over the past year, I’ve found my words.

When I attend the local high school football game with my boys on a Friday night, I sit in awe of the talent these young folks have, of the passion they have for the sport. While I cheer as they run and pass and tackle and get tackled and win or lose, my jaw often drops. “Did you see that one? Wow,” I say to my husband over the top of little heads in between us. The talent oozes off the field from both teams and I’m forced to wonder if these children will be able to harness this raw talent and turn it into something real, use the gifts they have been given of speed or of accuracy or of brute strength and make a life for themselves out of the confines of the only county they’ve ever known. I used to hope that they would make it, be big stars so that I could say, “Oh yes, I knew them when.”

My husband and I watched a number of games of the Little League World Series. Talk about some jaw dropping moments. I watched these 11- to 13-year-old children throw, hit, and run with my mouth hanging open. I watched as Michah Pietila-Wiggs turned two like it was nothing. Every game I was privileged enough to catch on TV, I felt an overwhelming awe.

Soccer season started up around these parts, and I’ve been sitting in between the U6 and U8 fields, watching my sons do their thing. The absolute cutest thing to watch is U6 soccer, as they just run around the field in a pack, chasing the ball and falling down and having the time of their lives. Something happens between that age of 5 and the age of 6, because the kids on the U8 field aren’t just running around and being cute; they’re playing soccer. My heart leaps into my throat — with pride, with fear — when BigBrother steals the ball away from the other team and begins dribbling the ball down the field — properly. With purpose. With an understanding of where other players are and what to do and how to execute a goal. I watch his one teammate with the curly hair and know, without a doubt, that this kid has some mad skill.

LittleBrother's Soccer Skills

BigBrother's Soccer Skills

I attend local high school sporting events for the same reason I watch the Little League World Series and cheer along at youth soccer games and t-ball games: It is an honor and a joy to watch these children play so well, hone their talents, and do so without all of the hype, without all of the general negativity the professional sports heap upon these now-adults who were once just kids with some talent and a dream. I’m not claiming that our youth sports aren’t with issue, that there aren’t coaches on power trips or illegal substances or kids who go to drinking parties and do the absolute unthinkable. It happens, and I won’t pretend that it’s okay.

But I’m so tired of professional sports and the players and coaches who think that they can get away with abusing drugs, with abusing others, with murder, allegedly or not. I’m tired of these sports stars thinking they are above the law. I’m tired of the general hype and hoopla. Penn State broke me, in so many ways and for so many reasons. As a mom of two boys who show an interest in participating in team sports, I just want to take the whole system, turn it upside down, shake it around, and fix it before we harm our children more.

When I see the pure joy of the sport in the eyes of a four-year-old soccer player or an eleven-year-old baseball player or a 17-year-old varsity football player, I want to somehow capture it, bottle it, and feed it back to the professional players who have lost the plot, lost the spark, lost the joy of the sport, the game, the thing that brought them to the point of fame. I want them to remember — players and coaches — that pure, unadulterated love of the game that made them practice all kinds of stupid hours and push themselves beyond what their friends or coaches or parents said or thought they could do with all that talent. I want them to remember the little kid that they were with a dream in their heart. It’s not even that I want our professional sports players to be perfect role models; I just want them to remember the love of the game, the child that they were, the work they have endured to make it to the place that they are today and then act like the grateful human being they should be.

Because, if they took the time to remember, I feel that they’d act a whole lot differently.

Or maybe not, but I like to live in the place where we don’t hurt children or ourselves or other adult human beings. I like to live in the place where we love and respect other human beings simply because they’re human beings — including ourselves. Maybe I live in a dream world, but I’ve seen that dream in the eye of a small soccer player, a teenage football player. I’m not the only one.

And so, I hesitantly am returning myself to the couch to watch football this year. At the very least, I will watch my Pittsburgh Steelers (when they’re on our TV; oh, Ohio). I struggle, even writing this post now after having written it 87 times in my head, with sitting down to watch Penn State. Maybe I need another year off of college football. Or maybe this is the year I find a new team. I don’t know. But I will sit on the couch with my sons and watch some football this year. I will sit in the stands of our local high school football games and look for the dream in another child’s eye. I will say a prayer and make a wish and hope against hope that the young sports lovers of today may keep that spark, that joy…

…that love of the game.

Tiny Prints Cyber Monday

52 Weeks of Brotherhood: Week 5

52 Weeks of Brotherhood

52 Weeks of Brotherhood

We’ve had a lot of togetherness in the past week. One sick day, three snow days, a weekend. Good gravy. However, the Super Bowl was a silver lining.

52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 5

52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 5

52 Weeks of Brotherhood, Week 5

Like last year, I placed one of the boys’ sleeping bags on the floor. I got out our Steelers blanket and covered my Steelers jersey wearing boys up with it. They watched most of the first quarter before asking the play the Flick Kick Field Goal game on the Kindle. I had actually forgotten about it, having downloaded it last year for our Super Bowl festivities. They played for awhile, the dog chewing her bone by their side on her fuzzy new dog bed. I stretched on the couch, watching and enjoying the comfort of family, of our life.

Super Bowl 2013

And the conversations.

“Are the Steelers in the Super Bowl?”
“No, Bud.”
“Why?”
“They didn’t make it.”
“Oh. Were their roads too snowy too?”

Something like that.

“I don’t think those two brothers should be playing against each other. Someone is going to get their feelings hurt.”

My dad sent a text after I shared that little gem with him to let my concerned sons know that they were the best of friends and would be just fine. BigBrother was not convinced.

We ate yummy chocolate and peanut butter cookies between the first and second quarter. They worked on an Itsy Bitsy Super Bowl book; BigBrother helped LittleBrother color faster — as LittleBrother is known for his precision and attention to detail whereas BigBrother is all about getting the job done. We snacked on warm soft pretzels as the second quarter wound down. I sent them off to bed after showers during half time, the older of the two certain that Baltimore would win and feelings would still be hurt.

I can only hope that he cares that much about his brother’s feelings someday.

#WIWSunday: What I Wore Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday!

What I Wore Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, February 3, 2013

What I Wore Sunday, February 3, 2013
On Flickr || On Instagram

When I posted my photo on Instagram this morning, my friend and Pittsburgh resident Secretninjamom noticed the theme:

Way to subtly boycott the fact that the Steelers aren’t in the Super Bowl.

Later my dad called to check on us. I said we had just changed into our Steelers gear. His response? “Yeah. What else are you supposed to wear when the Ravens are in the Super Bowl?”

Back to my outfit. I’m kind of bummed about those pants. I bought them when I worked at the newspaper, along with a gray pair. I had them special order petite length in for me and they are just the best fit. Or, were. Now? Our Fashion Bug is gone and I can’t get those pants again in my new size. They still fit, but I’m a few half marathon training weeks away from saggy butt in both pair of these pants. Le sigh. The highlight of the outfit would be the necklace, bracelet and earring set I got in 2010 from Etsy. It’s also magnetic closure on both the necklace and the bracelet; I play with the magnets in church. Shh. The rest of the outfit just features odds and ends purchased over the years. That fit again, because woo!

Back to the Super Bowl. Yeah, we changed when we got home.

Untitled

  • White Steelers Sweatshirt: gifted, 2008
  • Same black cami as above
  • Gray Yoga Pants: Danskin, relaxed fit, Walmart
  • Leopard Print Slippers: Walmart

While I’m bummed we can’t make the trip home to The Farm for my family’s Super Bowl party today, I am kind of loving kicking back in my slippers and not stressing about snow and driving and drunk drivers. Those are my favorite yoga pants. I always have a “nice” pair (these) and a junk pair/the pair that was the last nice pair. The cotton is crazy comfy, they have pockets, and they sit nicely. I’m comfy and warm for today’s fesitivies.

So are the boys!

Wearing our Steelers gear. Because yeah.

And the dog.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Steelers Through the Years

Cue Kenny Rogers! Except don’t. Yeah, don’t do that. It’s time for a FireFamily Retrospective of Steelers photos. This post? Is picture heavy. If you’re on dial-up, bail now. HERE WE GO!

Before I start in with the cute kids, this is me on the field of the Steelers vs. Jets playoff game in January 2005. Pre-boys (barely) me was awfully excited to be on the field for the news station I worked for at the time. We won, but lost in the next round to the Patriots.

WOO STEELERS!

The very first picture I have of BigBrother in Steelers gear is this one, one week and four days after he was born. It was taken during a game on November 28, 2005 — which, thanks to Google, was against the Colts. We lost. Badly. 26-7. But BigBrother didn’t mind. He spent most of the game like this:

Snoozing to the Steelers

The rest of the 2005-2006 season was kind of dreamy, wasn’t it? Considering we won the Super Bowl and all. A collage of various BigBrother pics works best. The top two photos and the left and right side are from the Super Bowl — which was a good, good day for us.

2005-2006 Season

By the time football season rolled back around in 2006, we were living in our house, BigBrother was mobile and life was feeling pretty good. The season was, uh, not as great, but BigBrother enjoyed another football season all by himself.

2006-2007 Season

The 2007-2008 season was a bit better…ish… and at least we made it to the playoffs. BigBrother started off the season alone. And I was on bedrest. And then along came LittleBrother! There are not many pictures from this football season with the whole Level III bedrest followed by the newborn phase.

2007-2008 Season

Along came the 2008-2009 season and, man, did we have a great year with those boys of ours. And the football team. You know, what with winning the Super Bowl again.

2008-2009 Season

In fact, that year brought my most popular photo on flickr ever, which gets shared on its own here.

PITTSBURGH'S GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!

That was Grandpa’s last Steelers Super Bowl with us, and I know he’ll be waving his Terrible Towel from Heaven with us on Sunday.

Grandpa, Super Bowl 2009
Picture by BigBrother with his camera.

Along came the 2009-2010 season. It should be noted that while I have been to Steelers games before, FireDad had not. So I ponied up some money and took him. He was pleased.

Josh's First Game, 2009

And while the season wasn’t all that great, the boys continued to grow and learn and change and have fun.

2009-2010 Season

Which brings us to this season. I wasn’t great with picture taking this season, partially due to that thing we won’t talk about. There are… some.

2010-2011 Season

But they were all taken on the same day when I recognized the issue and realized that we had just about zilch photo wise in our Steelers gear for the 2010-2011 Steelers season. So on the day of the AFC Championship, I shot a family picture. It’s a keeper. Heck, it’s a framer.

Steelers Family

I’d love to hold off on doing another one of these retrospectives for another five years. I wonder how many Super Bowl rings we’ll have on our fingers by then? (And imagine how the boys will look! OMG!)

Happy Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl Weekend, my friends. Be safe — select a Designated Driver or offer to be one. Wave those Terrible Towels with pride. Take lots of pictures. Eat lots of food. AND CHEER FOR THE BLACK AND GOLD! HERE WE GO, STEELERS! HERE WE GO! (Yes, I’m pumped now.)

Getting Ready for Another Steelers Super Bowl

My Smack-Talk-o-Meter is turned down rather low. Maybe it’s because my friend Nicole is hosting our friend group’s Super Bowl party… and she’s a Ravens fan. Maybe it’s because I’ve been busy with projects and snow and, yes, I still have the Viral Ick. Maybe it’s because I’m a teensy bit nervous about the game. Whatever the case, I’ve been trying to blog witty things about the game, but I’ll leave that up to Virginia.

Instead, I thought I’d share what we’re taking to the game food wise, kid wise and other great Steelers links as you prepare for your Steelers Super Bowl.

Food for the Super Bowl

  • First off, we’re hosting a Soup Swap, an idea we got from BlogHer last month. I am still working on my soup idea. We have no where to be on Saturday, so I’m cooking soup then. I keep looking at the what freezes well and what doesn’t list and I keep coming up empty. Help? (Edit: Going with my Texas Soup recipe from my Super Bowl 2009 post. Great recipe for large groups if you’re still looking for something to serve at your party.)
  • I’m taking my favorite thing ever, Buffalo Chicken Dip. Dee made it for me last summer when I visited, and I’ve been kind of making it for every other event since that time. My mouth waters when I think about it. I’m also taking along a veggie tray, some guacamole and some chips.
  • I over-purchased white chocolate and almond bark at Christmas time, so I thought I’d use up some of that and make something sweet as well. I think I’m going with these brownie truffle bites at Sweet Pea Patisserie, which would be awesome if I could find black and gold to top them with, no?
  • FireDad and I haven’t decided who gets to drink yet. As we don’t ever drink and drive, it’s only ever one of us. If it’s me, I’m taking my favorite wine — Moscato, which will taste lovely with the truffle bites. If I’m being our Designated Driver, I may splurge and allow myself some pop. But something like Ginger Ale. I can’t handle colas anymore; they hurt my teeth!


Fun for the Kiddos

The kids are going to get bored. Though with 14 of them (no, really), they should be able to keep each other busy. I’m printing out some Steelers coloring pages to take with us.

Lastly, I’m going to get my craft on with the boys on Saturday, while I’m making soup, and we’re going to make ourselves a Vince Lombardi Trophy. Oh yeah. And then we’re taking it to the Super Bowl party. And if we’re all still awake at the end of the game, we’ll hoist it over our heads and declare VICTORY! (I hope.)

In the mean time, I’ll be sitting here, tweeting things about #steelernation and watching the Twerrible Towel wave. No, really, it’s fascinating. I giggled when my name came up.

Twerrible Towel

WOO!

Anyway, come back tomorrow for a complete retrospective of pictures over the past five years in Steelers gear. Exciting stuff, let me tell you!