I love football. As a woman that declaration is usually met with skepticism. Men assume I’m interested in the game to impress them or to distinguish myself in some way or jump on some national bandwagon, but even such asinine assertions can’t keep me from loving the game. The pick sixes and the cover three defenses and the Leos, Mikes, and Wills; I love it all. Every time Jon Gruden says “Spider 2 Y Banana” I get chills and one day I hope to have Chris Berman narrate my life. Super Bowl Sunday is my Christmas and Sunday Night Football is my trip to church and Century Link Field is my mecca.
But it’s over. I’m finished. I’m breaking up with football.
To be fair this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to walk away from the game I love so much. On a Super Bowl Sunday not too different from last year I became part of a now debunked myth once repeated to me over and over again by a concerned high school choir teacher. My father and I were passionately watching the game, as we did every Monday, Thursday, and Sunday. A play was blown dead and while I agreed with the pass interference call, my father did not. The only way in which he could express his outrage with both the official and myself was to choke me until I was toeing the line of unconsciousness.
He believed he made his point and I believed football was the catalyst and so I quit. I left my house and football behind.
For a week.
Like my abusive father, the NFL pulled me back in. Football was my moral playbook, my example of right and wrong, my compass for fair and unfair. Given the lack of positivity in my own home, every Sunday I was able to escape to a field where a group of men sacrificed themselves for a collective goal. I saw a synonym for life itself play out with every down. A man perfected his mind and body and craft to be the best not only for himself, but for the men to the left and right of him. He was selfish and selfless simultaneously, achieving his own personal goals so the greater good could attain theirs. It was life, packed into a four quarter game.
I heard stories of great players overcoming even greater adversity, bettering themselves and their lives when they found their family in a 53 man roster. I was inspired by Vince Papale and Rocky Boiman and Blaise Winter, who also overcame the debilitating heartache of family abuse. So I’d tune in every chance I had to watch the touchdowns and first downs and celebrations, fully believing that with great sacrifice anything is possible and pain is only temporary and greatness can, in fact, make you immortal.
Football was my home when home was scary and dangerous and painful. Even if football contributed to that fear and danger and pain.
So, like any one-sided dependent relationship, I looked past the warning signs. When charges of rape or assault or even murder were met with simple game suspensions, I provided my conscience with a plethora of excuses. When charges of rape or assault weren’t met with suspensions at all, I believed there was a reasonable justification. “The NFL is handling it”. “The NFL cares about women”. “The NFL is doing it’s part to condemn, not celebrate, these kind of violent behaviors”. All so I could continue my love affair with the game that had raised me with more positive examples than my own father.
All so I could believe that the NFL loved me as much as I loved it.
But I can’t. I can’t continue to partake in this abusive relationship anymore. A relationship that not only passively condones violence against women, it covers it up. An “I’m sorry” and an “I got it wrong” sound far too similar to the endless, empty and otherwise meaningless apologies my mother and I would hear after surviving another violent outburst. The NFL itself has become that abusive man 1 in 4 women are all too familiar with; fully aware of its powerful allure and, therefore, completely confident in its ability to continue to do the wrong thing without substantially losing its relationships.
This has to be it. Something has to change. I’m done.
Then again, the Seahawks are on their bye week and the San Francisco 49ers play the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and the Arizona Cardinals lead the NFC West…