Day 1

Stories will be written. It will be called one of greatest playoff losses of all time. There will be blame thrown around to everyone possible. There will be arguments about referees, and coaches, and players acting selfishly. In the end, a team lost and a team won just like every other football game that’s ever been played.

But this one was different. It was everything. It was the culmination of 25 years of commitment. TWENTY FIVE YEARS! Three to three and a half hours every Sunday (or sometimes Monday and then randomly Thursdays) spent in the die-hard fans typical range of emotions. And like most every other fan, it did not end in a Super Bowl win. And like most every other fan, the latest loss was the worst one.

I was up all night I was so angry. Was it anger? Maybe disappointment….maybe just pure adrenaline. Some element of pure shock. We were so close to winning. So close to turning it all around. So close to validation. Yes, to the team, but also for me! I have been so committed, so loyal, so devoted all these years. I was about to finally have my moment of redemption.

And then it was all gone. Game over. Season over. Again.

I have a wife and two kids. Every Sunday they leave me alone to watch football. My wife used to watch but interest waned when kids were suddenly there. My son hasn’t really taken to it. There’s some trade-offs, I clean the house, do laundry, etc. But for the most part its just the way it goes. I’m not going to say my wife understands. I think thats overstating it a bit. I think she knows how much my team means to me and tolerates 16 Sundays a year in exchange.

She watched as the emotions reached their apex last night. Fury, joy, frustration, confusion, and ultimately the shock. I’m not sure exactly the stages of grieving but I assume its not far off. Let’s call it the football stages of grief, then. Acceptance didn’t come until today.

I watched Wild. With Reese Witherspoon. It was on Netflix last night and my wife was long asleep. My fury was still raging. It seemed like a calm choice. Some peaceful nature walking. Maybe it will put me to sleep. It wasn’t calm. And it didn’t put me to sleep.

It was a story not too different from my own, actually. A story of overcoming trauma. Of living life 100 mph until you crashed. Of picking up the pieces and coming to accept where you are, and even appreciating the literal and metaphorical scars for bringing you to this place of acceptance. Not joy, or pleasure, the two things that are most often confused for happiness. But acceptance. I am here. Without all of that I wouldn’t be here.

And through it all, I had my team. Never missed a play. My loyalty was a badge of honor I carried. My team is bad. Staying with them shows people I’m loyal and committed. At least thats what I thought until late last night.

Does anyone in my life actually think of me as more or less of a loyal and committed friend, Husband, Father, Coach, or Teacher because I watch my team every Sunday? Because I metaphorically live and die with their ups and downs?

I wonder how many “die-hards” are like me. I bet there’s a lot, even if they don’t know it. People who have been abandoned. People who have faced trauma. It becomes such a vicarious outlet. A chance to cheer for something you believe in and people get to see you doing it. The world gets to see your commitment, that you will stick with something through thick and thin. It’s right in front of them. On display for anyone in earshot.

Or do they see a lunatic?

I’ve spent almost 30 years committed to my team. Watched every play. And as I watched this fictional character trek the Pacific Crest Trail I made a choice.

One year.

For one year I am going to give up football. I’m not going to actively avoid it or hide under rocks. I’m just going to let the next 365 days go by without being committed to it.

Because I am going to replace that time with something else. Lots of things. I don’t even know what things, but things. Things that matter. Maybe some things that really don’t, who knows! But I’m going to strive for things that actually show loyalty and commitment, more than wearing a T-shirt.

The same way I’m not going to actively hide from football, I am actively going to do something of substance for every single Sunday going forward. I started today.

Today, on day one, I let myself be inspired by the movie directly. There are hiking trails right outside my backdoor that have gone un-trekked for 2 years. Until today. I took my son and we just took off. See where the adventure would take us. It took us really, really far away. And it was amazing.

Who knew this was just out my back door?

My phone buzzed. There was football, apparently a missed chip shot field goal for someone to lose in painful fashion. Put my phone back in my pocket and kept walking. Only thought I remember even having was feeling sorry for the kicker. My son called it the “best hike ever.” It was.

Next up is opening the book “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” and I intend to have it read by next Sunday, when there will be more football that I will not watch. I am new to teaching. I had always believed in the power of education to change the world, and finally hit a turning point and put the (lack of) money where my mouth was. It’s a massive career change, but I love it. I have a lot to learn, and so I read. Book report next Sunday, perhaps.

I always thought blogging was dumb. Sort of like social media. Who cares about what I am doing? And truth be told, it may come to pass that not a single person ever reads this. This is a record for myself to keep. One year without football.

What can I do with the next 52 Sundays? What impact can I have? What can I learn?

And what do you think you could do if you made the same choice?

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