However, no lessons will ever compare to the lessons that the game of football has taught me. As the game I've loved for the majority of my life is diminishing, I find myself reflecting on the many little things I've discovered through the game...
For starters- no, I am not worried about concussions... at all. Yes, I've bounced my head off the turf a time or two. And yes, maybe there were a few times I didn't tell the coaches or the trainers and I just sort of avoided eye contact to stay in the game...
But what have those hits to the head taught me...? A lot, to be honest. The physical pain of getting hit, wherever it may be, has been something that has tested me these past 11 years. I grew up with a brother who is three years older than I am, so I'm used to the nipple twists and the punches to the arms and what not... Simple wear and tear for brothers, right?
But getting hit in a football game is nothing like being hit by an older brother. Getting hit in a football game teaches you resilience, simply because you're able to hit them back the next play. When you and your knucklehead brother get into it, your parents'll break it up eventually. But on a football field, it's one hour of you and the guy that just put you on your back the play before going one on one until someone gives in. I was fortunate enough to be an offensive lineman in the beginning of my football career. Playing Center and Guard showed me that, even if the guy across from your is bigger and stronger than you (and his eye black is more menacing than yours), there's nothing stopping you from putting him on his butt.
Whether it's breaking a finger or twisting an ankle or bouncing your head off the turf, playing through bumps and bruises taught me resilience and mental strength. It's fortunately led me to the realization that I'm strong enough (mentally and physically) to fight through and accomplish anything I put my mind to. Without football, I honestly can't say if I ever would have come to that realization.
Football has taught me teamwork and friendships. It's shown me that the ability to work with a group of guys is important. Nothing beats an underdog, comeback win against a team you can't stand... But what's better than that euphoria is the bond that moments like those create. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the movie Sparta.
In the movie, the King of Sparta has another ruler visiting, and as the two walk around the city, the King continues to talk about "The Great Walls of Sparta". And over and over again the King makes these references, and finally the visiting adversary looks at the King and he says, "you talk about this great wall so much, but I see no wall. Where is this Great Wall of Sparta?".
The King stopped in his tracks and looks at his guest. He points at his army and says, "sir, look at these men. These men ARE the wall of Sparta... Each man, a brick."
Sure, to some of you that may be just a stupid quote from an irrelevant movie that almost everyone has forgotten about. But for me, that quote symbolizes far more than that. That simple little passage fits into so many aspects of our daily lives that it's honestly quite mind blowing. Think about it...
Your family. Imagine your family if they were missing one person. Say your dad wasn't in the picture; how would that change the structure of your family or your household? Just like losing a father weakens a family, losing a brick weakens a wall.
Your friend circle. How would losing the athlete of the group impact your friend circle? Suddenly you lose a major topic of discussion and you find your gatherings to be pretty dull, and slowly your friends start to find other groups to join. Just as losing the athlete weakens a friend group, a wall losing a brick weakens the structure.
And then there's football. Football teaches you the importance of that wall and the importance of each individual brick. In the game of football, it takes all eleven guys on the field to think as one, to move as one, in order to be successful. As one brick fails to do its job, slowly the wall loses its integrity... The game teaches you teamwork and commitment to the people around you to get the job done together, as a unit.
The harsh reality of today is that we live in a world where people's irrational fears get the best of them. Mothers won't let their sons play football because it's "too unsafe", but more people get hurt driving annually than people that receive an injury from football. Let your sons grow up, moms. Let your sons play the sports they want to play and let them be boys. Football will turn your boy into a man far faster than a girl ever could...
The game may be diminishing, but my love for the game I've grown up with will forever remain. My children will play football, and I can only pray that the next generation will bring back this slowly dying sport.