I admit I am one of those stereotypical clueless girls who have zero interest in spectator sports. Three years ago, you could have held a gun to my head and asked me who Tom Brady was and my best guess would have been that he’s a long lost relative of the Brady Bunch.
Patriots? Is that a football team or baseball?
I never understood the big deal. Sports fans get so worked up about the games, the players and even the apparel.
It’s not just any old shirt, it’s my lucky jersey, don’t touch it.
They’re not just the Patriots, they’re my Patriots.
He’s not just a quarterback, he’s the best damn quarterback alive and don’t you forget it.
More times than I can figure out what number XLIX stands for, let alone count to it, I’ve shaken my head at sports fanatics and thought silently, “it’s just a game, people!”
To say that my boyfriend is a Patriots fan is like saying the sun is hot. While true, the sun is actually a raging nuclear powered ball of fire 27 million degrees Fahrenheit at its core, capable of incinerating all life within a minimum 4-million mile radius. That pretty much sums up my boyfriend’s passion for the Patriots. Don’t even think about praising another team in his vicinity.
While I never shared or understood his passion, it seemed important to him that I at least took some interest in it. But after several attempts to understand the game, even after he explained the rules to me a million times, I just couldn’t get into it. It simply didn’t interest me. To his credit, he patiently answered my incessant and surely annoying questions during the games, though asked in complete earnest desire to understand.
How come sometimes they kick it, it’s one point, and sometimes they kick it, it’s three points?
How can 2 minutes take half an hour?
Why does Tom Brady always lick his fingers?
What’s a touchdown again?
After a while, he gave up and I stopped trying. Weekends and “Monday Night Football” consisted of me sitting on the couch peacefully absorbed in a book while he yelled profanities at the TV.
All that changed Sunday with the Super Bowl.
In preparation for the big day, he bought me a Patriots shirt and had me try it on a few days before to make sure it fit, so that he would have time to exchange it if it didn’t. He took his lucky Patriots jersey off the shelf, #12, Brady proudly across the back, ironed it and made sure it was ready to wear.
On Sunday, he was standing outside the grocery store at 6 a.m. when it opened to buy all the necessary artery-clogging Super Bowl foods.
We spent the entire morning cleaning the house, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, even mowing the lawn, because for reasons I didn’t understand then, the game is a lot better when the house is clean.
Watching his excitement throughout the day and the days leading up to it, I couldn’t help but get excited myself. I wasn’t excited about the game as much as I was excited for him. I realized all these things he did was a ritual. Like the ritual I have every time I sit to write, he too has his own ritual. The preparation infused his day with meaning and purpose and the anticipatory lead-in made his enjoyment of the game all the richer.
And then I put on my new Patriots shirt.
Immediately, I felt proud and happy. It was as though I pulled pride over my head and it absorbed into my skin, penetrating my chest and searing the Patriots into my heart. In a flash, I realized why my boyfriend had wanted me to share in his passion: loving the Patriots was an immense joy to him and he wanted me to experience the joy too.
It’s the moment when you’re singing and your eyes automatically close because suddenly you feel the music in every cell of your being. You’re no longer singing, the song is singing you.
That’s what happened to me Sunday. Football played me. And I became one of those fanatics I so quickly dismissed and misunderstood before.
I found myself completely immersed in the game, unexpectedly understanding what a fumble, interception and field goal meant. I knew the players, Brady, the Gronk, Edelman. And more so, I cared about them.
I screamed at the TV when Brady threw the ball to no one. “WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?” I erupted, angry at a man I never met but cared deeply for. It wasn’t a feigned half-interested eruption, but a real honest to goodness emotional outburst of incredulous frustration and disappointment.
And when Butler intercepted the ball in the most epic play of the game, I leaped off the couch in pure and utter excitement. I shared Brady’s joy as he jumped up and down, and like most watchers across the nation, I inspected the replay closely in awed disbelief as it played over and over.
And it was then that it hit me. It’s not just a game. It’s a spiritual experience.
Football is a way to connect. In that moment, I knew we weren’t the only ones in shock. I knew millions of Super Bowl watchers all across the nation, in homes, bars and restaurants, were feeling the same exact emotion. While elated for some and disappointed for others, the feeling of mass collective awe spread through all of us, uniting us as one. No matter which team you were rooting for, that was a damn good play and everyone respected it.
Football is a way to be fully present in the now. When I yelled at the TV, I wasn’t thinking about my life, my work or what needed to be done tomorrow. I was fully 100 percent immersed in the game and emotionally invested. It was as if for this one moment, everything hinged on the play, as if the world would actually end if that ball wasn’t caught. Nothing else mattered, nothing else existed. There was only NOW.
Football is a way to experience heroic greatness. Most people don’t lead lives of great victory and triumph. We don’t push the boundaries on a daily basis. For the most part, many of us are just trying to get by, pay our bills, find some work/life balance, get our kids off to school on time. Football gives us a taste of greatness and glory. We get to live vicariously through the players, watch them at the height of their physical achievements, winning and losing, putting their health, careers, reputations and sometimes, even their lives, on the line for one single play to serve their team, their fans and the game as a whole.
Next year, when my Patriots play (and win) in the Super Bowl (and they will), I’ll be wearing my lucky, freshly ironed jersey (don’t you dare touch it), eating junk food that my boyfriend and I bought at 6 a.m., yelling at the TV in our newly cleaned dust-free house, and blissfully living happily ever after in the now of Football Zen.
Tree Franklyn is a writer, doodler and creator of TreeDoodles. Her books and e-courses inspire women to live life fully by living their truth and finding their inner divine happiness. Download her free e-book, The #1 Reason You’re Not Bouncing-off-the-walls, Swinging-from-the-stars, Hopping-in-the-clouds Happy at www.FindYourInnerHappy.com.