Football: The team sport accepting of everybody, yes, even you and me

By The Beacon | September 26, 2012 9:00pm

(The Beacon)

By PJ Marcello, Staff Commentary

No, I know what you are thinking and I refuse to play into it. I will not be some obnoxious blowhard demanding that you understand how much better American football is and attack what we refer to over here as soccer. At least I won't be that guy for this article.

However, do not confuse this with me conceding the point. I firmly believe tackle football is the better sport and I will now share with you some reasons why.

I have respect for all athletes, or simply anyone who goes out and puts an effort into a sport they love. For me, this sport is football. I have often wondered why I chose football, but I, like many other fans and players, did not choose football, it chose us.

I grew up the chubby kid. I say chubby because it makes me feel better. I was not, as my mom said, "big-boned" or "husky," no, I was the fat kid. Being the fat kid did not exclude me from loving sports. I loved sports with a fiery passion, a passion that rivals Angelina Jolie's intense fervor for adopting foreign babies. However, unlike Ms. Jolie's ability to adopt any kid on any given continent, I could not simply go out and play any sport I wanted.

This is where football interrupted my terribly anti-athletic reality. It bumped and prodded its way into my life to the point where it could no longer be ignored. After years of disappointment on the basketball court, hopelessly trying to round the bases on the baseball diamond and taking puff after puff on my inhaler following a frantic soccer ball chase, my sport had finally found me, and I was not alone.

Fat kids, skinny kids, slow kids, kids that wore glasses, kids with asthma, we all found our home with football. We had found a place where we all had a role to fill on the team, and we were all necessary in winning the game. My weight was no longer a liability on the field of play, rather an advantage. The fact that my buddy John was not the best with his feet did not destroy his opportunity of playing. He could catch anything you threw his way and that is how he earned his place on the team. We even have an important spot for all the people who really just prefer to kick things through cross bars. Everyone is welcome in the game of football.

But, as you should know, this is not even the best part of football. It was great that we are all welcome to find our places on the team, but more importantly are the life skills that this sport presents to its participants. They call it the "ultimate team sport" for a reason.

We learned how to work together. Regardless of how you feel about your teammates off the field, you sure care about them when you are on the field. If one person did not do their job in the game, we all paid for it. We had to trust the person next to us to do what they were supposed to and they had to trust us equally. If we could not do that, then the play would fail or someone could get hurt. In no way is the gridiron anything like a battlefield in war, but there is a sort of comaraderie players must have in working as a unit. It is our own mini battlefield out there; you look out for your teammates because you know they are looking out for you.

We learned toughness. We were taught that when someone bumps into you, even if it is harder than you prefer, you stay up and keep going. I dare you to flop to try to get a penalty called in front of my former coach Kohler. He would give you a good reason to lie on the field and look injured if you tried to pull something like that. If you do not have grit on the gridiron, you are not having a good time.

We learned to move on from mistakes and pick each other up in our defeats. If one messed up play gets the best of you mentally or emotionally, you might as well take yourself out of the game. Or, if the man next to you slips up and you berate him, you just guaranteed your team another mistake. Just like in the real world, you have to have a short memory when it comes to your mistakes and move on to the next play. You remind yourself that you will live to see another day and you will do better the next time, dwelling on past mistakes never does anyone any good.

Unfortunately, I cannot fit everything I need to say about football into one article in the back of The Beacon, but if you ever want to discuss it further, feel free to contact me. With that, I will leave you with one final belief of mine.

Some people say that nothing in this world is perfect, but there are a few things I would argue for: a mother's love for her children, my Dad's smoked salmon and football. You may never get to indulge in the smoked salmon, but I hope you all find a way to enjoy as much as you can of the other two.

(The Beacon)