Football is my spirit sport. Every Sunday from 10am till 8:30pm my TV glows.
I roll Sunday-to-Sunday, with Monday and Thursday tossed in, Fall through Winter. Weekdays are spent devouring highlights, reading commentary, studying our opponents, listening to 710-ESPN radio, reliving the previous week’s game and preparing for the next. Bye weeks are torture, a two-week span of wandering aimlessly.
Many of my friends shun the sport as barbaric, overly violent — a slaughterhouse for young men — an opinion the hyper-progressive feminist activist in me would typically share.
The brain damage is real. The NFL is an unsavory operation, greedy and money obsessed. I can’t imagine what those players’ bodies endure and how they fully recover week after week. It may very well be inhumane, and yet, the gifts I receive from the sport are so much bigger than the practicalities that I wear Football blinders.
The gift is so pure that I don’t want to be practical. It is a simple, ritualistic, unadulterated, hyper-emotional belief in miracles — a state of being where anything and everything is possible.
As a Jewish girl not growing up with Santa, not having fairy dust spread all over my childhood, Football is an inexplicable, please don’t let the bubble pop belief in an energetic force much bigger than we are.
Where else in our modern world are so many able to express so freely, without pretense or judgment, in rituals that unleash our souls?
We chant. We paint our faces and our bodies. Adorn costumes. Cry in joy and grief, grabbing whoever is closest to share the victory and lessen the tumult. Superstitions rule us, dressing and undressing as the game progresses, sitting in a particular seat, eating only certain foods, lighting candles, as if somehow our behaviors will influence the outcome of the game.
Worshipping at the altar of the Football gods creates highs so exhilarating they carry us for days and lows so crushingly painful they pass through the five stages of grief until the next game.
Spirit lives in three commercially interrupted hours of miraculous play.
My family, typically fractured and out of communication, spends each game in a flurry of group texts. My brother, a bit of an Eeyore, down on his luck and, well, pessimistic character, becomes the King of Optimism. From the moment our team, the Seattle Seahawks, steps onto the field, he believes we will prevail. Regardless of score or mishaps, he knows we will make it happen. He cheerleads all of us to believe, to join in the possibilities of the impossible, knowing miracles do happen.
And so often they do - in a botched field goal attempt, an on-side kick gone our way, a ball that babbles all over the body until it lands securely, a pass interrupted in the end zone. Others, who equally adore their team, are blessed with a one-yard line miracles in the biggest game of the year. Just like that, faith is omniscient or can be crushed in an instant.
These are growth moments where we chose, are we going down in defeat of despair or are we phoenixes rising from the flames, believing in the infinitely unbelievable, knowing that it’s not over until it’s over and when it’s over we will rise stronger the following year.
This is the best in us, believing that anything is possible and trusting others to guide our way. Those who don skepticism and cynicism elsewhere, shed this skin for their teams colors. Optimism lies in the hands of a gifted quarterback and brilliant receivers. Community is built in cheers of triumph and groans of defeat.
We are all in this together.
For a few hours every week, the cynical, the skeptical and the optimistic join together in worship, as believers. We show up fully, giving it everything we have, staying the course, and regardless on how things play out, we will keep the faith.
This is exactly why I love my Seahawks. Our players, coaches and fans share the unwavering commitment of true believers, smiling through the pain, resilient and resolved that we will get bigger and better next time.
And I know we will.
Hardest part is in the waiting. What will I do for the next six months?