Every morning before high school football games my team practiced this tradition called commitment cards. This tradition was an opportunity for each player to individually express his feelings to the team. On these mornings the coach would give us a topic to write about and then we would each share our thoughts. One morning the coach asked us, “What is it that you like about football?” Everyone was hesitant in his individual answers. Some got a laugh by confessing they got to hit people with no punishment attached. Others appealed to our emotions by letting us know they found family, but still many of us were unsure of what we truly liked about football. There was just something there that was intangible, some common, inexplicable factor.
Football is great for countless young men, including myself, because it indeed does impart values on its participants. Some players learn principles such as brotherhood and love, while others develop a work ethic and willpower. For myself, it was one of the best times of my life. I was never the greatest player, I was only decent, we were an average team, we had our ups and downs, and overall there was nothing exceptional about our program. But still, there was something to the sport that made it special. For some reason I felt at home at practices and games, even when a coach was tearing into me, and I definitely wasn’t the only one who felt this way. There were certain lessons which it taught me that I would not have learned without 5:30 AM workouts, countless broken fingers, the agony of defeat, and the thrill of victory. All these lessons and experiences that I somehow learned and which I attribute to football were never taught to me like math – even the plays themselves; they simply came with the game. It wasn’t till almost two years later I discovered what it is that I now believe.
I never had an epiphany or an enlightening moment; I simply realized that I liked football so much because on the football field I was the same as everyone else. Wealth didn’t matter, there was no difference between being black or white, and the coolest players were the ones who put the most heart into the game. There was this one kid on our team who could be described as socially inept. He was actually quite brilliant and nice but he lacked friends and any real social life. But when it came to playing football he was one of the coolest kids out there because he put forth all his effort, all the time. All factors such as the shoes we wore, what church we went to, and the kids we hung out with were all completely, absolutely forgotten for those few hours every day. We were all the same.
I don’t recall what I said that day during commitment cards when we were asked what we liked best about football. I don’t even recollect the specifics about what others said. However, I will always remember what I did come to believe. I believe football is one of the unique times that factors such as race, creed, popularity, social status, and wealth are put aside and all that matters is the amount of heart and passion each player brings to the field. I believe football is one of the great equalizers. I value the fact that I was able to experience something like this. It is more than just a sport; it is something where everyone is judged solely on the content of their character and their willful effort. It is one of the rare situations when everyone is equal and just giving your all is enough.
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