Ball Is Life

Flag Football Gear
From my team’s playoff game this summer. I fell short on a two-point conversion because I didn’t extend the ball and break the plane. It still haunts me. Not really, but that was a fun game. 

I love football. If you know me, that may be the biggest “duh” statement I could make. If you don’t know me, here is a quick anecdote: When I was a wee lad, I would get the miniature toy football helmets from the toy dispensers (with the crank, that costs a quarter) at the supermarket. After I gathered enough helmets, I would spend evenings and weekends simulating plays and even playing games, using a little rubber super ball as a substitute pigskin. More recently, I had football season tickets for my college team for nearly a decade until I gave them up this year (and naturally, team is now doing well. Go Bears). When it comes to football, the basketballer’s mantra is apt for me: Ball is life.

You know what’s even more fun than talking about or watching football? Playing it.

First, some caveats. By “playing football,” I mean flag football–I have no interest to tackle or be tackled, because that stuff hurts. And more specifically, I mean co-ed flag football. I don’t say that because the ladies in my league aren’t good (the ones on my team will probably beat me up for even saying this is a caveat), because they can catch, throw, and run like the guys. But the co-ed league, while competitive, is also more casual and less bro/testosterone-fueled. I’ve played in an all-men flag football league before. I was the second-smallest guy in the whole league, probably the slowest, and in one memorable play, when I tried to defend an opposing wide receiver, the gust of wind he created as he jetted by knocked me on my butt.

Now, this love for playing football isn’t new. I organized casual games with my college friends, and I’m always down to toss around the football at the park. But this year, I’ve played in two leagues with the same group, and in a word, it’s been awesome. For one, it’s competitive. I’ve scored on deep ball patterns, and I’ve been scored on, and that balance is enjoyable: It’s encouraging to do well, but you also want to always improve and get better. Two, my team is one of the most fun groups of people to be around: We laugh, we complain, and then we score touchdowns. It’s all pretty great.

But most importantly, playing football has been just another step forward for me in my personal journey–in line with the whole “Onward and Upward” theme I have been espousing. I’ve talked about running quite often in this blog, and while I’ve grown to enjoy it, it’s almost an entirely solo activity. Some have recommended that I join a running club, and perhaps I will in the future, but at the moment, I prefer running by myself or casually with friends. However, being a contributing member of a team–in a sport that I love–is something else entirely. In some ways, it’s validation that I must be doing something right these days.

A couple years ago, I would spend my Sundays during football season in front of a TV for the whole day, my laptop loaded up, and munching on tortilla chips while tracking both the Niners and my fantasy football team. That was a lot of fun. But now, instead of agonizing whether Michael Crabtree or Drew Brees gets a touchdown, I can go score one myself. Why focus on fantasy when you can do it in real life instead?

Keep pushing the pile, friends!

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