By Dan Borison
“My son plays high school football,” I tell a couple of the other dads at work.
“Yeah, that’s right,” I think to my self, with a little nod, which is not unlike the “credit swagger” seen in the Capital One commercials. I stand up a little straighter, pretend it’s no big deal, and brush a little imaginary lint off of my arm.
“Really!” “What position?” “Does he start?” “No kidding!” “Awesome!” are the typical responses back. I keep cool, with my nonchalant pose, but I know that my son, and by extension me, have both become instant heroes.
He’s my youngest.
I’ve spent a lot of years being really proud of my older kids and their accomplishments, and I certainly don’t want to take away from that. But telling the other dads about my kid’s a cappella group or how they starred in the high school musical play doesn’t seem to promote that surge of testosterone, and place me in the center of the group.
Football is different.
He was always a good athlete. At his previous school (a small parochial school) he played basketball and soccer, and often stood out. He was a moderate sized fish in a small pond, and it was fun to watch. Football in public school, however, is a whole new arena (even in a small public school with a “rebuilding” team; hopefully “in transition”).
He doesn’t play much (maybe he does take after his dad, who sat on the bench in middle school football). He’s a freshman, among older, bigger players. In spite of that, the older kids from his previous school crowd around him and want details. Their dads are constantly asking me about practices, games, and stand out plays. We talk about high school football as much as professional sports.
While we dads might be trying to relive our youth through our son’s experience, a surprising number of Moms seem invested as well. Most are not as technically savvy about football, but the topic comes up a lot. I suspect reliving one’s youth—if you grew up going to high school football games—may not be limited to men alone.
There seems to be something exciting and even sexy about football. In spite of all the concerns about concussions, and debilitating injuries, football really is “America’s game”. It is the most popular college sport and generates the most revenue of any other college or professional sport.
My guess is that it’s not really the past we’re reliving. It’s the future we think about. We all like to hope and dream. Who wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a stadium with thousands of people cheering? What would it be like to be the star who wins the game as the clock runs out?
I play the lottery now and then. I know the odds of winning are 175 million to 1. But for a dollar, I get to spend a little time dreaming about where I’ll go, what I’ll buy, and what I’ll say to whoever irritates me the most.
I am careful to warn my son that he should enjoy playing the game, the camaraderie, and being part of a team. It will teach him responsibility and help him develop skills that will be invaluable later in life. I try to keep him (and by extension, me) realistic about the astronomical odds of playing division one football someday, let alone in the NFL.
But you never know…
Dan Borison is a father of five in Cleveland, Ohio, and a surgeon.