Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Doctor StrangeGlove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and "Love" the NFL

Pennsylvania is trying to kill me. Yes. The whole state. 

Not the weather, mind you. I'm the lunatic who giggles when he walks outside to be slapped in the face by temperatures in the teens. I'm the nutjob who wants a snowblower because it JUST LOOKS SO DARN COOL! I'm the moron who is busy practicing his fire-building skills in our wood-burning fireplace so that I can keep everyone warm.

No, the weather isn't going to do me in.

It's the mentality and culture surrounding professional sports. Football in particular. 

Ashley and I both grew up appreciating football the way God intended it: at the collegiate level and in the SEC. Granted, her zeal and passion for Auburn eclipses my own for Mississippi State (and probably single-handedly dwarfs up to a third of the passion of the entire alumni base), but we still know what Saturdays are made for: tailgating. So both Kai and Eli come with a natural genetic tilt towards appreciating sports, if not participating in them (again, a gift from their mothers' side). 

From the time both boys were able to speak, they chanted "Wa Eagoo HEY!" and "Hayel Tate!" We purchased the most adorable shirts for them. We gave them pompoms to shake and cowbells to ring. We even begrudgingly tolerated Kai's brief love affair with the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. We smiled as he and his classmates would craft games at the park, playing each other as the teams they love. But again: this was football at the collegiate level. 

I lived in Athens, GA, but never saw a Falcons game in Atlanta. I lived in Coral Gables, but never saw the Dolphins play in Miami. I lived in Columbia, SC, but never went to go see the Panthers play. The closest I ever came to watching the NFL as I was growing up was when I would switch the channel on the TV to a cartoon after my dad fell asleep watching a game. As an teenager and into my adult years, the greatest appreciation I have for the NFL was is watching the commercials during the Super Bowl. 

I knew that things would change once we migrated north of the Mason-Dixon line, but an entire paradigm shift in the mentality and fervor of Kai? Never saw it coming.

Every day - EVERY day - he "plays" football in the family room. He tosses the football in the air, catches it, runs plays, falls to the ground, skids across the carpet, and calls imaginary plays aloud. He provides his own replays. He acts as the referee. He collects miniature football helmets. He collects miniature football player figures. He wants to get a flag for the New England Patriots to go out in front of our house. And he has started memorizing players' names and statistics.

Gone is the boy who wanted to always play superheroes. Gone are the forts and castles in Narnia we would build. Gone is the boy who would run into the room every time he heard the theme from DOCTOR WHO playing on TV. 

Gone is my mini-me. 

Oh, there are still glimpses of my little geek that come out every so often: excitement over digging through back issues of comic books; excitement over the newest STAR WARS film (and the BB-8 he has slept with every night since Christmas); and requests to listen to Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil in the car. 

But my sidekick has turned into a place kicker. He's becoming himself. He's imprinting on his friends just like I did. He's finding his own identity and groove.

He's growing up. 

Dammit.

So, I'm trying to learn these teams along with him. I'm trying to at least have a baseline understanding of what the crap he's talking about most of the time. I'm trying to let some of the crazed mania for all these...non-collegiate...football teams he has rub off on me. 

Because I remember. I remember the blank stares, the half-hearted attempts at conversation, and the ways in which my dad listened to me babble on endlessly about Richie Rich, the DC Comics Multiverse, who was cooler between Luke and Han, why I liked Spock over Kirk, and whatever else gripped my mind at the time. Just like Kai is doing with me, I spoke a language foreign to my dad. 

But I'm going to attempt and become bilingual. I''m going to celebrate the things he celebrates. This is either going to be a phase he will grow out of and go back to wanting to build a TARDIS with me, or this is going to shape the core of who he will be for decades to come. 

Either way, I'll be there with him. As much as he will let me.

And if he continues to want to watch football on TV, I'll just keep flipping back over to the FIREFLY marathon during the commercials. 

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