The National Football League: My First True Love

Dwan SamuelCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2008

“So, why do you love football so much?” That seems to be a reasonable question to ask.  For some reason, I am asked that question all too often. I never have a problem with giving an answer, unless the question is directed to me in a sarcastic, judgmental tone.

Women are usually the orators of this question and usually have follow-up comments and questions such as: “It’s cool to watch, but why do you get so involved?” or “Do you watch it to get closer to guys?” or “It’s stupid. It’s just a bunch of men being violent to one another,” and my all time favorite, “I WATCH IT TOO BECAUSE THOSE GUYS LOOK HOT IN THOSE TIGHT PANTS.”

I do not mind at all if someone asks me about my love of football because they truly want to know. I actually encourage that, in hopes of converting someone into a football fanatic like myself. 

For example, my best friend does not love football anywhere near as much as I do (okay, she really could care less about the sport), but she asks questions because she wants to be involved with what is going on in my life.

At times, I find myself going off into an in-depth football conversation with her about defensive schemes, the importance of an offensive line, or why I wish that Al Davis would sell the Raiders to me for a dollar so that they can return to glory.

Then I realize that it is not her favorite topic, but she will always ask questions to gain a better understanding of what I am talking about because she loves me, not because of her love of football.

I have heard a whole gamut of reasons as to why people believe that I take football so seriously. Here is a crazy idea...I just love the sport. No explanation needed. I love every single aspect of the NFL. Some people look forward to Christmas, birthdays, concerts, etc., but I look forward to football. Everyday. It is a constant in my life. 

Someone very close to me once told me that my “personality begins to really come out if I am watching a game, playing Madden, or holding a conversation about football.” I get so excited. It is as if a fire is ignited within me and it becomes almost impossible to extinguish it. 

Football is that walk along the beach on a beautiful day. It is the feeling that you get when you remember some of the best moments from your childhood. For me, football is now embedded so deeply within my DNA that it is like the engine of a car. It keeps me going. I breathe, eat, sleep, read, and write football. It is my air. 

Maybe because I am a female, I see beyond the statistics, scores, schedules, and the win-loss column. I am able to see the humanity and beauty in the sport. Football has taught me so much. It taught me lessons that are not simply learned in a classroom or from your parents nagging you about how the real world would be. 

I learned persistence, patience, determination, teamwork, that actions have consequences, accountability, and that life is not always fair. The most important lesson that I have learned is that no matter what the odds may be, you can overcome them. 

In my opinion, football takes hard work, talent, preparation, and opportunity, but several times, the determining factor in a game boils down to who wants it the most. If you want something bad enough, you will not stop until you get it. 

I can use the example of Super Bowl XLII to prove that point. On Feb. 3, 2008, the New England Patriots were supposed to go down in history as the best team ever. They didn't because the New York Giants chose to allow their naysayers to become their motivation, and although the odds (and most fans) were against them, they brought down Goliath. 

This is what makes the sport so spectacular to me. Each team gets one shot. They are not given a system like that of the NBA to battle it out, night after night during the playoffs or championship games. They must seize the moment when it is given to them.

The game that has meant the most to me as a fan was played on Dec. 22, 2003 in Oakland, CA with the Green Bay Packers and the Oakland Raiders. 

I have been a Raider every since I knew what football was, but I have also remained a loyal fan of Brett Favre because he represents so much of what I believe the NFL should stand for. He is not perfect. He is humble. He is loyal. And like me, he is so passionate about the game that it is unbelievable to people. 

Favre’s father passed away on the evening of Dec. 21, 2003, but Favre made it clear that he would be with his “football family.” They beat the Raiders 41-7 that game, and the things that occurred during the game were nothing short of miraculous. I still get tingles and become very emotional about that game, even as I write about it now.

You see, I view football as a representation of life. When people make comments like, “No, you can’t,” “Don’t waste your time,” That’s too difficult,” or “You are bound to fail,” I think of all of the players and teams who have inspired me through the years.

On the gridiron, my skin color, natural hair, and body type would never matter, as long as my performance was great. If I embrace who I am and be the best at whatever I choose to do, then my talent will cause me to find success, no matter how many people would like to see me fail. 

It taught me that sometimes in life, you must fight for what you want. You must stay focused and always get up and retain your focus when you fall down. You learn from your previous mishap and anticipate that your opponent will attempt to take advantage of that weakness that was noticed.

If you are a joke to everyone (like the Dolphins were last season), do not give up; continue to fight, as the Dolphins did, because 1-15 is technically better than 0-16. Never stop fighting.

When you reach the top, continue to fight so that no one takes your spot next year. If they do, fight to get it back or fight to achieve even greater success. Never give up and never allow your opponent to see you sweat.

I guess that people feel that because I am a woman, who could have chosen several different paths, it is hard to comprehend why I would choose such a difficult one that is dominated by men.

I do not need people to understand it, but it would be nice if they could accept and respect it. I do not question the paths that people choose to take. I figure that they have their reasons, just as I have mine. Just as each new season gives each team new hope for that Super Bowl ring, each day gives me hope that I can achieve my goals. 

So, before you ask me about my love of football, ask yourself what inspires you each day and ask what you are passionate about. If you cannot answer those questions, then I pity you, and I will gladly explain my love of the game, in hopes that it can be your inspiration as well.

I will explain that it was pre-ordained to play a major role in my life, and it has been the best metaphor for life that I could have ever imagined. The world is a football field, when you play, give it all that you have, so that you have no regrets and can leave it all on the field.