Football was one of the first professional sports that I really enjoyed watching. I loved the story lines and the ease of understanding it. I didn’t really play team sports as a child. I didn’t have time.
I was a figure skater. I lived at the rink. Three hours before school and another three after school. Every day. All year long. Except for a week or two at camp over the summer. I remember getting hurt as a figure skater, broken toes, bruises, cuts. I even hit my head once or twice – typical when you’re learning jumps and footwork.
But nobody tried to hit me. Nobody was knocking me down.
Still, I loved watching football. Partly because of the receivers. I loved watching how they could leap and come down with the ball. The way that they looked like figure skaters taking the air. But I also loved watching the linesmen. I thought it was amazing how they would clash and rebound off of each other.
I left figure skating behind in high school. I was burned out and tired from working at my sport for years. It stopped being fun. It started being work and I was tired of hurting muscles, missing time with friends, and feeling frustrated about my progress or lack thereof.
I went to Dartmouth College. We didn’t play football. Or, at least, we didn’t play football well. But I still liked watching football from time to time. When I went to law school, I became friends with people who really did love football. So I started watching more. Then I met and married my husband and continued watching football. Wanting to be able to talk about sports and the things my husband is interested in, I started listening to sports podcasts. I got so that I could pick the lines for each game each week.
But the last couple years, I’ve wanted to watch less. I didn’t really notice it at first, but I’ve started to feel not good about football. Watching the hits didn’t inspire any joy, it started to feel like I was watching trauma.
Since reading about Andrew Luck retiring suddenly, I’ve been thinking a lot about skating and my experiences when I quit. I can empathize with his feeling of tiredness and the sense that the sacrifice isn’t worth it. I was just sacrificing time with my friends – he was sacrificing his body. At what point does a human say, this isn’t what life should be.
Apparently he reached his point. Much later than I reached mine. He probably loved it a great deal more than I loved skating, because he took a great deal more pain than I did.