My father never taught me how to block or tackle. He never taught me how to read a defense or how to read a quarterback's eyes. However, he taught me how to love football. He's the reason I have Jaguars season tickets, the reason I went to the NFL Draft this year, and the reason I watch football every weekend between August and January. My father's love of football taught me to love the game, and now that I think about it, it taught me a lot about life, as well.
Lesson #1 - Some things are worth planning your day around
On Saturday mornings of my childhood, things started early. At least they started early in my boyhood memory. Always willing to sleep in, I never understood why we had to get up to eat breaksfast together. I never understood why we had to get started on our chores in the morning. If Dad wanted to get started early that was fine, but why did that have to include me? I could cut the grass later, right?
Sometimes he let me wait. He and my big brother would sit inside watching college football while I was just starting my chores, hoping that my transistor radio and earplug would turn up loud enough to be heard over the lawn mower. Eventually, I caught on. Dad got his work done early, made his evening plans late. But when the college football game was on, he was watching. Pretty soon I was watching every Saturday, too.
Lesson #2 - You play to win the game
Long before Herman Edwards uttered these words in a press conference, my Dad had engrained this idea into my being. We always loved it when we could get our Dad to play football with us in the backyard. This usually happened on Thanksgiving Day and sometimes Christmas. Twice a year we coaxed him onto the playing field and into his competitive mode - the mode in which we were no longer his children but his teammates or his enemies. He would trick play us, block us and tackle us to try to win. Maybe he let up on me and I didn't realize it. Looking back on it, I'm sure that's what happened. But to that little boy out on the field playing with his Dad, he gave it his all. He did that to show us he valued the game and our own efforts. He did that to show us he respected us.
Lesson #3 - Value other's ideas
Every football game I ever played with my Dad I hoped to be on his team. Not because that would give me the best chance to win, but because he actually asked me what I wanted to do. If I was on my brother's team, he was calling the plays - the plays that featured him, usually. My dad would ask me questions. Run or pass? Do you want to throw or catch it? What play do you want to run? He would indulge me for two or three minutes in the huddle as I would try to diagram the hook and lateral play that had me both throwing the ball and receiving the lateral as my brothers were yelling that the play clock had expired. He heard me out, anyway. He let me feel like he valued my opinion and that made all the difference
Lesson #4 - Expect hurt and disappointment
It's football. People get hurt. People lose. Enjoy the game anyway.
I'm not sure these exact words were spoken, but that's what was taught in my house. You got hurt playing football? Of course you did. That's what happens. Let's treat it but let's not be a baby about it. You lost? Of course you did. Somebody always loses. Your favorite team lost? Of course they did. Enjoy the competition. The most enjoyable games are when the outcome is in doubt until the end.
I think these lessons helped me in other parts of my life as well. You broke up with your girlfriend? Yep, that's what happens. Your car got totaled? Yep, these things happen, thank God you're alright. People get hurt. People get disappointed. Act accordingly.
Lesson #5 - Stay with your team
My Dad is a Tennessee Volunteers fan. He grew up in Tennessee watching and listening to Tennessee football with his Tennessee-loving Dad. But my Dad moved away from Tennessee long before I was born. He lived in Alabama during the Bear Bryant years. He lived in Florida during the Steve Spurrier years. He saw his team lose to these other schools many times, but he's still a Tennessee fan. He once worked as an usher at an Auburn-Tennessee game so he could watch some of the game in person. It doesn't matter that none of his children are Tennessee fans or that hardly any of his friends are Tennessee fans. He became a football fan in Tennessee and that's who he is.
I think about that when I realize that I became an NFL fan when the Jaguars were born and that's just who I am now. I'm DTWD and nothing is going to change that.
Last lesson-Let's go throw the football
Throwing the football with your dad is more than just throwing the football. Whether you're talking to each other or throwing in silence, it's just a special time. Maybe I'm thinking about all of the things I've learned from my dad as that ball goes back and forth. Maybe I'm thinking about how there are some things that we've always shared and that we can always talk about, and some things we just think about in silence, together.
What do I want for Father's Day this year? My wife and kids have asked me that question and I gave them the usual boring answers. But now that I think about it, I want to throw the football with my kids. Then let's get in the car and go see my dad and let's throw the football some more.