I've always thought I would be a mother of sons.
Call it (pre)mothers intuition or a gut instinct, but I close my eyes and imagine that I'll be a mother to boys, several of them even. Three? Four?
When I picture what life will be like for a family with boys, it isn't hard to imagine - I grew up as the only sister to four brothers. I love having brothers - and I suspect I'd love having sons. When I picture my sons, I imagine they'd be a lot like my brothers - athletic and fit, intelligent and driven, loyal and kind. I picture them playing catch in our backyard, chasing and tackling each other, playing sports with the neighbor kids.
I anticipate starting them in sports at a really early age, like my parents did for us. Soccer, swimming, tennis, t-ball. Eventually wrestling, basketball, baseball, football. I can picture Scott and I wearing their sweatshirts with their high school names across the chest, their team photos on pins on our collars. I spent hours on the bleachers, watching my brothers compete, and it's not a stretch to think about doing that for my children.
Three of my brothers played high school football. Two of them were on teams that won the state championship. One of them was a captain. I spent hundreds of hours - no exaggeration - cheering for them as they competed – wrestling, baseball, basketball, swimming, track, cross country… and football. Always football. Football was my favorite sport to watch – and it still is. Stadium seating, my favorite time of year, and a sport I know a lot about (if I can toot my own horn... toot toot). I loved watching my brothers play football – hollering their name when they had the ball, or when they got a tackle. I went to college about 45 minutes from home, and during my sophomore through senior years, when I had a car at school, I made the trek north many fall Fridays to watch my brothers play.
It didn’t hurt that our high school has a strong football legacy. Our coach is second-to-none, especially in the ways that matter (football acumen, certainly, but character too). One of the reasons that I dream of moving back to Cedar Rapids is so that my children can go to my high school, and be part of Xavier Football.
There were games that were incredibly fun to watch – my brothers were (and continue to be) gifted athletes, who got a ton of playing time. There were games where “MALONEY with the tackle” or “MALONEY with the carry” were proclaimed over the loud speaker, time and time again. I won’t lie – that was fun. Very fun. Their big sister was extremely proud.
There were also times that it was harder to watch. Football is a physical sport, and more than one brother was taken to the ER during or after their game.
I saw an interview, the other week, where NBC’s Matt Lauer was questioning Brett Favre about whether he’d encourage his sons to play football. His response surprised me “In all honesty, I would have a hard time just throwing him out there”. (http://www.today.com/news/
brett-favre-nfl-concussions- toll-has-got-be-pretty-high- 2D11603374) A football icon not wanting his sons to play… that is reason alone to dig deeper.
How do you reconcile a sport that you enjoy with the risk of serious, traumatic injury? Are the benefits worth the risks?
While I am not (and was never) a gifted athlete, I’m also not afraid. I’ll join your intramural volleyball team and be able to hold my own. I can go to a company golf event and not embarrass myself. I can teach my kids how to swing a tennis racket. I like sports, and I can hold my own.
I am a big believer in sports, and in the lessons to be learned on the field. Team work. Physical fitness. Strategy. Friendship. Hard work.
Sports are important, and the benefits are not lost on me. But sometimes, sports – especially football – can be violent and physical, and that is certainly cause for concern, and analysis.
These questions don't affect me too significantly right now - I'm still in the phase of football that is all fun, and not deeply personal. I can imagine a time where they might.
As Scott and I consider our future, football is on my mind.