To Love Something is to See it Clearly
by P. Braithwaite
I’ve stopped watching football. A few years ago, inspired by my sister-in-law, I came out of the closet as a fan. For years prior, I’d sat silently with my father on Sundays and listened to him wax poetic about the game. My father is a true sports fan, never really investing in a particular team, but preferring to enjoy the sportsmanship involved.
I started to see the game through his eyes.
There is something so beautiful about football. There is something really graceful about strategy combined with sheer force and unbridled aggression. Every movement is strategic, even time is manipulated. There is something beautiful about an offensive line that creates a human shield — something almost magical about a running back who can push himself through tiny holes.
There is also something alchemical in the crowd — the masses gathering in similar colors, the collective hope put behind men we can’t control. There is something shamanic about the chanting, the crossed fingers, and clasped hands — the hands thrown up in surrender (and despair) when field goals are missed, sacks occur, and two-minute drills just don’t work out.
Every emotion known to man can occur in 3 hours. You can age ten years by watching just one game.
I thought I loved football, but I don’t. I was infatuated. I was enamored with an idea. I loved who I was allowed to be on Sunday afternoons – angry, hopeful, optimistic, and snarky. I loved the connections it afforded me – text messages to my brother and phone calls to my dad. My dad and I averaged three phone calls every Sunday. I loved the experience of learning the intricacies of the game – reading defenses, trolling stats, arguing with Skip Bayless (in my head).
I didn’t love football; my perception wasn’t clear. To love something is to see it clearly.
Earlier in the season, I watched Frontline’s League of Denial which painstakingly covered the league’s systematic dishonesty regarding the risk of brain injury. It was heartbreaking, but I made myself watch every scene. In moments when I wanted to quit, I stopped myself: if I can yell at my QB when he fumbles while being sacked, I can look his bleak future in the face.
I haven’t watched football since that night.
I’m not writing this as a call to action. I’m not urging people to boycott the NFL. I’m actually of the mind that football players do God’s work; Americans need a place to channel rage. I, myself, didn’t mean to stop watching – one Sunday just stretched out into the next. Before I knew it, I’d stopped following the game. I’m not anti-football or even anti-NFL, but to love something is to truly see it clearly. And I don’t love football enough to watch what happens when the lights go out.
To love something (or someone) is to accept it as it is.
To love someone (or something) is to look the darkness in the face, and allow them to captivate you anyway. To love is to cherish, not merely in spite of darkness, but because darkness is part of the whole. The beauty is informed by the darkness. The beauty would be less palpable without it.
In this season of impending playoffs, twinkling lights and holiday cheer, let us see and love each other clearly. Let us honor the darkness that magnifies the light. Let us protect our quarterbacks, our own heads, and our loved ones.
There can be no (Sunday night) lights without the darkness. God, let us learn to love and advocate for it all.
What do you see clearly?