Why I Love Football and I Hate Myself for It

I love football. No I mean, I really really love football. College football is what I love the most. I graduated from an NCAA Division 1 school. I proudly wear my school colors throughout the week. I once was a season ticket holder. I follow the blogs. I listen to sports radio. I regularly check the standings. I can talk football with anyone, and I enjoy it. Football is one of my passions, but several years ago I began to see what that passion was doing to me, and I did not like it.

Football is harmless, right? That is what we want to believe. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Super Bowl is the most watched event of the year. It is an integral part of our culture. It is part of who we are as Americans. A person would be crazy to question this thing that is so beloved by so many. Sony will release a film later this year about the concussion problem in the N.F.L. but it was recently revealed they toned down some of the content to make it more football friendly. They did not want to upset anyone by saying something bad about football. (See Sony Altered ‘Concussion’ Film) We may disagree on teams and who to root for, but everyone loves football.

So, why do I have a problem with football? It is not so much a problem with football as it is a problem with what it does to me and so many others. I first began to see this problem in others, not myself. My wife and I once attended an away game. We wore our school colors even though we were the visiting team. At the game, grown men yelled obscenities at my wife all because she was rooting for the wrong team.

I began to see fights break out on Facebook over football. People were growing angry and upset over what someone else said about their team. I noticed that football was no longer about rooting for your team. It was now just as much about putting down other teams. Before football season even begins, people are posting things on social media about their rivals even though the game is still months away.

It is easy to sit back and look at what everyone else is doing wrong. This is a human problem. We do it without thinking. Jesus tried to make us aware of this on several occasions. He once gave us a saying about a beam and a speck that has now become famous. It makes us feel good to think we are in the right, and everyone else is in the wrong, but if we are honest then we will admit that we are part of the problem. It is painful to turn the mirror on ourselves and look at our faults, but this is what is needed. It is what must take place if we want to become better human beings. It is what must take place if we want to become better Christians and grow in the image of Jesus.

When I began to reflect on my actions and feelings, I noticed this thing I love led me to act in some ways and have some feelings that I did not like. I found myself responding to negative Facebook comments and this often led to lengthy debates. Trash talk is a common part of football, and I felt the need always to defend my team. I was not a trash talker, but I was continually getting into arguments with them because I had become so defensive. I was allowing them to drag me down, instead of enjoying my team’s success.

I wanted my team to win so bad that I began to root against other teams. This is not always bad. Sometimes rivalries can be lots of fun, but they can also lead to more sinister feelings. For example, when a player on the opposing team would get hurt sometimes I would feel glad because I knew this would help my team. In that moment, I was not thinking about the well-being of another human being, but instead I was consumed with my desire for my team to win. Obviously, I would never wish any harm on anyone, but my passion for my team took over, and I was only concerned how I could somehow benefit from something terrible. I had dehumanized everyone that played on the opposite side of the ball. Unfortunately, this is a practice that is all too common and doesn’t just pertain to football.

When my team was successful, I noticed that it consumed more of my time. I spent more time reading articles online. I spent more time listening to sports radio. I spent more time thinking and talking about the game. When it was finally game time, all my attention and focus was directed at the TV. For three hours, I was oblivious to anything else that was happening. I would ignore people who were dear to me because my team was playing.

I am a recovering football addict. I did not give up football cold turkey. I still love the game. I still enjoy talking football with others. I will occasionally watch it on TV, but I have toned down my passion for a game, and I believe I am a better person for it.

How did I curtail my love for something so dear? It was not easy. It was a gradual process that took time. Here are a few things I changed in my life that helped me realize football is just a game.

I quit commenting about football on Facebook. I noticed that most of the conversations I was having on social media regarding football were not healthy. They may begin as an innocent conversation, but they would quickly decline into something else. We are so passionate about football that it is difficult to have a meaningful conversation about it, especially on social media. When we become so passionate about something that we cannot discuss it with others without someone getting upset, then we need to take a step back and consider what has gone wrong.

I got rid of satellite/cable. I did not do this because of my football addiction. I did it for other reasons, but I have noticed that I have benefitted from it in multiple ways. The hardest thing about giving up satellite/cable was football. I loved to watch the games. It was my favorite thing to do on Saturdays in the fall, but now I have other favorite things. I love to spend time with my family. I love to read. I now have more time to focus on what I am going to say on Sunday. I will still watch a game from time to time at a friend’s house or a restaurant, but now my Saturdays are filled with more meaningful activities.

I quit saying negative things about other teams. Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. Why? Because when we pray for them, it is harder to hate them. There are still teams I do not like, and I still like to root for the underdog, but I try not to make it personal. I try always to remember that the coaches and players for each team are human beings just like me. They have families that love them. They were created in the image of God just as I was. They are loved by the same God that loves me. Football is just game. It is not a reason to hate people or say bad things about them.

What do I want to be known for? This is an important question. We are often known for the things we are passionate about. I really really like football, but it is not something I want to be known for. Instead, I would rather be known as a person who loves and cares for his family. I would like to be known for being a good neighbor and a good person. Most of all, I would like to be known as a follower of Jesus. Watching football is fun, but it won’t make me a better husband, father, neighbor, or Christian. I still love a great football game, but I’m now more passionate about things that matter.

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Scott Elliott is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and Austin Graduate School of Theology. He lives in La Grange, TX and is the minister for the La Grange Church of Christ. He is married and has two sons. He enjoys writing about the Christian faith and posting the occasional film review. His articles and reviews have appeared in RELEVANT magazine, Englewood Review of Books, and other publications.

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