To my dearest football on this Valentine’s Day,
If I am doing the math correctly (which, hopefully I am, since I’m an accountant), today marks our thirteenth Valentine’s Day as an integral part of each others’ lives. Time has quickly flown by, even faster than Cam Newton chasing down a defender that’s dancing his way to another pick-six. And yet, I feel as if you’ve been mine forever. Far, far gone are any memories from the uncultured period of my life where I once watched an Iowa game and thought it was the Steelers (okay, so I guess there’s still one memory left). I am eternally grateful that we crossed paths before the age of dating apps, due to your lack of fingers and inability to swipe right on the highly edited photo that graces the front of my profile. We found the love without the likes, the Facetune, and the cringeworthy use of gifs in place of meaningful conversation.
While you may not technically be “human,” my heart does not see vital signs. The years that I have spent February 14th with another “human” have been few and far in between (I will refrain from doing the math on this one, in fear of uncovering the exact number), but you’re consistently ready to fill that void. While you have never gifted me flowers (would’ve died anyway) or chocolate (would’ve made me fat), neither has anyone outside of my family. So who am I to critique your methods of displaying affection? Material possessions do not hold value in our relationship — you know that. Your actions will forever speak louder and carry deeper meaning than an expensive piece of jewelry that I likely could not distinguish from something featured in Dollar General’s newest line.
In high school, you were always my go-to source of radiating positivity when no one asked me to homecoming or prom. And when I was asked, you remained firmly by my side with the same unwavering support when I responded “no,” because I wanted to watch rivalry weekend or continue the full-fledged domination of my NCAA Football dynasty instead.
When someone asks me the ever-awkward and nearly unanswerable question, “What do you like to do for fun?” you’re waiting in the wings with several responses that sound the same, but actually are not. They’re normally sufficient, and we can move on from the question: “Uhhh, I like football a lot… watching it, reading about it, writing about it, listening to podcasts about it, and also playing Madden. Oh and hanging out with family and friends.” Add that second sentence for good measure, and I appear to be a perfectly normal person.
Every so often, you do an unspeakably tremendous job of reminding me that I am not a conceited robot, and I am fully capable of crying at events beyond just my own misfortunes and poorly-timed mood swings. There’s no better way to invoke those waterworks than watching a player bawl as he’s drafted into the NFL, seeing another buy his parents a home, or living in the heart of a fiery city that just won its first Super Bowl. I love when you make me cry the happiest of all tears.
Speaking of holidays, my festive appreciation for you extends far beyond the arrival of Valentine’s Day each year. The second-best part of Thanksgiving (the best being the pumpkin pie coma) is sneaking off to my grandparents’ den with you to hide away from the rest of my family. Those games will never be taken for granted, no matter how terribly snooze-inducing the match-ups tend to be. As long as I have you, my skies are as blue as those beautiful Lions jerseys; my heart, as swollen as the lineman Ndamukong Suh stomped on that one year.
Just like any other relationship that stands the test of time, we’ve had our struggles to overcome. I remember our worst fights — Monday nights, past 1 AM, when the Chargers had just blown another 28-point lead in week one, and I had swim practice at 5:30 AM. The sulking was loud, and the thump of my remote crashing against my dorm room wall was louder. Our love has strained many a relationship with friends — skipped birthday parties and nights out have been commonplace since seventh grade. But I’d never forgive myself if I’d missed Philip Rivers throw Vincent Jackson that game-winning touchdown pass to beat the Giants by one point with twenty-nine seconds left. I’ll support you, just as you do with me.
Even long distance could not create an insurmountable space between us. I’m extremely fortunate to have two devoted parents who have supported our relationship from the beginning. My dad has experienced a similar type of love in his past, and while my mom has never truly understood what we have, she continues to try her best to see it through my eyes. In the early days — our “honeymoon phase,” if you will — my parents ever-so-generously bought NFL Sunday Ticket, so that I could watch the Chargers fall apart on repeat from 3,000 miles away. When it came time to “get off the payroll” because I “don’t live there anymore” and “have an actual job now,” we were tested once again. After searching feverishly for a relationship-saving solution, I discovered that:
- Streaming is a thing, and
- It’s much easier to support the team whose stadium is visible from your apartment than one across the country that also does not have any fans.
The transitions were rocky, but we’ve always come out on top of the steps of the art museum.
While I’ve never played a down, and lamentably never will (thanks Dad), you, football, have given me a sense of identity, purpose, and passion unlike anything I’ve ever had in any other activity or job in my life. They say not to let a relationship swallow your identity, but I honestly have not a clue who I would be without you. And thus, I will shout my love from the rooftops (or maybe like a second-story balcony since I’m a bit acrophobic) until the day that I die (which will ironically be from a heart attack mid-Penn State game).
So Happy Valentine’s Day, football. I will never throw you away when I can’t find an open receiver.
All my love,