Football Season

Football Season

I woke this morning and the air was chilly – and so crisp. I was in the high mountains and saw the contrasting colors of fall, yellow and orange in the Aspen leaves and leaves beginning to fall to the ground. My bike ride required multiple layers and hand coverings…all reminding me that fall has arrived. Which also brings one of my favorite times of the year – FOOTBALL SEASON!

I am embarrassed to admit how much I love football. I love watching it, I love listening to it on AM radio, I love the energy in the stadiums, I love the die-hard fans who can recall from memory their team’s history. I love planning my weekends around which games I want to watch. I love getting to know the story behind each player…and knowing that every single player HAS a story that led them to where they are. I love the epic team rivalries that go on for decades and the loyalty fans pay to their teams. I love sitting with my boys and watching games together, bantering back and forth. I LOVE football season.

I was watching a game last weekend and was reminded of one of the scenarios in football that I dread most:

A hard fought game, now in the 4th quarter, down to mere seconds on the clock. No time for more passes or runs. No more time for strategy or creative plays, but we are within field goal range. My team is down 3 points, and onto the field runs the kicker to attempt the kick. IF the kicker makes it, we force overtime. If he misses, we lose.

So very much pressure on one player and on one play. This scenario has always seemed so wildly unfair to me. I chew my nails and shake my foot in nervousness and shush everyone around me while I stare at the screen to see what will happen. If he makes it, he’s a hero. If he doesn’t, he earns the disappointment and disapproval of fans everywhere. I imagine the pressure he must feel, the weight of the whole game on his shoulders, the outcome of the game seemingly determined by this one kick. How awful to be put in this difficult position.

In an American Football game, there are approximately 120-130 plays per game. And all of those plays – in sum – determine the outcome of the game. Each play carrying value, each play affecting the next to influence the final score. I am no Al Michaels or Chris Collinsworth, but I know that only in rare situations can any of those 120-130 plays can be isolated to have determined the final outcome. The outcome is the responsibility of the whole team, every team member’s efforts, or lack thereof, affecting the win or loss.

But when the clock runs out and it’s down to one kick – or one play – often the player making (or not making) the final play carries the outcome in toCelebratetality. He might blame himself almost entirely for the outcome, or others might put that blame on him – which is nowhere near sufficient an explanation for any win or loss. So many people groan – if he had just made that kick! But what about the 120ish plays that occurred before? What if the quarterback had made one more 1st down? Thrown one more touchdown? What if the team hadn’t put the kicker in that position in the first place? What if all those incomplete passes had been completed? What if there were no fumbles and no turnovers?

The outcome of any game is a team effort, woven together by the individual plays.

As it is with relationships.

In the life of a relationship, you can imagine the number of “plays” that occur. Numerous daily interactions, numerous conversations, numerous opportunities to make a connection or miss a connection. Numerous chances to build each other up or tear each other down. Numerous opportunities to communicate or stay silent. So many chances to make a repair or allow resentment and distance to grow. Chances to reach out or stonewall. We are given so many plays in any relationship.

And the sum of those plays determines what amount of pressure your teammate will be under when the clock runs out or when they are in a position to have to make a relationship decision. And we will each have to own part of the win or loss when that last play goes down.

If you are still in the game, make as many plays as you can. Complete the passes, throw accurately, catch the ball, don’t fumble, be fast, get to the end zone, block your man, learn the plays, get to know your teammates and communicate with them. In relationship language this can translate to so many things. It can mean paying attention to your partners needs and desires, choosing patience and kindness, making time for your partner and your relationship, learning their love language, communicating clearly and honestly, asking for what you need, managing your expectations of your partner and the relationship, healing your own wounds and working on the unhealthy dynamics you bring to the relationship, or becoming responsible for your own happiness. There are so many creative plays you can try.

If you are the kicker, if the clock has run out and you’re forced – for some reason – to make the final play, remember – you didn’t get here alone. You had to make the final play, but your team put you in this position. There were hundreds and hundreds of individual interactions and decisions that led you to this spot. You probably fumbled a few times, you may have missed a few passes. And your partner had their share of missed plays. But please be kind to yourself. Place responsibility where responsibility is due. Don’t take it all.

To both partners…when the clock has run out, the plays have been made, and the score is final…go to the locker room. Shower. Sit, rest. Breathe. Reflect. Debrief. Celebrate the touchdowns and the smart plays. High five your teammates. Sit with gratefulness and own what went well. Or grieve the plays you wish had been different. Grieve the passes you could have caught and the runs you could have made. Own your part, then grieve the final outcome. And no matter which position you are in…there is so much to learn from watching the game tapes. We can often see in hindsight what we couldn’t see in the moment – and then, when we are given the opportunity to play again, we get fresh downs and a fresh score board. And we begin again.

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