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The Silent Game of Football

Growing up, I had a clock radio at my headboard. As a rule, I was to be in bed by ten. This posed a problem for me on Monday nights, because I had to miss my favorite show, Monday Night Football. But I had a sneaky solution. I knew how to dial in the local ABC affiliate on my clock radio. I would then tuck the clock under my my pillow and lay my ear directly over the speaker.

One Monday night I was laying there in the dark, discreetly taking in the action, when the drama began to build. The 49ers were giving a beating to the Raiders, and Jerry Rice had just tied Jim Brown’s record of 126 touchdowns. It became apparent that he was going to try to break the record that night.

I couldn’t take it any longer, there was only so much imagery I could create in my mind. I had to see what was going on with my own eyes. I shut my clock radio off and crept out of my room and down the hall to the living room. I turned on the TV and muted the volume, hoping that neither parent would notice a flickering, blueish glow under their bedroom door.

I sat there in total silence, two feet away from the screen, trying to keep my composure as Rice crossed the goal line once more with arms spread wide in victory. I was breaking the rules but Jerry was breaking the record. And I didn’t get caught, not that night or any of the sneaky Monday nights that followed.

For years I would look back fondly on those silent nights, until it came full circle. When we were first married, my wife, Gina, was not a fan of football. More precisely, she was not a fan of the screaming and yelling that invariably came with men watching football. So I didn’t push it on her and I didn’t watch the sport I loved—until one Sunday while I was sick on the couch.

Gina told me it would be fine to have a game on as long as there was no yelling involved.

The game was full of drama, including the heartbreaking story of Doug Flutie’s little boy as well as Doug’s harrowing return to the NFL. The game came down to the wire and went into overtime. I never yelled. I didn’t holler. I quietly kept my cool as Gina found herself drawn into the real-life drama and passion of the game. From that day on, I would have the greatest football buddy ever.

We watch any and every NFL game together, whether or not our team is playing. We rarely raise our voices at the TV, just the occasional cheers and boos. Football may be a violent sport, but it brings several hours of peace into our home each Sunday. And for this reason we rarely watch the Super Bowl with others. We don’t attend Super Bowl parties. We just sit at home and enjoy the final night of our favorite pastime, with a little sadness that it will be over in a few hours—until it returns in September. Until then, I can look back to that old clock radio with appreciation for the reserve and composure that its silent football taught me.


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