I fell in love with football when I was about 11 years old, and one of my earliest dreams was to play pro football with the big boys. I did not realize at the time that girls were not allowed to play the game. I had a beloved male cousin who played for the local high school team, and I thought that he always looked so resplendent in his uniform, with his shoulders like Superman’s under all that padding.
I would go to the park and watch Tony and his teammates practice, and I would dream that I was the person catching that perfect spiral of a football. I could just see myself running as fast as I could, being as slick and elusive as possible, racing down the field for a touchdown! But, alas, the boys would never let me play. They would say, “You might get hurt!”
But, I was undeterred! When Christmas came around that year, I asked my aunt for a football uniform, complete with pads and a helmet. She didn’t say that I couldn’t have it, so I was so excited on Christmas Eve, believing that the next day I would be prepared to play football with the neighborhood guys.
But, alas, I received a doll and other girlie things! I cried, and my aunt explained to me that as a girl, I had body parts that were not suited for football, and that I was likely to get hurt bad if I was tackled. I thought that was the most unfair statement, for Tony, her son, never made it through a full football season without spending a few days in the hospital. Now, there was someone who could not take a tackle!
I kept going to practices, and my sadness finally won over some of the boys. They decided to let me catch a ball and try to run for a touchdown. I put on tone guy’s gear, and as I was not five feet tall, and I probably weighed less than a hundred pounds , the pads and all were so big on me that I could barely move. But, I was not giving up!
I went into the huddle and was told to take the ball, and try not to get tackled until I reached the other end of the field for a touchdown. I got in position, and barely able to move, I grabbed the ball from the quarterback, and I don’t think I went more than three or four steps before I was tackled by several of the guys.
I hit the ground hard, and I promise you that I saw stars and lights, and for a moment, I thought that I had crossed the goal line and was being celebrated, but reality set in with the first pains. Everything seemed to hurt, but especially my mouth! I did not lose any teeth, but my mouth was swollen for a few days.
I never went back to watch the boys play football, and I found out later that my cousin and his friends planned my one and only time “off the bench” as a way to get rid of me. Needless to say that the dream to play pro football is one that I am thankful did not come true.
I learned that playing football was not part of God’s plans for me, and that sometimes it is better to realize your limitations before you pay a price in aches and pains. But more importantly, I learned to listen to the wisdom of my elders. Proverbs 3: 16-17 states, She [wisdom] offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.”
As much as I never again wanted to play football, I never lost my pure joy in watching the game. Just one month to go before the NFL regular season starts. Yep, September 6, 2018, the Atlanta Falcons and the Super Bowl Champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, will set my heart aflutter once again.