In honor of Super Beyoncé Bowl Sunday, I wanted to take some time and reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned from the NFL this season. 2012 was a hell of a year. Not only did I get a new HD TV just in time to watch my favorite team (The New York Jets) implode all over my face, I ALSO got to watch my relationship disintegrate in real time. That was fun. And so, as a result of spending too many Sunday afternoons crying into a bowl of melted ice cream while wearing my Mark Sanchez jersey and my ex-boyfriend’s boxer briefs – I bring you the following insights:
1. The Two Quarterback System DOES NOT WORK.
For those of you who don’t know, the QB is the guy who throws the ball. He’s kind of the nucleus of the entire situation. It’s his job to make a play happen. While it’s important to develop players and have a deep bench (in the event of injury), you only need one starting quarterback. When applied to relationships, this means you’ve got to play your position. I’m not into gender roles and things like that, but two people vying for the same spot leads to chaos. The entire situation stops being about advancing the team and instead becomes about advancing the individual. You can’t win at love, life, or football with that dynamic. It’s stressful for everyone involved.
2.You are NOT entitled to your starting spot.
The 49er’s are in the Super Bowl this year and we’re all really indifferent thrilled, but somewhere poor Alex Smith is crying and sticking pins in a Colin Kaepernick voodoo doll. Why? Because, after Smith suffered a concussion against the Saint Louis Rams, coaches put in Kaepernick, his backup, and never looked back. I remember hearing the news on Thanksgiving that “Kaepernick will be starting next week. This is not due to Alex Smith’s injury.” It’s effed up, but the 49er’s are in the Super Bowl, so it was obviously the better choice. My point is this: our jobs, our relationships, and our roles are NOT guaranteed, so we have to do well every-single-time. I’m not saying you can’t get injured or have a bad day, but understand that people have short memories and no patience; otherwise, you might lose your spot (see also: Andy Reid). In a recent post, Dr. J wrote that he wakes up every day and tries to figure out how to be a better partner. Say what you want about his Amber Rose fetish, but that’s a man that wants to remain in the game…
3.Good football teams protect the football.
So you’d think, in this convoluted analogy, the “team” would represent the relationship, but you’re wrong. I’m convinced that a relationship is it’s own entity — a football. It’s something outside of the two individuals. You work together to push the ball forward.
Have you ever seen a player intercept the football late in the fourth quarter, run the ball down the field and, instead of going for the touchdown, he stops before the end zone to avoid giving the opposing team another chance at getting the ball? Instead of running for the points and the glory, they hit the ground to end the play. That’s because sometimes going for the big play –the huge applause or risky points – can cost you in the end. Sometimes it’s better to just play smart – small advances are often more meaningful and effective than grand gestures. Though we’re in this era of fantasy football and Facebook courtships, it’s not all about the lights and camera-ready actions. It’s about the small, hard fought advances. It’s about managing the clock and adjusting the plays. It’s about protecting the football – protecting the relationship even when doing so doesn’t result in applause and attention. I’m thoroughly convinced that if more people saw their relationship as something beyond their egos that needed protection, we’d all be better off.
4. Not even faith can obscure obvious lack of skill.
Remember Tim Tebow, the overrated beloved Christian quarterback who lucked into carried his team to the playoffs? Isn’t it odd how even with all of his “success,” The Broncos still traded him, and the team that inherited him didn’t utilize him? Well, that’s because he’s trash. Sometimes, like in relationships, we get so caught up in the narrative. We date Tim Tebow and, although we know he sucks, we stick by him because he looks good on paper, or our friends love him, or we’ve “already invested so much.” We have faith in him because he’s such a nice guy. We ride out when it’s obvious he can’t get the job done. I’m all about having faith, but God also blessed me with pragmatism. If it’s not working, have faith that someone else can do it better.
5. How you begin is how you finish…unless you’re The New York Giants.
How you start is how you finish: if you started as the side chick, you’ll end up as the side chick (or, worse, as the woman being cheated on). You’d think the same is true for football, but not so much. The Giants won the Super Bowl last year, and spent a good portion of the season with only two losses, but then somehow things fell apart. They didn’t even make the playoffs. Fans (like my brother and his wife) cite the lack of a secondary, but I could care less. As a Jets fan, it’s a relief. No one wants to hear Giants fans gloating about their elite quarterback. It’s kinda like those people who gloat about their boyfriends on Facebook: “he’s perfect, he’s lovely, he has two Super Bowl wins…blah blah blah” – we’re all rooting against you on the low. Sorry…
6. We tend to ignore the flaws when things are working.
This can be applied to so many facets of the NFL – from brain injuries to violent behavior – but I’m talking about steroids. You didn’t hear it from me, but according to an article on Deadspin, Ray Lewis has been using banned substances for years. And, while we’re on the subject, I’m just going to throw out a wild speculation: I think Adrian Peterson’s knees are made of steroids. I’m not here to debate the use of banned substances in sports, I’m simply saying that, sometimes in all of the excitement, we overlook signs of corruption and decay. We act surprised when a football player commits suicide or turns up years later with early onset dementia, but week after week we watch them put their bodies through immense trauma. We do the same in our relationships. If the Instagram pictures are popping, we can pretend we’re happy. Just because we’re winning doesn’t mean we’re playing well…
7. Bros before …Bowls.
So the big story of this super bowl is Jim and John Harbaugh. They will be battling it out for the big game. They will be the first brothers to ever coach against each other in the Super Bowl. I don’t know if anyone really cares; but the media wants us to care, so I suppose we will. What I’ve learned, after spending countless Sundays crying into a bowl of self-loathing, is that your bros (or, in my case, ladies) are the ones who pick you up, push you out of the house, and take you to Miami. Yes, we all want the ring. Yes we all want to win. But at the end of the day, it’s about your family. When the game has been played and someone goes home a loser, your family and friends hold you down.
8. You CAN still be awesome after injury.
I am not the only person who thought Peyton Manning would be a vegetable by now. No, I’m not. Even the Indianapolis Colts, his former team, didn’t think that he was the future of their franchise. With all of the doubt and speculation, Peyton recovered from his neck injury, was signed by the Denver Broncos, and is poised to be MVP this year. Granted, if Tim Tebow could take the Broncos into the playoffs last season, Manning isn’t exactly a miracle worker, BUT that’s not the point. The point is that no matter how bad the injury, it IS possible to recover. You might be out for a game or even a season, but if you’re willing to take the risk of re-injury, you can be awesome again. Whether you end up on a new team, or you’re able head back to your old franchise, you can come back. And clearly, you can come back with style.
So folks, I’m no sports writer, but these are my observations. Ladies and Gents, let me know what lessons your favorite sports moments can teach us about love?
Patia Braithwaite is a Brooklyn-based relationship writer. Her work has been featured in The Coral Gables Gazette, Florida Inside Out Magazine, Yahoo Shine, and BounceBack.com. She’s currently working on a non-fiction book that explores the various ways men see God and how these views impact their romantic relationships. Check out her musings and more at: www.menmyselfandgod.com.