For the Love of the Game, or Just the Win?

by Lisa Douglas

I sit here at this blank screen, and I want to write about the blue sky that tented the sun today, like a smiling curtain over us as we played outside. I want to write about my daughter’s curls tickling my face as she laughed while I squeezed the skin of her knees, tickling her. I want to write about the beauty in the embrace I shared with my oldest son today, how he curled up in my arms on the couch like he used to when he was smaller. I know my days are numbered, because he’s getting so big, he’s getting to be a big boy/almost man, and will soon be too old to do silly things like cuddle with his mom.

I want to write all these things, but all I can do is think about the damn football game between the Saints and Vikings, and how, instead of watching a well-matched game between two great teams that I consider both my second-favorite teams (of course, knowing our favorite in this home are the Steelers). Instead, what I witnessed was a horribly-called, badly-officiated game that my aforementioned oldest son had to witness.

People, he wants to be an NFL player when he grows up. He loves the game, he wants to play football. But after seeing that, how can I in good conscience let him? I don’t feel the game is worthy of my son, now.

Folks, I believe that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. With that said, I was pulling for both teams – I wanted the Saints to get to their first Super Bowl, because Brees, Bush and Shockey are amazing (I’ve admired Shockey since his Giants days). I also wanted Favre, who, I felt, finally found “his team” to get there, too, because he’s a legend, and because I like Adrian Peterson, and think the two of them are dynamite together.

I was looking forward to this killer match up between two teams I felt were well-matched titans, who I knew were going to throw down in all their NFL glory. And for a while, that is what I saw.

But after seeing replay after replay of Favre going down after releasing the ball, and no late hit penalties ever being called by the referees. After seeing time and time again, reviews being issued and calls being upheld when they were clearly wrong, I began to feel ill that my son, my dear, sweet, ambitious, hopeful, impressionable son, was witnessing a travesty all to win a game.

I also became angry. I felt the Saints could win it of their own accord, they didn’t need refs “fixing” it for them. They had many weapons in their football arsenal to get the job done. They were talented enough that they didn’t need to continually go after Favre illegally, such as they were. Why not just play it fair, and win it fair? They were good enough!

And dammit, refs, why couldn’t you give the Saints the benefit of the doubt that they could do it on their own? Why not let them win it because they really were that good? And why are Saints fans not more angry over this, instead of celebrating? It wasn’t a clean victory. If this were my team, I’d be seething.

There is enough cheating, enough corruption, enough crooked people in this world already. For some, games such as this are a release, sometimes the only release from that corruption for some who live and breathe it all day long at work, school, or wherever they’re exposed to it, hell, it’s everywhere. But in our games, too? No, not the games!

This isn’t about a fan’s sour grapes, because, as I said, I was for either of the teams to win (and, plus, I’m a Steelers fan). I was watching as Switzerland, I was neutral. It could have gone either way for me, and I would’ve been fine.

But I’m not fine. The best team, who played the best, should have won. That’s how it’s supposed to work. You work hard, you play hard, you abide by the rules, and you win. As I said, if you work hard, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

I am so upset for everyone involved – upset that the Vikings, despite their issues, didn’t get a fair shake at a fair-called game. I’m upset that the Saints will never get this “first trip to the Superbowl” back, that this will forever and ever be their first time, and it’s now tainted by a “what if” because of those crappy, cheating refs.

I am so VERY upset that my son had to witness this occurring firsthand, watching and hearing my husband and myself yell to the screen about the calls, the hits, the horribleness. I hate that it entered his mind that this, THIS is what his game is seemingly about – win at all costs, but not because you played the best. Not because you worked the hardest, but because the refs favored you to win.

I hate that it can’t just be about the love of a game, the love to play it, the spirit of chasing those players and that ball up and down the field for 60 minutes.

I get so damn happy when watching two teams, whoever they are, smacking each other’s asses, smiling and saying “Good job!” when they make a good play, or take a good hit. That’s what it’s supposed to be about – good sportmanlike behavior.

Troy Polamalu
is a perfect example of this. He is so faithful to his God, his family, he signs the cross before and after every play, he goes out there and gives it 2000% each time, and never plays unfairly, always on the up-and-up, and is well respected because he does it with honor.

I hate that we live in a world where most stars and sports figures don’t see their celebrity status as important enough in the life of a child to live their lives as rightfully as they should, as a role model. This goes same for those involved with stars and sports, too, to include officials. Sure, you may not get any press or paparazzi snapping your pictures or writing tell-alls in their publications about the sordid details of your life, but you’re on TV, you’re in front of my child’s eyes and you’re influencing him with your actions and behavior.

I now hate the fact that, no matter what, my son is always going to question whether he’ll get a fair shake in any of his games, wonder if the next referee in his games will call it fairly or cheat, because we’ve been there before, and because he’s now witnessed it professionally, too.

People, just don’t cheat. Don’t cheat to help your children win, don’t cheat to help your favorite team win, don’t cheat to help yourself win, or anyone else. Just. Play. Fair.

I can’t even believe it has to be said.

Here’s to hoping I can build my son into a great man who will be able to tower over such adversity and corruption, and prevail despite evil, regardless of his career of choice. Which, right now, unless they clean up their act considerably, I most certainly hope isn’t NFL football.

(Now, if you don’t mind, I’m gonna go sleep in my Hines Ward jersey and cry into my pillow it isn’t my team in the Super Bowl this year.)

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