6 min read

When Football Is More Than Football

When Football Is More Than Football

I took the top off the Jeep over the weekend and headed for the mountains. Obviously, that created a significant amount of wind as I was driving down the freeway en route to the mountains of Blacksmith Fork Canyon. I had to turn my hat backwards like a real 16 year old kid and I never thought about it again. 6 hours later, the picture above was the result.

As many of you may assume, I'm not one who typically gets embarrassed. I've worn short shorts and thrust my hips to 'Call On Me' while standing on my kitchen counter and posted the video for the internet to see. I've draped myself in a tinfoil costume with a 5-foot antenna and let the internet have it. And, I posted this picture of my forehead looking like a human Do Not Enter sign onto the internet without any hesitation. I don't really get embarrassed.

The way I see it, I'm a 33-year old man who has been married for a while to an incredible partner, has three wonderful children who still think I'm funny, and I lead a successful career (the one outside of the internet). Things are going pretty good for me, what on earth is there to be embarrassed about?

Beyond that, though, I'm balding, I'm overweight, I wear giant and goofy glasses mostly because my head is enormous and the giant ones are the ones that fit the best. The jokes and judgments that one could make about me are right there on the surface, and they aren't going to get any worse because of a tan line, so I might as well lean into it a little bit.

Most of the time, that works for me. And most of the time, that's true.

But on Sunday morning as I was getting ready for Church, I was self-conscious about the goofy Pepsi logo on my head (still waiting for my royalty check for allowing my body to become a billboard, Pepsi Co.). I was hesitant to go to Church because I look, well, ridiculous.

I went to Church, but skipped out after the first hour while my family went to classes. I could do a chapel with hundreds of people, but a room with dozens of people felt way more intimidating for my weird head, so I drove around the town in the Jeep while my family finished up their day. While on this drive, I turned my YouTube Music (yes, I prefer that to Spotify or any other platform and you will too if you try) to shuffle "My Supermix." Basically, this is YouTube taking all of my most listened to songs, genres, and YouTube videos and using their terrifying math and technology to determine what songs will best suit me on a given time of any given day. Let me share some of the songs that came up:

"Waving Through A Window" - Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen Soundtrack

"Notice Me" - Quinn XCII

"Psychofreak" - Camila Cabello

"Fighting" - Tyler Joe Miller

"Overwhelming" - Jon Bellion

"Weight of the World" - Shane Nicholson

You don't have to have ever heard those songs to get the idea of what YouTube things I struggle with. Clearly, my musical taste isn't about genre or beats, it's about what the lyrics and artists are trying to tell me through their music.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared my first outward experience with mental health. Since publishing that newsletter, there have been dozens of people who have reached out to me who wanted to talk about their own struggles with mental health. Some were facing anxiety and panic attacks. Some were battling depression and hoping to find confidence. Some were survivors of suicide attempts and others were contemplating that decision. Some of these people I knew from the internet. Some of them were people I knew from real life. Most of them were completely strangers who I didn't know, but they felt like they knew me through following and reading content.

In any scenario, I was thrilled that they trusted me enough to reach out. But even more than that, I was thrilled that they were willing to talk to someone. It can be hard.

We all have our challenges and we all have our struggles in life. One important thing that I have found is having an outlet where our feelings can find an escape from our minds and bodies and get out into the open. Sometimes that's a song. Sometimes that's a conversation on the internet with a stranger. Sometimes that's mustering up just-enough courage to tell someone you know.

Sometimes that escape is football.

Football seems like a game played between two yellow poles and some sidelines. The winning and losing matters. The plays called by the coaches and the execution of the players matter. But for some people in some circumstances, those things don't matter at all. The only thing that matters for them is the existence of football itself.

Last week, I asked on Twitter and in the podcast that people reach out to me and share some of their stories of when football meant more than the game or the score. The results and feedback has been astounding. Over the next several weeks, I want to (anonymously) share these stories. Because football has a kind of power and influence that helps lift people along their mental health journeys. Sometimes people are keenly aware that football is an outlet for them. Other time, people might not even realize that it is a mental health journey that their even on.

But they are. And I am. And you, incredible GEHB reader, probably are too.

Today, I'm sharing the first "football is more than football" story that was submitted to me this past week. If you have a story you'd like to share, please share. If you don't want to, that's fine too.

Thank you to everyone who shared stories with me. They are powerful and will do more good than you realize.

Without further ado....

"My father is a very passionate BYU fan, as am I. However, I fell in deeply in love with the pro game during my sophomore year of high school. With no previous NFL ties, my pro football fandom was pretty nomadic before my mission. I wanted a team that was mine, but it was hard for me to publicly claim one without some concrete ties.

After high school, I served a mission in Missouri and Arkansas, and It was a *rough* two years. I gave it my all, but there were outside factors that made me feel insecure about my efforts. Some people (who didn't know me or my situation) didn't think my effort was enough. This hurt me very much, and I wondered if God felt the same way.

There were opportunities to fudge on the rules and see a few football games, but I worked to avoid it. My only football window was talking to members and investigators who were hard-core Kansas City fans, and that was the concrete tie I was looking for. Many people I had grown to love were Chiefs fans, and I was excited to join them.

While away, I had heard that Alex Smith, Andy Reid, and company had won the AFC West the last two years, and I was looking forward to watching a continuation of that. However, upon returning home in the summer 2018, I learned that Alex Smith had been traded, and the Chiefs' new starting QB was Patrick Mahomes. I had never heard of him. I had no idea that I was about to watch the most enjoyable football of my life.

A few months after the Chiefs second Super Bowl appearance, I was writing a talk for sacrament meeting. I started going through scripture stories I had marked on my mission and I ended up at 1 Kings 17:10-16. It's the one where a woman gives her last meal to Elijah, and she goes home to find that her barrel of meal is full. I pondered on all the things I sacrificed to serve a mission, and noted that all those 'barrels' where significantly more full than when I had left. Finances, education, career, social circle, etc. But the one that hit me the hardest upon realization was my football 'barrel'.

I realized I could have gone anywhere on a mission, but I ended up in the perfect place at the perfect time, to latch on to a team that was about to become must-see football. I feel like my football fandom was a completely non-essential 'barrel' that God *chose* to fill because He loves me on a very personal level. It was a moment where I felt a powerful confirmation that God was pleased with my missionary efforts. It was important closure for me to find. Regardless of how well the Chiefs play in the future, football has become a reminder to me that God knows and loves His children, including me, in a very intimate way."

Football, man.