Before I get to the point, I feel like I should issue a disclaimer. This post is in no way meant to diminish the importance of this season; the biggest turnaround in the history of the NFL (and one of the best "rebuilding years" in any sport) is significant.
That being said, it is time as a fan not only of the Chiefs but of the game to step back. With the playoffs approaching so rapidly, many fans go into a hyperactive kill-all-that-moves frenzy and attack anyone that criticizes their chosen team. I propose that we calm down and take a moment to remember all the reasons why we as fans love football. It has much to offer as a sport, and each fan has their own reason(s) to appreciate football. I want to offer my perspective--as a fan and former high school player--on why I love football.
As many (better-known) people have said, football is the game of life. Joe Namath said, "Football lessons we learn as kids and all continue to apply through the rest of your life. Life is a team game; it's the big game." The big game has taught me many lessons, and I cherish each and every one of them.
Playing football, I learned the importance of hard work. After a rocky junior season, my first season of football, I decided that I would go all in as a senior. I would have no excuses, so I wanted to give my best effort in order to not have any regrets. Every morning, I woke up by 6 and ran 4 miles. On weekdays, I went to my school and lifted weights for two hours before running sprints in my pasture for my afternoon workout. I was willing to sacrifice time, blood, sweat, and tears in order to improve myself. Football as much as any other inspiration is what gave me a work ethic. Even professional football players, who are far more athletic than I am, understand the value of work ethic. Wayne Chrebet, the undrafted Jets wide receiver who played from 1995 to 2005, is a prime example of a football player whose physical assets made him unlikely to succeed as a professional athlete but who had a work ethic that allowed him to become one of the team's most reliable weapons.
I learned the tenacity which football players all must have to be successful. Not being physically talented meant that I had to take the hits and learn from each and every one. Knowing this, I plugged away my senior year. I didn't complain about the bruises, cuts, and sprained fingers because I knew that things could be much worse and that each of those minor hurts would help me to be a better man down the road. I didn't complain when I was stuck at scout team defensive tackle despite being 5'10" and 180 pounds because I knew that by working hard I was helping get the starters ready for their game. When life hands you lemonades, football taught me, you dissect them, analyze them, and turn them into something useful. Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Gale Sayers, and even Peyton Manning (shoot me) understand the value of adversity. Each of these players survived a devastating injury and came back in fine form. None of these athletes have some superhuman healing ability. They simply know that when you get knocked down you either get back up and run again or you roll over and admit defeat. Football teaches how important it is to not give up.
As a boy in high school, I had fun playing football. As a young man looking back, I understand just how much football has done to shape me and to help me mature. I love football because it helped a boy become a man, and I know that when I am old I will still love football because it helps men remember what it was like when they were boys. At the heart of every old man wearing a Chiefs (or a 49ers, or a Seahawks, or a Dolphins) hat and sipping a beer while watching a playoffs game, there is a little boy trying on his first helmet. Deep inside every incredible athlete who dazzles us on the television screen, there is a kid using his palm to assign routes to his friends before finally smiling and saying, "Just get open."
I love football because it helped me become a man, and I love football because when I am old and grey it will remind me of what it means to be a boy. Why do you love football?