Thanks for the Memories: A Farewell to The NFL
It's Sunday. I thought about watching some football today, but I didn't.
Years ago, I planned entire weekends around the games. I even fudged a sick day from time to time, especially if the Jets were playing anyone else in the AFC East. I turned off the phone on Sunday nights to watch NFL Primetime on ESPN. T.J. and Berman were the Martin and Lewis of sports. The Lennon and McCartney. They had a tempo and a chemistry that put Hall and Oates to shame.
I miss the days when football was our national pastime, one that served the dual calling of uniting a nation while giving us something to argue about. I go all the way back to The Fun Bunch and The Sack Exchange, to the time when all-out celebration was something we either joyously shared or looked upon with envy. We cheered our wins and moved confidently on to the next contest, or we mourned our losses and waited for the chance to get even.
But more than that, in its own unique and enigmatic way, football inspired us. Witnessing Gastineau and Klecko compete for the sack record, and Dwight Clark ending a 90-yard mission to the end zone as he snatched Joe Montana's pass out of the air... My gosh, do you remember The Immaculate Reception? There were countless moments of impossibilities becoming realities, but my eternal favorite will always be the 1993 Wild Card game, when the Bills hosted the Oilers, and the Oilers ran roughshod over the Bills for a little over half of the game.
It was 35-3 in the third quarter. It was over. I mean, Bills fans started leaving the stadium, because it was just so over. But those of us who couldn't let go - I suppose because we were incurable optimists (or perhaps because we were searching for a comeback in our own lives?) - held on to the hope for a miracle. And in spite of the fact that the Bills were minus their key players, including their star quarterback, the miracle happened. The Bills clawed their way back to an impossible 41-38 win.
And you know, I carry in my heart the story of Dennis Byrd, the New York Jet who was paralyzed by an on-field accident, and who then made his way to recovery through a determination and a faith that would not be silenced. I remember the Bills and the Jets, legendary rivals, gathering together in a prayer circle to ask God to look after their friend.
That was how the NFL took a knee back in the day, in a time when we were human beings before we were rivals.
Football reminded us of the best in ourselves - the faith and the hope, the pride and the indomitable spirit that fueled us. It was the personification of the belief that nothing's over 'til it's over. Or as Chris Berman always said, "That's why they play the game." Once upon a time, football reminded us why we play the game.
But I don't watch football any more. It's about politics now - and politics, by definition, destroys everything it touches. I miss the days when football encouraged us to show what we're really made of.
Come to think of it, it still does. Which is why I don't watch anymore.
But thanks for the memories, guys, and for the moments of inspiration. Of winning with pride and losing with the determination to come back and try again. Thanks for every moment when we got to watch a miracle unfold - of confronting impossible situations and beating insurmountable odds. We take those lessons with us, and the memories of all you once meant to us. But don't get me wrong: I still hope for the greatest comeback of all time, and I take a knee every day to ask The Father to guide us there.
Because that's the legacy of the game - and that's why we play it.
Jenna Brooks is a critically acclaimed novelist, a seminar author and instructor, a columnist, and a professionally trained and certified coach, specializing in divorce, post-divorce, and Domestic Violence. Find her website at Jenna Brooks Online