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O Me! O Life!

BY Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

I’ve never been a huge football fan although growing up my father had season tickets to the University of Washington Huskies football games. I remember enjoying them, even in the pouring rain and that wonderful feeling that even after the game was over there was still another day of the weekend to enjoy before heading back to school. It’s a positive memory. Plus it was something that I got to do with my father and brother and sometimes we’d even get to bring along a friend, which made it more fun as I got older.

I also came of age when the Seahawks became a team and it was the “Zorn to Largent” era in Seattle. It was a fun time to see a new team in town, playing in the old Kingdome, back when all-purpose domed stadiums were all the rage.

During college, this interest waned, as things do during that time in life. I really couldn’t care one way or the other about teams playing, either professional or college. After college I went through a period where I didn’t have a television for about ten years and honestly really didn’t care about any sports, including baseball. It was only after traveling through Europe for five months in my late 20s that I returned to the states and attended a Cubs game at Wrigley field that my interest in baseball began in ernest.

My latest interest in football occurred when we moved from Blacksburg, Virginia to Eugene, Oregon and the Ducks were under the new coach of Chip Kelly. His offense was created to be fast – taking very few seconds between snaps and playing fast, wearing down the opposing defense – it was quite exciting I must admit.

Through the mirror of my partner and being a parent I found that my emotional expression during a game at times became a bit out of control. Not really out of control, but I would get way too worked up about something that is supposed to simply be entertainment. I would be reminded that what I was modeling for my then five year old son was not really something I wanted to be doing. As a father I am more and more acutely aware that it isn’t what I say that matters, but how I act. How I talk to others, how I spend money, how I use technology, how I do chores around the house, how I treat my partner, how I keep myself active, how I spend my time – all of these things I try to demonstrate to my kids, rather than just talk about them. Of course we talk about them too, but it’s in the doing that it truly matters.

This year I’ve been thinking very hard about my experience and expression around the sport of football. I like sports in general. I enjoy watching human beings accomplish physical feats that I know I could never do. Those who know me, know that I enjoy baseball the best of all, but that is for another piece of writing. In this instance though, this year especially, I’ve been reflecting on football both as a sport and as a cultural phenomenon.

I forget exactly when I became aware of the research being done around Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, but I do know that I started thinking about it when I met a faculty member in the Department of Human Physiology who began sharing with me some of his research on the aspect of recovery from concussions. His work looks at how the body’s biomechanics recovers after one has been diagnosed with a concussion. I had to ask myself – is this a sport that I can watch, with a good conscience? Can I watch and cheer-on very large young men hit themselves over and over, all for a sense of connection to others? All for the thrill of plays that are quite spectacular and one might even say, beautiful? The answer I keep coming back to is: No. I can’t. It’s over for me when it comes to football.

I also read a book this year – “Against Football: A Reluctant Fans Manifesto” by Steve Almond. It is quite good and a quick read. In it he dissects the culture of football that has grabbed our attention of late and the factors that contribute to that grabbing.

Then there’s all of the violence and especially the domestic violence and violence against women. It is something I simply cannot stand and wrenches my gut, honestly. It is us who bear the burden of domestic violence, as well, for it is the rest of us who must speak up against it. We must stand up to treat women as equals in our lives. It’s not complicated, really.

So I’ve been considering what to do with my time on the weekends, especially when the Ducks are playing. There’s a pang at times when I think about watching them play the Huskies this year, or perhaps they’ll be able to beat Stanford, finally. At the same time for me the costs of letting it go are not that high, so I will do so.

How many days until Spring Training?