Disclaimer: This is an (untested) thesis by Penn Holderness.
First off, about NFL Football. I grew up watching it with my Dad. As a preacher, his work week ended at about 12:45 every Sunday (Unless someone called, which was all the time.) We’d sit on the floor of the den and watch one game on our one television. Once, he made me a fake Dallas Cowboys jersey with a blue shirt and some iron-on letters. I didn’t know the difference, I thought it was the coolest shirt in the history of ever.
Now, I watch the NFL with my son. He has become a SUPERFAN. He is the commissioner of a kids Fantasy Football League. He counts down the RedZone clock at 12:59, like it’s New Year’s Eve. It’s all great, but I have certain requirements for my son when we are watching.
#1 I want him informed about the dangers of the sport, concussions, and CTE (a brain condition thought to be linked to repeated head injuries and blows to the head.) Damar Hamlin was a great teaching moment a couple weeks ago. While that was more of a one-off incident (Hamlin’s injury is actually far more prevalent and fatal in lacrosse), it reminds all of us that football is a violent sport. PC won’t play football (that was his own decision that he made after learning these things.) But he loves watching it. I’m okay with that.
#2 Anytime a player “showboats” or taunts, I explain to him that this is unacceptable behavior and if I ever see him do that during a sport, I will walk on the field/court and yank him out of the game. I’m okay with creative and team-centered touchdown celebrations as long as it’s all about the joy, and not all about the ego.
#3 I want him to understand the business side of the sport. Not only is it fascinating, but it’s a great way to introduce him to the way that the world (and most jobs) work.
Keeping Conversation Active
These guardrails are great, and allow me to spend more time than I used to watching the NFL, in large part because I am doing so while maintaining an active conversation with my child. However, I don’t think it would be fair for me to say “Okay, Kim and Lola, we’ll be on the couch all day, see you at 7PM!”
That’s where my thesis comes in.
I know there are lots of different types of family dynamics out there, so this will likely lead to differing levels of football watching, but I wanted to list some behaviors that should, at least, maximize your watch time, provided you want your watch time to be maximized!
How To Maximize Watch Time
- From wake-up ‘til kickoff, you are a needs-anticipating machine. You are making breakfast for everyone and you are making sure the kitchen is spotless when you are done. You are also looking around for other things that need to be done. How’s the unbroken down box situation in your house? Do you need to make a dump run? What are some other unpleasant things you can take off your wife’s plate? For me, lately, Sunday morning is Parking Lot Driving Practice with my dear 15-year old. And this next one is really important…
- Try really hard not to complain about any of this. Doing these things and complaining about them used to be my way of making sure I was getting credit. Guess what? IT NEVER WORKS. It basically makes her feel guilty or unappreciated. She will remind you that she does this stuff all the time and never asks for credit. So just don’t complain. Smile, move on.
- I make it about more than football. See opening paragraph. Find teaching moments. Turn down the volume of the game, and strike up a conversation about something else for a while. You can talk and watch silent football, it’s easy. People do it in bars all the time.
- If one of your kids watches football and the other doesn’t, keep track. After a big RedZone Autumn, I have some catching up to do with Lola. It starts this weekend, I am skipping the Sunday games and doing something with her. And I will not look at the score on my phone once. (I probably owe her a few more outings like this in the upcoming weeks.) In the end, you want to spend equal quality time with your kids if you can.
- For those family members who don’t watch football, explain to them why you love it, and why you are grateful for this time to watch it! We learned this in marriage counseling and it solved a bunch of problems. Your family loves you and wants you to be happy, so explain to them why this makes you happy! In the case of watching football, I used to say things like “PC really wants me to watch with him” or “I don’t get to do this but for a few months!” I have learned to say instead, “Watching football makes me really happy, and it absolutely relaxes me for the week ahead. Thanks for giving me this time, I won’t take it for granted.”
- Grow up. You can’t watch every game. True story… When Kim was pregnant with Lola I used to go to a FANTASTIC sports bar in the West Village of NYC with all my buddies. It was a joyous 3-4 hours. Kim called me and said “Hey honey, I’m not feeling great, can you come home?” I really wanted to stay for a little longer, and my argument, which I shouted into the phone, was, “This is the last chance I am going to have to watch football ever!” Kim laughed very loudly into the phone and said, “No it’s not honey, just come home!” Kim was forgiving and amused despite feeling nauseous and tired. I will always appreciate that, especially since my statement was RIDICULOUS. I wish I could go back in time, go in that bar and yell at myself, “Of course we’ll still watch football! It may be a little different with an adorable baby in the house, but that’s life. Spoiler alert, watching her crawl around and smile and jump in one of those Baby Einstein Jumpers is 1,000 times better than watching football. Also, there are a gazillion games! (Go home, you idiot!)
So there you have it. I can’t wait for my wife to read this, and realize that all of the sweet things I am doing for her the morning of game day are just so I can watch more football.
I probably should have just kept this to myself.