Football is NOT Bigger than Life
The week before the latest NFL, pro football season kicked off, an acquaintance who has remarked several times about my affinity for the Cleveland Browns commented on how good they were looking this year.
“When you’ve been a Browns fan for 60 years, you know better than to buy into the hype,” I replied. “And until they start winning, it’s all hype.”
It took less than one half of their first game against the Tennessee Titans to prove the wisdom of that statement.
Although oddsmakers made them five-point favorites, Cleveland lost by 30.
Afterwards, I texted two old friends in northern Ohio, “I would say the Browns laid an egg today, but that would insult the egg.”
A Bright Spot
However, I found a bright spot that evening while watching the pre-game show for the Pittsburgh at New England battle. (As an aside, any day the Steelers lose by 30 is a good day.)
The announcers mentioned that Patriots’ starting linebacker Kyle Van Noy would miss that night’s game. The reason: he was at the hospital because his wife was in labor.
Checking further, I learned he was a surprise scratch from the starting lineup.
This wasn’t just any old player. Van Noy played in all of New England’s regular-season and three playoff games last year, recording three sacks in the playoffs.
The 2018-19 season marked his second Super Bowl championship.
Maybe the decision Van Noy to skip the opener is why the Pats’ linebacker recently won Boston’s Ron Burton Community Service Award.
The Right Decision
Van Noy’s action helps remind football fans—and I am one of them—that there are indeed things more important than this sport.
In the hubbub propelled by our modern, media-infused, always-online world, it’s easy to forget that.
We can place all our eggs in the “winning is everything” basket, only to find out it isn’t (pardon the pun) all that it’s cracked up to be.
That’s why I appreciate that, when push came to shove, Van Noy made the right decision.
I remember stories in the past where players made the wrong choice.
Like still taking the field even though their wife was about to give birth. Or missing a grandparent’s funeral so they wouldn’t miss the big game.
I can imagine guys who did that spending the rest of their life regretting not being where it really mattered.
There will always be another game, but not that many occasions that are truly special. I call it the big four: births, graduations, weddings, and funerals.
Always be there. You will never regret it.
A “good old days” mindset would have dictated that Van Noy play.
“Everyone’s counting on you,” someone would have said. “You can’t let your teammates down.”
Yes, he could. Occasions like the birth of his child aren’t going to happen very often. His wife needed him more.
As it was, New England didn’t miss Van Noy that much, as proved by their 33-3 trouncing of Pittsburgh.
Years from now, when Van Noy’s son grows up and learns what Dad did, he will appreciate it.
He will feel special that he ranked at the top of his father’s priority list.
I hope Van Noy inspires many other parents to make the same decision.