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The Void - a personal love letter to football

Photo Credit: Deadline

The clock hit zeroes and the Los Angeles Rams were the champions. It was over. The 272 regular season games and playoffs were done. The last bit of football on the field until we’ve all had a heap of BBQs, fireworks, concerts and beach days. We’ll be talking about back to school shopping and maybe even think about Halloween costumes or pumpkin spiced things. Now, more than ever, we know the world could be very different come September 8th, 2022.

For football fans this year, like most, the season was filled with texts from “wow did you see that?” to, at least as a Jets fan, “sorry you had to see that”. There were highlights, lowlights and an incredible halftime show. As we say goodbye to another season, the football Void isn’t just about not having the games on Sunday afternoons.

I’ve been blessed to have a great life where a lot of what I worry about in the fall is how my sports team is doing. During the high school years, I had a group of friends who I would sit with at lunch - none of them really football fans, but when I got home I would talk to my dad about the games and the players. He would talk about guys he watched growing up and then I would say “wait, isn’t that the guy who is a coach for the Vikings?” (or something like that). Weird that, as the world turns, now I’m watching Mike Vrabel as a head coach. Thanksgiving to me was never about the food, it was always the football.

My parents always told me that as I got older my priorities would change and that I wouldn’t have as much time to watch or devote to football. Maybe I got lucky but sometimes I don’t feel that parental prediction came true (even though they were/are more often than right). My wife is a big football fan, and NO one saw it coming. She is the quiet type- but once I watched a few games with her, and explained the rules, I suddenly caught her getting into a game once and knew the hook was in. Flash forward a few years and we both yell at the TV on Sundays and my three year old knows the Jets chant.

The void is about exactly that. It’s about the middle of the week and turning to her going “Do you really think Jalen Hurts is a better fantasy option, or a real life QB?” or the merits of starting the WR2 for Atlanta based on matchups. The fun for me isn’t just the games on Sunday, it’s that conversation with my wife about how the game could go, how it may go, what the better bet is and of course, who to start.

Even the fantasy football aspect has been incredibly impactful on how close I pay attention, or talk about the game. I’ve enjoyed a near decade with a group of friends, and we have had an in person fantasy draft every year. Honestly, that draft day is one of my favorite days of the year - although inevitably halfway through someone goes “JUST MAKE THE PICK ALREADY, I WANT TO GO HOME”. Traditions.

I have some people in my social media lists who I haven’t spoken to in maybe a decade now. An old acquaintance is still a friend of mine on Facebook, and during football season I love seeing her posts about the Eagles because there’s something about that energy of being a football fan. We’re all in this together. At one point, a few years back, I ended up joining a few Jets groups and became friendly with a bunch of guys in those - it was a blast talking about the team during the week but also getting to know some of them through their stories of their lives.

Now, our collective connection is gone. Like a dim light for half a year, perhaps like being in Alaska, we will have so much less to relate to until the season starts up. It makes me think of those ESPN Sports Almanacs that sit in my parents room. A sign of the passage of time.

There are parents at my daughters daycare who I barely knew their name but we have had conversations in the parking lot about edge rushers, and those conversations parlayed into getting to know someone else - and in your 30s as a parent - the value of that relationship is incredible. To a point, when a game ends on Sunday, I think “oh wow, I cannot wait to bring this up to the parents at school”.

The last few years, trips to Disney and going to concerts have become an increasingly large part of my life. Those places are often collections of people from all over, and nothing generates conversation like a Jets shirt in Florida. It’s like advertising a conversation starter. One time, my wife and I were on a ride where eight people all faced each other. All of us were football fans of different teams. Over the course of the ride, between the screams as we turned sharp corners, we discussed which quarterbacks were going to be ‘next’. It was such a weird memorable moment. The kind only football can give us.

Now it is over, and my wife and I have two day weekends again. The weather will warm up and there will be trips to the park, the beach, and gatherings with family and friends. The sun will come up tomorrow but it will be a little bit darker, simply because football season is over.

When I was a teenager, I was adamant that it didn’t matter how you played the game, but what mattered was whether your team won or lost. During the course of an actual game, I still feel that way. During the week though, I find myself enjoying the texting, the commradarie, the memes, the active social media groups, and the “I cant wait to bring this up to the other parents at school”.

The way football is built, there’s one intense day a week to discuss the next day. It’s perfectly timed. You can’t say that about basketball or baseball or hockey. There’s always a given that on a Monday in the fall or winter, you can start the day knowing what your conversation topic is, no matter what your politics, beliefs or even who you root for.

This year my daughter and I did the Jets chant for the first time together, and I didn’t cry but I came close at least in my heart, because I know one day she and I will spend more time talking about the game, than watching it. The NFL and football has become a thing my family bonds over. Football will be something we talk about, and enjoy (or commiserate) about together. It pains me that we can’t do the Jets chant during a game until she’ll be four and a half, but it will be amazing.

For now though, there is a void until the “football oasis of the summer” known as the NFL Draft. See you all then.

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