Thursday, December 13, 2012

How some of us old football players think of the game

Rick Telander on Football’s Lessons for Life: Discipline, Listening, Fun, Testing, Pain and Loss

“Emily Dickinson is a poet I admire.  She wrote about bees, and clouds, and daisies, and within her quiet realm she unlocked the universe. ‘For each ecstatic instant we must in anguish pay, in keen and quivering ratio to the ecstasy.’

“I think of all the things football has taught me. The obvious things, discipline, the importance of listening to instructions. Yeah, I limp because of football. But if it weren’t for football I would limp because life makes everybody limp. And there were other lessons too.

“Colliding with things is just a whole damn lot of fun. Testing yourself is necessary. Pain does not have to be evil. Football ends. Like everything you care about. The clock runs out. And you will lose. Imagine. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, two of the greatest in history, never played in a post-season game. And so you have to accept losing. Or, rather you don’t. You process and store and sift it. You turn it in your hands and look at it from all angles. You see that loss is inevitable, and that your thirst can never be quenched, and that everything will someday wither away. And you decide what that means to you.”

(Rick Telander was an All Big Ten Conference defensive back his senior year for the Northwestern University football team. He was drafted in 1971 by the Kansas City Chiefs, but was cut during training camp. He kept a journal of his thoughts and experiences. He became an author and writer for the Chicago Sun-Times, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN.)