Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

As I have stated many times before, I am a huge football fan.  College or Pro – it doesn’t matter.  I am a fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I recall begging my mom and dad to buy me a pair of Dallas Cowboys shoes out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog circa 1978.  I lugged my school books around Pulaski Elementary in a Cowboys book bag that was bigger than I was.  Football is something I have never grown out of and likely never will.

Sadly there is a lot about college and professional football I don’t like.  You may have read some of my previous posts about that.  It seems we can barely go a month without reading another headline about some player being arrested for beating his girlfriend or for raping a stripper.  Stories of homophobia, violence, drugs, and murder at the hands of current and former players seem to be rolling on a continuous loop.  They have become the dominant narrative for football and sports in general.

Yet from time to time a story emerges from the abyss that blind sides us like Demarcus Ware coming unblocked on a jailbreak blitz.  They are stories that are shocking, not because they are horrific or disturbing, but because they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe about football players.  During the week of the 2010 Superbowl,  two of those stories managed to find the light of day.

The first was in the days prior to the game.  I read an article at Jezebel.com about New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.  In the article I learned that Fujita had recently given an interview with the New York Times where he “diplomatically but firmly” opposed the Tim Tebow ad that eventually aired during the Superbowl.  While I thought it strange that a football player would publicly state his stance on such a hot button issue, I didn’t think too much else about it.  However, from that same article in Jezebel, I learned that Fujita also lent his name to the 2009 National Equality March and has been quite outspoken on many gay rights issues. Now that got my attention!  Why was this story not dominating sports headlines in October of 2009?  Fujita’s surprises don’t stop there.  Check out the entire Jezebel article here.

The second story came moments after the Superbowl ended.  Amidst the boom mic jungle and the on-field  mass hysteria, television cameras caught something extremely rare and beautiful.  Take a look… [watch it a second time with the sound muted ;-)]

With the world intently watching their every move, it was as if Brees and his son were the only two people in the stadium.  During the most watched event in television history we witnessed an NFL champion football player turn into a world class dad.  Brees could have just as easily handed his son off to his wife or a nanny and celebrated with his teammates.  It would have been fine for is son to be in the stands or at home getting a wave or a wink from the Superbowl MVP.  Nobody would have even questioned it.  Instead, on the biggest of stages, we saw a caring father telling his son that he loves him.  We saw a father holding, hugging, and kissing his son in exactly the ways we, as men and as fathers, have been socialized to not do because it isn’t considered “manly.”  And as if that weren’t enough, we witness the moment where the enormity of it all hit Brees right in the heart.  It was the moment he realized that he was sharing this incredible moment with the most special person in the world to him.  And then, his brow buckled, his head turned and his eyes filled with tears of joy.  That was truly a beautiful moment that I feel fortunate to have seen.

What am I taking away from all of this?  Well, I realized that as an armchair media critic I often lose site of the good stuff in the media.  It is sometimes a little harder to find, but it is there.  I guess in some ways when I blog about the latest Axe Body Spray ad I am also recirculating that ad into the media landscape.  I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity to recirculate stories like these.  So, I am going to take a page out of the Scott Fujita/Drew Brees playbook and, well, throw out the playbook every now and again. I am going to  look for media examples that highlight positive masculinity, uplift and empower women and model the world I want to see rather than the one I’ve got.  In the meantime, I hope that other men will take some plays from their playbook as well.  Or…we could all get together and draw up a few of our own in the dirt.

Go deep on 2…ready…BREAK!

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11 thoughts on “Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

  1. Tara says:

    I’ve never been into football but your post has inspired me to say something I never thought I would: Geaux Saints!

  2. Thanks Tara! I am glad you enjoyed it!!!

  3. Kathryn says:

    Kudos, for a well said blog. It was a positive moment that acknowledges that emotions are okay on a guy and it is okay to express feelings in public, no matter what the world might think. Too many times, too (as you mentioned), folks focus/dwell on the negatives. Looking forward to seeing what other responses you have to your blog. Insofar as I am concerned, kudos for a blog posting well done. 🙂

  4. Mary says:

    Pay attention guys. I am amazed at how many women are now “in love” with Drew Brees. What is most attractive to women is a good father.

  5. Alan says:

    Football is not worth saving, boycott it and defund football taxes that go to public stadiums, high school and some college teams and facilities. Violent team sports destroy charachter INHERENTLY.

    • @Alan – While I agree that football (and sports in general) soak up far too many tax dollars, I completely disagree with ending it altogether. As a former high school teacher I can say first hand that sports, for many young people, are the one thing that help build their character. I saw an awful lot of young men that managed to get it together because of football, not in spite of it. While I realize that it isn’t for everyone and it isn’t perfect, I also see that it has some benefit. What you are proposing is on par with blaming all of the Hip Hop genre of music because some of the artists have character issues. What I would say is that you’d have to look much deeper into those individuals to see the roots of their issues rather than blame the thing they choose to participate in.

      Having said that, I also believe that you are entitled to your opinion and I appreciate that you took the time to give it. In that same vein, I have to respectfully disagree with you that Drew Brees, or anyone else who has a child (myself included) is irresponsible for doing so as you suggest in your other comment. Wouldn’t we all be irresponsible for living since we can all choose to end our life? I am being dramatic, but by your logic I would be correct. By your logic, neither of us should have been born and this conversation would never be happening…in order to save the planet. Am I understanding you?

  6. Alan says:

    Also responsible men save the planet from overpopulation by not having kids at all, so Brees is not one.

  7. Aaron says:

    Maybe Drew was thinking that all that time he has spent away from his son has not been worth it? Or maybe he is justifying that it has all been worth it since his team won the super bowl? Maybe he doesn’t even know his son that well? Maybe he is not a World Class Dad after all? Nice blog (and we need more of them), I just am bothered by the notion that reflecting on your relationship with your child makes you a world class dad. His son will grow up, go to private schools, likely play football, and do “wonderful” things. Like Alan indicates, it is all relative.

    • I hear what you are saying and of course we can only speculate what Brees was thinking and reacting to in the moment. I just feel that it is important to affirm positive masculinity (or what looks like positive masculinity) when I see it rather than being cynical about it. Cynicism, in my opinion, will keep us entrenched in the status quo. At some point we have to be willing to rise above that and embrace something different. I do think Brees is exhibiting world class dad behavior so I feel it is important to acknowledge that. It is not because he is reflecting on the relationship with his son, but because he is holding and hugging and kissing his son. He is telling his son he loves him. Lastly, he doesn’t seem to even be aware of everything else going on around him. He is just being in the moment with his son and so many fathers are everything but that. To me – that is part of what makes a world class dad. For the record, I also feel like my friend Sean is a world class dad because he does things like volunteering at his children’s school every single week. I was a school teacher for 8 years and not one time in those 8 years did I see a dad volunteer for anything other than something like field day. He is a single dad and could easily choose the path many other single dads choose and check out. He did the opposite and became an even better dad than he was before. I am very proud of him for that.

      • Aaron says:

        I would agree with everything you have said except for the cynicism remark. I would also add that him being a world class dad on the football field says very little. It reminds me of something a father once said to me. He said, “It’s nice that my son is finally getting old enough where I can enjoy doing things with him, like playing video games.” I cringed when he said that. I run marathons and see plenty of parents holding their kids as they cross the finish line. I have never considered them world class parents, nor should I because I think it is problematic to romanticize them when I do not know them. I do think it is great to see him hold his kid, say he loves him, and share a moment with him. I hope that he continues to do this outside of his domain of football!

  8. Bill says:

    I don’t favor doing away with football in the public schools; but while I readily admit that Scott Fujita and Drew Brees set good examples, I don’t believe football builds character. A friend of mine who played football in high school years ago (and is still a big fan today) recently told me that most of his teammates looked down on the nonathletic male students at their school. This attitude still seems to be with us in spades. If football builds character, why are some of the high-school players bullies? (And, incidentally, when are any of the bullies ever held accountable by their coaches or the principals of their schools? Almost never.) There seems to be a culture associated with the sport (but not inherently a part of it) that denigrates empathy and tolerance for those who are not like them. In our sports-crazed culture, masculinity is defined solely in terms of athletic prowess in selected sports. Nonathletic boys who have no interest in sports are often stigmatized at an early age, often before they’re teenagers. They’re often accused of having homosexual tendencies, never mind that homosexual men have always participated in rough contact sports (albeit secretly), which is something I certainly didn’t know when I was a teenager. There have been men of great courage who never had any interest in sports, but how often is that pointed out?

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