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!