On Sundays my husband and I sit down to an activity enjoyed in households throughout the country. We start by cleaning up the newspaper debris from the couch in the family room.
Footrests are raised and there is usually talk of pizza.
We discuss everyone’s health and what our hopes and dreams are for the week. We don appropriate garb. We get comfortable.
We watch football.
We cheer for our team. We yell in frustration when passes are dropped. We groan each time the running back fails to swerve and twist out of tackles to our satisfaction. We hold our breath when the kicker steps to the center of the field for a vulnerable moment.
“Please let him get it through the uprights.” I chant silently to myself.
I hate to see any kicker miss, even a kicker from the opposing team.
There is always that moment, when the ball has been hiked and the placer surgically sets it on the field. It is a moment of uncertainty. A moment filled with awareness of possible error.
The kicker moves gracefully through his powerful smooth motion. Leg swinging forward in a determined arc. His foot contacting the ball in the precise location to achieve the greatest control.
We sit forward in our seats.
The ball is up. Will it curve, bend, rise-up or shank?
There is a breathless beat.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t make it through the goal posts. It might veer just to the left or right, or possibly pass just inches too low.
All eyes turn to the kicker. For that brief moment he is the lonely focus of shame and loss.
Because football, like all sports, always results in an excited exuberant winner. And it also results in a diminished downtrodden loser. Every game has this result.
As fans, we observe the final score with either excitement or depression depending on the outcome. We turn off the television and put our footrests back down.
That is sports.
And conflict in sports is not the same as conflict in the world.
President Trump told us, “America is in the game and America is going to win…”
But the world is not a game, and if winning is the goal, we need to question the cost to the entire league.
When our football team wins we might jump up from our comfortable seats. My husband and I often high-five each other in celebration. Sometimes we shout in excitement.
We exchange big smiles.
Because football is a game.
But our country is not participating in a game.
If our country walks away from the playing field high-fiving and chest bumping what is going to happen to the other team? If there are winners then there are losers.
Countries who engage “in the game” as our President describes it, may hopefully win or possibly lose. Kickers may find themselves standing alone on an emptying field while being jeered at by opposing forces. Running backs may wish they were harder to catch. Quarterbacks may find their play calling was too easy to counter, or too difficult to execute. Coaches may have misinterpreted their players abilities.
I don’t want to see America “in the game.” I would rather see America at the negotiating table, in a discussion, coming to agreements and shaking hands.
I like football.
But football is a game.
Our country is not playing a game.