Sharing the Sport

This post is brought to you in partnership with the Football Matters campaign. National Football Foundation (NFF) launched Football Matters to celebrate the positive impact the game has made on millions of players, coaches, administrators, volunteers, and fans nationwide.

On November 1, 2013, my husband and I sat in the doctor’s office of my OBGYN, a wand coated in jelly gliding across my stomach. We were sixteen weeks pregnant, and eagerly awaiting the gender of our baby. Well, I say eagerly. I was anxious, crossing my fingers and hoping and praying it was the girl I so longed for. My husband sat relaxed in the corner, confidently assured the doctor would tell him what he already suspected: that we were having a boy.

You see, my husband is one of four boys. All his brothers had, up to that point, had sons. All his cousins were male. His family just didn’t have girls, it seemed. Why would we be any different? In his mind, he was already playing football with Mason (our chosen boy name), coaching his peewee team and giving him pointers on how to properly tackle. There was just no doubt about it.

So imagine his surprise when the doctor goes, “Well, it looks like you’re having a baby girl!” I squealed with glee so loudly I made the nurse jump. He stared silently dumbfounded for a solid sixty seconds, blinking rapidly, before asking, “Are you sure?” The doctor’s eye roll confirmed it; we were having a daughter. As we exited the hospital, he shot our friends a quick text that I still have saved to this day: Put up the shoulder pads and break out the pompoms. Looks like we’re having cheerleader.

I think back to this moment now, almost six years later, and have to give it a chuckle. He just couldn’t envision a world where our delicate little princess would share his enthusiasm for football. Surely, she’d be too sweet to want to tackle, to girly to get grass stains. There’s no way that my husband could have predicted that his dreams of sharing the sport he loves weren’t dashed for good.

While our little girl does love to cheer, you’d be hard pressed to find her turning down an opportunity to watch a game with her daddy. In fact, bonding over the game of football has become their thing, special time that the two of them cherish. This is in spite of her unsuccessful attempts to petition him to change his chosen NFL team from the Bears to the Dolphins due to the superiority of their mascot. Which, if you know Josh, is too great an ask even coming from his little girl.

Da Bears and da baby

She watched her first football game at the tender age of four months old, covered head to toe in Razorback gear. She was fascinated by the colors and action on the screen, as well as the reactions her daddy gave to touchdowns and trick plays. At seven months she said her first word, dada, while the Razorbacks shut out Ole Miss. I still don’t know which made her father more proud.  And at three she went to her first game at the stadium, and promptly declared she’d be his date to all games going forward. She didn’t wiggle. She didn’t fuss. She watched the game, clambered onto his shoulders to celebrate, and asked questions that he delighted in answering.

She brings enthusiasm to his sport, finding unmatched joy in a win and reasons for optimism in a loss. She sees everything with fresh eyes, making him appreciate the little details of game day he might have otherwise missed. She shares all his favorite snacks and makes funny little observations that can break up the intensity of a tight game. And with the thrill of victory, she celebrates just like he does, with loud whooping and hollering and dancing that makes the neighbors knock and ensure all is well. In short, they are the world’s most perfect football obsessed pair.

Josh thought that day at the doctor’s office he wouldn’t be able to pass on his passion for those four quarters, and I’m so happy he was wrong. She may never catch a pass or score a touchdown, but she will be the cheerleader who knows the difference between a touchback and a touchdown. I’m thankful for that. I am thankful for the girl we have and the dad he is. And I’m thankful for the game of football that they share, an unexpected bond between a father and a daughter.

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