It’s hard to miss the fact the days are getting shorter and the air is getting a little cooler and crisper. Somehow it’s already fall again.
While there are plenty of reasons to like fall, a season that appeals to everyone in different ways, a big one for me is the return of football. It’s not just watching games with college and pro athletes, however, that has me excited.
It’s also time for me to play football, though a safer version of the gladiatorial collision sport. Shortly after moving to Utah, I signed up for a flag football league and it has become a fall (and spring) tradition for me.
I never played football in high school, so my tackle football experience is no pads, no helmet pickup games on one of the muddy grass fields during college at Rochester Institute of Technology. I did play flag football in college, however, on a travel club team that probably took itself a bit too seriously.
Flag football maintains some of the better elements of football — the high scoring offenses, back-and-forth contests and potential for zany comebacks. It’s also good for those of us who aren’t quite as young (and dumb) as we used to be, and who can’t afford too many trips to the emergency room.
Of course, I say that when my last emergency room visit was the result of flag football. I’ve also violently dislocated my thumb when I collided with someone’s hip bone trying to pull their flags and briefly knocked myself unconscious on a diving end zone catch where I landed more on my head than shoulder. Err … what was the point I was trying to make?
I suppose football, by nature, will never be an injury-free sport. There’s too many bodies moving at too high a rate of speed, even if you take away the pads and helmets.
It’s a lot of fun though.
The moments of gridiron glory, even in a fun social league on Sundays, make it all worth it. Even as I get older, I still enjoy the moments when you make a great play for your team.
So, did I write this column so I could brag about the sweet one-handed catch I made for a touchdown this past spring flag football season? You better believe it.
Growing up, a lot of us have moments where we fantasized about being a hero or a sports star or anyone famous and talented. As you get older and realize you’re never going to play in the NBA or get bit by a radioactive spider, however, it can be easy to put aside those childish aspirations.
I think it’s good to keep competing and dreaming about what the future can hold, even if those dreams are more modest. So many people have done incredible things with their lives, even late in life.
Take Sister Madonna Buder, who didn’t start running until she was 47 years old, completed her first triathlon at 52, and went on to be the oldest female finisher of an Ironman triathlon (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run) at age 82 in 2012. Nicknamed “The Iron Nun,” Buder is now 88 — and still competing in shorter triathlons.
I take inspiration from my mom, too, who just completed her first half-marathon a week ago at age 54, running in memory of her father. It’s been cool to see what she’s been able to achieve as an athlete.
So, as I celebrate the beginning of another football season, on television and the gridiron, I also want to celebrate the hope we all have for another adventure and challenge on the horizon. It’s rarely too late for us to change our lives, do something new, or rekindle an old passion.