I cringe when I remember that game.
I cringe not because my team lost. I cringe because of how I acted when they lost.
I have a love/hate relationship with college football. Being from the South I grew up watching it every Saturday. Football games were every bit a part of my life as the food I ate, the friends I made and the family I loved. Most fall memories could be linked to a football game that I either went to or watched with friends and family. But like so many things in my life, my addiction tainted something that was and is otherwise a great thing. My addiction brought me to the place where I was harming the very people I loved the most. My rage worsened, my selfishness spiraled out of control.
The game that I am referring to happened almost exactly 13 years ago. I was watching it with my girlfriend at the time (who is now my ex-wife) in my apartment. The season had been a pretty frustrating one and the powder keg was on the brink of exploding.
My team was losing by 4 with under a minute to play. They had the ball just inside the opponent’s 10-yard line. We needed a touchdown to win and we needed a win to keep any chance of a division championship alive.
Then the unthinkable happened. Our quarterback delivered a perfect pass to a wide open receiver – a receiver who was having the best game of his career.
And he dropped it.
If my memory serves me correctly, just at that moment my girlfriend’s sister busted through the door with her giant signature smile. She was beaming with joy as she had just arrived to see her big sister.
Cue Mr. Killjoy.
Any positive vibes that made its way into that apartment evaporated very quickly as my rage would make it impossible to coexist. I write this with tears welling up. I write this remembering so many other instances where I allowed my rage to overflow because of a football game. The people I have harmed because of that scene playing out over and over on Saturday afternoons and nights are countless. So too are the countless regrets.
The receiver that dropped that pass would rebound in a very big way. He had a huge performance a few weeks later against the team’s biggest rival. He would be a vital piece of an undefeated season the following year. He would become one of the best receivers in school history and would play in the NFL.
But the most impressive thing to me is his ability to recognize the importance of dropping that football in the end zone on a Saturday afternoon in October 2003. He explains how it allowed him to help others who were facing difficulties:
“Each step of the way it was my role and responsibility to say, ‘Hey, I’ve been there before. Let me tell you what happened to me in college when I dropped that game winning pass. I’ve always felt like God allowed it to happen so I could empathize with people… I always say, ‘I’m not perfect. Yes, I played football in the NFL, but I have my flaws. I’ve had some tough moments too.’ I make that connection with people and can relate to them whatever their situation is but, especially in football with all my teammates.”
Could it be possible that God can use those times I “dropped the ball” and allowed my disease to reek havoc? Could my experiences help make me better and help my teammates in the process?
I’m willing to bet my life on it.
I’m happy to say that part of the healing taking place inside of me through addiction recovery is allowing God to give me perspective on life. This involves football too. I contemplated cutting myself off from the sport all together. I thought maybe that’s what I need in order to never rage on people around me. I don’t need to cut out football. There is nothing wrong with having a favorite team and watching games and cheering when they win. There is nothing wrong with feeling disappointed when they lose.
I am not doing it perfectly but I am slowly starting to have a healthy outlook when it comes to football and sports in general. I can be happy when we win and sad when we lose. I can watch a whole game without Rage popping up and ruining it for everyone.
But more importantly I am finding ways to connect with other addicts and help them as they help me. I can empathize with other “ball droppers” and share openly my experiences with those who will benefit from my story. Many of us have dropped the ball in our past and what helps us move forward and get better from it are hearing (and saying) the two words that remind us we are not alone.