Today, thousands of Americans will be gathering around their Thanksgiving tables, surrounded by family and friends. But first, they’ll be crowded around their television sets to take part in what has become one of the most beloved holiday traditions–watching football. And while the lack of a female professional team is supremely upsetting, I can still honestly say that one of my favorite parts of the holiday season happens just after the snap.
Despite its violent outward appearance, football is a complex, thoughtful game that requires strategy and athleticism. It’s a difficult sport to “game” (running out the clock, which happens sometimes, is a lot less important than in other sports, like soccer), and is extremely physically demanding. Also, it’s a ton of fun. I know–because when I was in junior high and high school, I played. I was the only girl on the team. It was physically exhausting, it was inspiring, and it was a great way for me, an otherwise unathletic kid, to get moving.
Football’s lack of female input is extremely disappointing, particularly to female fans. Cheerleading just isn’t enough of a role in the game to make me OK with the politics of the field or the NFL. But I still love to watch, and, even without a strong female presence, the game can be inspirational.
I’m still inspired by men who are 300 lbs and can run a 7-minute mile. It makes me want to work out harder. And it’s not just the displays of physical prowess and teamwork are good reminders of what a group of people can accomplish together, and the fervor of the fans is stirring like almost nothing else.
There are plenty of detriments to be in professional and college sports–that they harbor cults of silence in times of gross misconduct (hello, Penn State); that they are gender-exclusive, that they are a distraction from the country’s many very serious concerns–but there are also plenty of benefits. Today, family members across generations will bond as they cheer on the same group of eleven men, or while they exchange friendly jabs in good-natured rivalry.
Someday, I’d love to sit down to watch a professional women’s football game, but, for a myriad of reasons (none of which are excusable), that may not be in the cards any time soon. But I won’t let it stop me from enjoying the time spent watching my favorite game, with my family as we share some common ground. And I recommend that you don’t, either.
If the men (and the women) in your holiday household are raucously watching one of the games on TV today, don’t give them a hard time. Football isn’t perfect, and it’s got a long way to go before it’s even close to being gender-inclusive. But if you’re at all interested in what the human body can accomplish, and what teamwork looks like, settle in and try to get into the game.
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