Our hometown of Charlotte, NC is also home to the awesome Carolina Panthers... I know, I know, if you are not from around here, you must be booing me right now, but listen! It's football season and we are Carolina proud (so let's deal with it).
Let me tell you what I like about my Panther Nation. Before I even knew anything about football (thanks to my hubby, I'm now an expert), I used to think that football was boring and quite stupid... I know! How could I?? But now, I absolutely LOVE to see the Panthers play, and win (hehehe). The team is cohesive and the players are incredibly involved and committed to their community. I love that. They, not only love football, but also their fans.
I know you are probably saying...well, that's every team. I agree. They all should, but what I mean is that when you see it first hand, it's a rewarding feeling to know that those big gladiator-looking guys on the field are the same teddy-bear-like men out signing autographs and/or spending quality time with kids and people in their community.
Football is not only about the competitiveness of the sport, but also about the feeling of joy and pride you get when your team does well; and the same goes when your team doesn't win and they still leave the field with their heads up, cheering each other in the process.
It's about the sense of belonging to something greater than yourself.
It's the satisfaction of watching every first down, and celebrating every touchdown.
Football is about community and togetherness, because when we are watching football, we are all one. It doesn't matter your race, your age, your religion, your orientation...When we watch football, we all belong to the same team.
And that's why these athletes are so significant to us. Because we watch them every season, not only with our eyes, but with our hearts; and what they do on and off of the field has meaning to you, to me, and to any fan.
These athletes have the power to make us laugh, scream with joy, cry of frustration, and also, hug each other in celebration. YES, football makes us do all that. And when our sport heros takes a stand (or a knee) to show support for their community, for those who don't have a voice, for the ones that are mistreated due to prejudice, they are doing that for you and not to disrespect our nation. On the contrary... they do it to try to bring the nation together by creating a dialgoue.
I've heard many people say "just play football and stop the protesting on the field". But I just explained that football is NOT just throwing a ball and scoring touchdowns. It's about a very complex system of feelings that run through our bodies, and evoke a sense of belonging, a sense of community, a sense of family.
When your team scores, you FEEL happy, you celebrate, you feel the euphoria through your veins. So, don't tell them to just play football, because if that was the case, football would be dead. There's no football without the feelings that I just described.
Our players have a voice that is heard loud and clear. We should be proud that they choose to use that voice to speak for those who can't. I patiently wait for the day that people can see that...obviously, the hardheadedness (for lack of a better word) of some fans sometimes goes beyond my comprehension, and goes beyond common sense, and human nature. Sometimes we forget that we are all humans and we harshly judge, and misjudge each other...but I'm going to stop here and leave it at that.
This football season, I will wear my Carolina jersey with pride, and I will cheer for my team, whether they take a knee or stand; hug my neighbors, respect others who are different from me, and be kind to those in my community. Because peace starts at home, near you, in your town... be the difference today, and tomorrow you will see the change. (And all that good energy will reflect on your team, and maybe help them win the Superbowl!- wishful thinking )
Cheer your team with a sense of belonging and you will see the joy that I'm talking about.
GO PANTHERS! KEEP POUNDING!