Saturday, August 18, 2012

Football Season

The annual calendar at the House of Tystad always begins with football season. Summer is over, a new school year has begun, and our attention is now focused on a sport that is absolutely greater than the sum of its parts.

Our shared American culture is diverse enough that a person could conceivably grow up not knowing the meaning of the word huddle or the responsibilities of a quarterback. But cultural literacy requires at the very minimum a proficiency in the basic terms that are associated with the game of football. The language of the game is a part of our shared language, whether the speakers have played the game or not. Football is a part of who we are.

So, as we begin another football season, I want to wish the very best to the players, the coaches, and the fans who make the game what it is. Let's not forget that before it's a broadcast program, it's a game played in grassy parks and empty lots in every community. Before it's a high dollar ticketed event, it's a sport that teaches players the meaning of teamwork and character and dedication. Before anything else, it's an endeavor that has taught life lessons to countless athletes who may have not otherwise had opportunities that football provided.

I'm a football fan. This is the time of year that I wait for. It's a brand new season and anything is possible. See you at the game.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Growing Up on a Summer Afternoon

I was out walking the dog around the neighborhood a while back when I came across a moment in time that's stayed with me. I could see a boy, about 12 years old or so, mowing a lawn and being directed by a man who looked like he was probably the boy's father. Nearby, two other men stood watching. As I passed by, I figured that this was the boy's first time mowing the lawn. The smile on his face and his careful attention to the task told me that it was a moment that he would remember for a long time.

As I came near one of the two men watching, I said hello and commented that it was a great moment when a young man can take over the job of mowing the lawn. The man smiled and agreed, adding that the boy had been looking forward to it for a long time. There was pride in his voice and it made me happy to have come across something so simple and yet so profound.

In America, we don't have a singular rite of passage that formally marks a young person's transition into adulthood. We've got church confirmations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, and Sweet Sixteen celebrations. Getting a driver's license or registering to vote might be as universal an experience as you can find. But I think the real coming of age happens in moments like the one I witnessed.

Families live together and care for each other and deal with the good and the bad, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. Washing the dishes, changing the baby, and mowing the lawn are the things that families do together. You can care for the people around you whether you're young or old. But when you can take over a family responsibility and make it your own, you're really growing up. And that's what I had the privilege of seeing as I was just passing by.