Football is Family: A Mother and Son Bond Over NFL’s Deeper Lessons

The last time Tom Brady played in a Super Bowl I spent part of the day in a Boston area television studio.  I am a sports reporter/host and was working for NBC Sports Boston at the time, having covered the Patriots all season. I was a disappointed that I wasn’t in Atlanta in the heart of the action, but a few hours later, I found reason to be grateful.  When I pulled into my driveway, my oldest son bounded up and down as I opened the door – grateful he could watch the Super Bowl with mom.  Trust a child to bring perspective.

Mac and I have always shared a love of sports.  The first thing he watched on television was golf – yes, really.  He was 3 and would sit quietly as if studying the game – then cheer when the ball went in the hole.  Now he can probably give you ten minutes on every team in the NFL, most NBA teams, and look out when it comes to his March Madness bracket.  He’ll show you the step-back jumper he taught himself watching James Harden and do his best Mookie Betts impression if you ask.

Mac loves it all but together we share an extra special bond for football.

He is “seasonal” which, may explain why football is king.  There is no offseason.  He is as amped up to watch the combine — during non-pandemic years — as he is the Super Bowl.  You can throw college games into the mix.  Don’t discount the NFL Draft; Mac is wide-eyed and ready for a night of names called and celebrations on our TV screen.

The lateness of sporting events has made for some complicated bedtime scenarios.  Mac is 9 and those primetime games come more frequently than they did when I watched them with my parents. When the Patriots played the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, Mac was in preschool.  We agreed that bedtime would be at halftime. Even though he didn’t understand the game like he does now, trying to scoop him off to bed proved challenging.  He was like a puppy wriggling around, yawning, but still hopeful for more playtime. Atlanta was up 21-3 at that point. Mac was adamant that New England would find a way to come back and win.

I hedged.  Lifelong Patriots fan that I am, I did.  The mommy part of me kicked in, knowing he would still be tired the next morning and a loss would only amplify it.  (Come on, as an adult, you know the loss hangover can hit you too.)

Mac went to bed wearing his Brady jersey.  If anyone can do it, Mommy, (big yawn), Brady can. Chalk one up for the preschooler.  

Funny thing happened the next year.  My husband’s childhood team had a resurgence.  The Eagles lost their currently embroiled quarterback to injury and found Nick Foles ready and waiting.  The all-knowing and fun-loving dad in my house found another fan in Mac.  I call it the power of Dad.  Then, our two teams met in Super Bowl LII.

Our house was electric.  We ran with it and the grandparents came to visit.  Why not add more fans from opposing teams?  The cheering, sighing, yelling that you are imagining, it all happened.  The tears happened, too … happy ones. 

Mac glowed through all of it.  He would cheer with me and groan when I did.  Then he would do the same with his Dad.  He was elated, surrounded by people he loves, watching two teams he loves, play for a championship.  Looking back, it feels like a defining moment.

We embraced the phrase: we win either way.  We lived it, too.  That’s how we raise our children, happiness goes beyond self.  It is found in each other.

Another season later, I was grateful to be covering football again.  Mac and I would chat as he watched me prep for my shows.  He’d inquire as I jotted notes on my index cards.  He loved the on-field photos I’d bring home to show him.  We talked about JJ Watt running around pre-game when the Texans came to Foxborough, playing catch from the field with people in the stands.  Mac loved it.  I loved the lesson of proactively trying to brighten someone’s day.

Embedded in all the seasons are lessons.  

When the Patriots came back and beat the Falcons, there was a lesson.  When Carson Wentz went down with torn ligaments in his knee, there was a lesson.  When Watt took interest in the fans, there was a lesson.

Never give up.  Support people around you.  Embrace even those you don’t know.  

The lessons from football are limitless.  There are the x’s and o’s that Mac and I talk about during games.  Demonstrate may be a better word for how he watches.  The word “repeatedly” applies too.  He’ll watch the same game dozens of times.  And at just nine, I’m thankful he sees so much more than a final score.  

When Will Fuller was suspended for testing positive for PEDs: your actions affect other people.  When the Eagles struggled and the quarterback situation became a question mark: football — and life — is not easy.  When Andy Reid became the only coach to take two franchises to three straight conference championships: leadership matters.  When the Patriots struggled: reinvention is not easy.  When Bruce Arians praised Tom Brady for changing the culture of the Tampa Bay Bucs organization: one person can make a difference.  

The lessons are endless.  As is my gratitude for the game behind them.  Football goes far beyond the white lines on the field.  Just like in my house watching it goes well beyond the NFL RedZone countdown music — which I hear in my sleep.