A Letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Dear Mr. Goodell,

My name is Angie Six. I’m a mother, a wife, and a fan of football. I live in Indianapolis and root for the Colts, but I love the game more than any one team. I look forward to football season more than all the holidays rolled together, and I’m terribly sad when the season is done.

I’m terribly sad and more than a little angry for another reason today, though. I woke up this morning, got the kids off to school, and settled in to catch up on the day’s news with my coffee. My coffee which I just happen to drink out of an NFL-licensed mug. There I saw the news that the New England Patriots had under-inflated 11 of their 12 allotted footballs during the game against my Indianapolis Colts. In other words, you have evidence that the Patriots cheated.

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It’s been a rough year, eh? I know. I’ve been watching. I’ve kept my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. Until now. The sexual assaults. The child abuse. The domestic violence. It’s shameful and it needs to stop. My kids know that I love football and they know how your league has struggled with these issues. They know I’ve struggled as a fan, too. They know because we talk about it over dinner. We talk about what’s right, what’s wrong, what the consequences of these deplorable actions have on a person’s reputation and career. We talk about the responsibility we have as consumers, when we support a brand and its representatives whose actions don’t line up with our values.

And yet, myopic as it may be, these issues haven’t affected my personal decision to support the NFL, or to encourage my kids to embrace the game. These issues are personal choices, made by individual players, that do not affect the integrity of the game. These issues are ones I can feel confident in using as teachable moments for my kids, where they can see negative results as a consequence of making poor choices. I can tell my kids that you can’t hurt people in this manner. It is against the law, and you will be punished. In short, I got this.

Cheating, on the other hand, may very well be the last straw. Kids understand cheating. We can all relate to cheating, because everyone one of us has at least been tempted. There are so many life lessons I’m trying to impress on my kids, but this is one of the most important: to be honest and to do the right thing, especially when no one is watching over you to make sure you do so.

When you cheat, it says to the world that you don’t believe in yourself, that you didn’t think you had it in you, that your need to be better trumps everyone else. I don’t understand how this is necessary in this league, with these players. If you can’t do it with one of the best quarterbacks of all time, surrounded by a group of insanely talented players? Then maybe it’s not your turn. Maybe you go back to the drawing board and come up with some new, crazy (but completely legal) plays. Maybe you train that much harder in the offseason. Maybe you research and analyze your way to a better draft. Maybe you come to training camp with fire in your belly. You know, like we want to teach our kids to do when real life knocks them down a rung or two: dust yourself off, take a good, hard look at why you failed, and do better next time.

That’s why I’m writing you, Mr. Goodell. I’m imploring you not as a fan of the game, but as a parent. Do not let this opportunity pass you by to make a statement to everyone who plays in this great league: cheating will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

If you glorify the cheaters by looking the other way, or with a slap on the wrist, or a fine that amounts to pennies from their pocketbooks? Your actions speak loud and clear to this future generation of NFL fans. They may be young, but they’re not naive or stupid. They’ll understand very clearly that cheating, while generally frowned upon, can be justified if the end result means winning. Playing by the rules, guiding yourself with integrity? That’s for chumps, man. Not champions.

I do not want to teach my kids that the decision on whether or not to cheat lies solely in determining the return on that shady investment. Is it worth it? I want the answer to always, unequivocally, be no.
You’re worried about whether parents are going to let their sons play football, Mr. Goodell? You need to be more concerned about whether or not we’re going to let them watch football.

If you turn your eye from this issue because it’s complicated, because it looks bad for the league, because everyone does it to some extent, or because this particular team and these players are the poster boys for what a successful franchise looks like, shame on you. It’s a disservice to the hundreds of honest men you employ, who put their bodies and careers on the line every game for the sole purpose of our entertainment.

You see, that’s just what it is – entertainment. As much as I love the NFL, as much as my Sundays, Mondays, and Thursdays from September to January revolve around your product, I have no problem walking away if these shenanigans continue. I have better things to do with my time, and I surely have better choices in entertainment that don’t send mixed messages to my kids.

I know you won’t see this letter, and even if you did, I’m pretty sure you don’t really care. I’m just one mom, just one measly fan. That’s fine. Keep this in mind, though. This one measly fan is known for her love of football. I can just as well be known for my disapproval of it. This one measly fan has influence on the potential little fans in her home. This one measly fan has income that she often chooses to spend with the NFL. This one measly fan has interacted with lots of other measly fans in the last few days that feel the exact same way. And just as slowly and subtly as you can deflate a football, you can suck the enthusiasm right out of your once mighty and loyal fan base.

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Sincerely,

(Hopefully, still) A Fan

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A Blogger Looks At Forty

(I’m not sure why I chose that as my title. It’s true, I did go through a serious Jimmy Buffet phase, but that ended – thankfully – in my late twenties. Come Monday, I’ll probably regret using it. But for now, that title is here. I wish it were beautiful, but whatever. Some people claim that there’s a forty-year-old woman to blame, but I know it’s Tom Brady’s fault. Okay, I’m done now.)

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Now that the dust has settled a bit and my Over the Hill balloons have deflated like a couple of body parts I won’t mention here, I’ve finally taken the time to reflect on my 40th birthday. In all honesty, it kind of snuck up on me. Last November we got an invitation for a high school friend’s 40th birthday bash, and Mike got a panicked look in his eyes. He realized my birthday was approaching quickly, and feared that he might already be months behind on planning some kind of epic event to celebrate.

That became the question of the moment – What are you going to do for your 40th? Vegas was brought up as an option, but that’s so not me. The Colts had a home playoff game, which was tempting, but not very social. Others suggested I needed a big and fancy gift, specifically of the jewelry kind. Nice, but for a girl who chooses a simple silver band over her wedding diamond every day, not necessary.

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In the end I decided I just wanted to drink beer with some of my favorite people. And Mike made that happen for me. We met about 25 friends and family at the pub down the street. We had the back room all to ourselves. My dear neighbors helped Mike decorate, and it was perfect. The room was filled with blue and white. There was a Colts cake.

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And how well do they know me? My birthday party had a hashtag, y’all.

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The party moved from the pub to our house. I stayed up way too late, had one too many beers, and laughed so hard my cheeks still hurt the next day. In a nutshell, a perfect way to usher in a new decade.

Granted, I am only 40 and 11 days old, but it does not bother me in the least. It’s better than the alternative, after all. I’m not even close to the person my 20 and 30-year-old self imagined a 40-year-old Angie to be, but that’s okay.

I do not have the career (hell, I don’t even have a career!) I imagined. But (most) days I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to stay at home with my kids. Taking care of my home and family brings me great joy and satisfaction. Isn’t that what we all want to say about our chosen line of work?

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I do not have the perfect marriage. But I have been married to the same person for almost 18 years, and that’s something to be proud of. We struggle, like so many others, to keep the spark alive, to treat each other with kindness, to readjust as we grow and change and age. And yet, Mike is still my favorite person to see, first thing in the morning (Theoretically. I’m still dead to the world when he leaves for work.) and last thing at night. He’s the first person I want to talk to, whether I have the greatest news in the world or need to vent. I’m incredibly thankful that I have someone worth fighting for.

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I am not the mother I thought I would be. This parenting gig is so much harder than I ever could’ve imagined. I am constantly getting it wrong. My kids eat too much junk. Sometimes (okay, lots of times) I yell. I am impatient between the hours of 8 and 9 pm, when I should be doling out hugs and stories. I say no a lot. Still, my kids love me and give me ample opportunities to do better. If I accomplish nothing else in this life but love and mother these kids the best I can, that will be more than enough.

I could go on and on. I can’t pick paint colors or window treatments to save my life. I am far jigglier that I ever thought I would let myself get. I want to love these wrinkles and grey hairs, but my vanity gets in the way. I covet other people’s possessions and successes. I don’t floss regularly. I will never understand euchre, no matter how many times you explain it to me. I hold grudges and require gold stars to feel validated. In short, I am a hot mess.

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But I am a satisfied hot mess. Because I am alive. Because I have family and friends that love me as I am, just as I love them. Because I made it here in one piece. Because it just means I have more and better stories to tell. That’s how this girl looks at forty.

 

 

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Trusting in My Gut and Andrew Luck’s Beard (It’s Complicated)

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Forgive me for walking around in a daze today. We are on our second snow day of the school year, which doesn’t seem like much. However, if you consider that the kids have only attended one full day of school since December 19th, perhaps you can understand. I don’t even know what day is what anymore.

The other, more joyous, reason for my space cadet-ishness is that I’m still trying to process the Colts divisional playoff game victory. In case you’re not living in central Indiana or as football-obsessed as I am, let me recap. Last night was the second playoff game for the Colts. We faced Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver. Now, we’ve beaten Peyton and the Broncos in previous seasons, but we opened up this season by letting the Broncos trample all over us. Not fun.

I’d like to tell you that I’m the kind of fan that believes in their team no matter what, but I’m not quite there yet, not with this young team. Yes, Andrew Luck is amazing, but he’s only in his 3rd season. He has a lot of growing to do. My beloved Reggie Wayne is struggling. The defense and the offensive line have had some great games … and more than a few downright terrible ones, too. While Peyton and the Broncos have struggled at times this season, as well, it’s still Peyton Manning. In case you don’t recall, he was my quarterback for awhile. I’ve seen him perform miracles and resuscitate dying games before. So there I was yesterday … hopeful, not afraid to pull out all the punches in case it made a karmic difference, but also fully resigned to the reality that it might be the last Sunday to wear my Luck jersey.

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It’s only weird if it doesn’t work, right?

SHAME ON ME. My Colts came to win. It was a fun game to watch, made even sweeter by the fact that we’d invited some Broncos fans over to watch it with us. I tweeted last night that I have a different feeling in my gut about this team after this game … the same feeling I had during the post-season in 2007. You know, the season they won the Super Bowl? And what do I scientifically base this good feeling on?

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1. It was a milestone year for me in 2007. I was pregnant with Eli. This is a milestone year as well. I turned 40.

2. We beat the Ravens in our Divisional Playoff game in 2007, a game no one thought we would win. Look familiar, 2014?

3. I have a new Luck-y mug, a delightful birthday gift hand-picked by Eli. We are 2-0 since I’ve started caffeinating myself from the Horseshoe.

4. Just like 2007, the road to the Super Bowl goes through Tom Brady and the Patriots. We did it then and we can do it now. This little statistical nugget helps, too: the Luck-led Colts are 12-0 when facing a team for the second time in a season. And guess who we lost to 42-20 earlier this season? Those no-good, Ugg-wearing, Beli-cheating Pats.

5. Finally, my gut says so. Or it’s the leftover tacos talking. Either way, I think this team can do it. I really do.

I had an interesting conversation via text with my friend Lisa, who wanted to know if it was hard rooting against Peyton yesterday, if I felt any torn allegiances. That’s when I realized how much I really love this Colts team – because I wasn’t the tiniest bit torn, nor was there even the smallest piece of me that was rooting for Peyton to win. It is cut and dry. Black and white. (Or blue and white?) My loyalties go like this:

  • First and foremost, root for the Colts. No matter what.
  • If their season is done, or on any given Sunday when they’re playing any team but the Colts, root for the Broncos.
  • Root for whoever is playing the Patriots.

A little over a month ago, Peter King asked me how I felt about Andrew Luck. How do my feelings for him compare to my affection for Peyton? I gave him about as detailed an answer as you can give in 140 characters or less. I told him it was tough, that I like Andrew a lot. I’m glad he’s our quarterback, if it can’t be Manning (and praise the football Gods we didn’t draft RGIII instead). I like the direction this team is heading. But the affection isn’t there. Peyton is special for reasons that I’m not sure will ever be replicated (for me).

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If I had to answer the same question again, a month later and two games into the post-season, I’d say those things again. But I’d also have to say, “It’s complicated.” Because Peyton will always be my favorite football player. Always. If there was no Peyton Manning, I promise you, there would be no football-loving Angie. I know this, and as corny as it sounds, my life would be so different. I’ve cultivated relationships I treasure that would have only occurred with football. I’ve had opportunities I would have never dreamed of. And for five months out of every year, one of my greatest joys is sitting on the couch with my husband and watching football together. That all goes back to Peyton.

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I can’t say that about Andrew Luck. But that doesn’t mean I won’t feel a different affection for him as the years go on. For as much as I love Peyton, he’ll always be that guy that broke up with me. Sure, sure, it was the “It’s not you, it’s me” routine, but a breakup is a breakup. It will always hurt deep down inside. Maybe this how I deal with losing my all-time favorite player to another team: I set boundaries. I can still love everything Peyton Manning was and is to me. What I can’t do is root for him over my team. Andrew Luck? He’s not my rebound guy anymore. He’s the one. He’s the one that makes me smile, with his adorkable personality. He’s the one that will help me make that transition to football without Peyton, whenever that day comes (which I’m fervently hoping isn’t right around the corner).

And maybe this year, if my gut is right, he’s the one to get us that Lombardi trophy again.

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