I sense football season gearing up as July melds into August. It’s in the air, an aggressive energy that spreads across America in ways books never do for the masses. Only a few dozen guys play on each team in each privileged city, but you wouldn’t know it from the passion that fans exhibit at each game.
Where else can you release the stress from a tough workweek like you can in a stadium with thousands of other stressed-out Americans? The games serve as more than entertainment. It’s group therapy.
I drank the football fan kool-aid in the 80s. I will never not be a Buffalo Bills fan. From time to time, I become a fan of a player from another team. Walter Payton was one of them. Look him up if you don’t know who I’m talking about. His life quietly ripped down the celebration and egotism of other sports heroes.
Mr. Payton had this hill he ran up every day for training. A steep incline, part of a landfill site in Chicago. Sometimes, he ran up it 20 times.
Every day he ascended, he kept trying to do better. One more day, one more try. The hill didn’t rest; neither did Mr. Payton. He trained year-round. He earned numerous records, awards and accolades as a running back with the Chicago Bears.
Years later, a golf course claimed the old landfill area and modified Mr. Payton’s hill. But, part of the hill stands, testifying to the legacy.
I notice the media coverage of football training camps and preseason games. I wonder about fitness levels and the insane athleticism that players exhibit. Inevitably, it takes me to the thought that even when you possess talent you are only as good as the effort you put into something like Mr. Payton.
Life gets hard. There is no off-season. Sometimes you need a little football game to reconnect with your motivation. It’s comforting to know that success isn’t magic; it’s hard work, day after day, stutter-step after step of effort.
What is the hill in your life?