Football, Crossroads and Druids

college seniors try to impress scouts and extend their playing careers in a 3rd tier all-star game – Texas vs. The Nation 2013

If you’re someone who hates American football, keep reading. This post isn’t about football. On the other hand, if you’re someone who thinks the only purpose of religion and spirituality is to make you feel good about the way things are right now, you may want to go read something else.

Like many little boys and at least a few little girls, I wanted to be a football player. There is no other game that combines athleticism, strategy and action in such an attractive package – which is why it’s the most popular sport in this country.

Unfortunately, my rather limited athletic talents were not well-suited to football. I was bad at neighborhood pickup games and my one attempt to play organized football in elementary school was a miserable failure. I moved on to other participatory activities and contented myself with being a football spectator. But I’ve never completely banished the thoughts of “what if?” What if I was a little bigger and a little faster? OK, a lot faster.

Leap from childhood to yesterday morning. It was raining, so I was in the gym on a treadmill and one of the TVs was on ESPN. The commentators were discussing a quarterback prospect for the upcoming NFL draft. They went over his talents, his intelligence, and his accomplishments on the field, all of which are impressive. Then one of them raised a red flag: “questionable work ethic.”

My 10-year-old self was furious. “You have the opportunity to play football at the highest level, to play football for a living, to play the most important position, and you can’t be bothered to work at it?!” I would have done anything if I could have played competitively. Too small, too slow. I never had a chance. He has not only a chance but a great opportunity. How can he possibly not do anything and everything to take advantage of it?

What is he going to think of himself when he’s past playing age and looks back on what might have been?

Then my adult self spoke up. I learned a long time ago I don’t have the ability to play football at any level. But I do have the ability to do other things: some marginally, some adequately, some quite well. All of us do. Our challenge in life is to find the crossroads of what we’re good at and what we like to do and then dive deeply into that.

Maybe we can make our living at that crossroads. Maybe we can’t and have to work a “regular” job to support ourselves, our families and our other interests. But whether that crossroads is a “full time” thing or not, don’t we owe it to ourselves to explore it as fully as we can?

I don’t want to be on my deathbed and realize I was the Druid equivalent of a quarterback with a questionable work ethic.

The analogy is not perfect – religion is not a competitive sport. Maybe the proselytizing religions are, but Paganism and other liberal religions certainly aren’t. But the gods and goddesses who called me did not do so because I’m special and they want me to be happy and content. They called me because they have work that needs to be done and they want my help to accomplish it. I owe it to them to give that work my fullest attention.

Where is your crossroads? Where do your skills and your passion intersect? What are you doing to explore that passion and develop those skills?

Most of us don’t have the very short careers of professional football players. The good news is that even if we get a late start, we can still do something meaningful and helpful. The bad news is that its easy to lose a sense of urgency. As our Humanist friends (including Humanistic Pagans) remind us, life is precious because it is short and uncertain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a playbook to study.

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  • It was hard to draw the correlation between American “football” and your point. However, once I removed the American “football” perspective, I see your point. I usually give a final “pep talk” like this with my classes – except that I use Jobs/Woz as the example. What if they had stayed with their initial conclusion that home computing was just a hobby for a small number of enthusiasts? Would the current world of home computing be different or perhaps even non-existant? For the very last section of my commentary, I usually show the infamous Yoda moment: Good post – good food for thought.

    • The Jobs/Woz comparison is useful too. Whether you assume you can’t or whether you just don’t want to put the work in, either way you end up limiting yourself.

      • Well, the Jobs/Woz part makes more sense *to me*. Not being particularly enamored (or knowledgable) with the American “football” aspect – it was a little difficult *for me* to pull the threads together into an understandable framework. Its more a matter of reference for the reader versus that of the author/writer. And that’s something that I am seeing a lot of in my own writing…my personal inability to be more encompassing in my referential aspect. IOW, don’t mind my babbling – its just that synchronicity thing at play in my head.