Inside the Arena
I love football more than just about anything. So last Thursday I decided to forgo all of the things that I should have done – things that look like hunkering down behind a computer and working – and did the one thing I always want to do: be near a football field.
I drove a handful of hours over to Foxboro, Massachusetts, to Patriots camp. I was already pretty happy because really, nothing is quite as attractive to me as the prospect of spending the whole day driving and watching football – in gorgeous weather, no less. But my emotions took a turn from pretty happy to uncontrollable joy as soon as I turned into the parking lot and saw the stadium.
Now, from the tone of this blog and our current conversation, you may have guessed that I missed out on a lot of the typical girl genes. But put me in front of a stadium and it’s like every single solitary girl gene I have and others that must be tucked away in hiding somewhere come to the surface in full force. I do things I would never do in normal life, things like giggle and squeal and dance in the parking lot (although “dancing” is a loose term for what transpires…it’s more like running in place with some seizures thrown in for good measure). I become inordinately happy at the mere sight of a stadium.
I’ve been fortunate enough to either drive past or visit a bunch of NFL stadiums over the past few years and every time, it’s the same. (Except for Lambeau…there were substantially more tears involved when I saw my homeland.) I start to come apart at the seams with rising giddy glee and say “OH MY WORD!!!” about a thousand times in succession. There is something about being near a stadium that makes me feel indescribably peaceful, like I’m at home. I would use a less cheesy expression to explain it but no others fit quite as well. Football feels like home to me.
Which is why on Thursday, after a great day at training camp, I sat outside Gillette Stadium for about an hour. Just writing. And thinking. And loitering. I had to go into work the next day and I didn’t want to get home too late so I eventually talked myself into getting up and leaving to grab dinner at the Trader Joe’s just down the street.
I left as planned. I went to Trader Joe’s. But as soon as I walked out of TJ’s and saw the stadium in the background starring straight at me…I got in my car and drove back. I just couldn’t leave yet.
(Understand that this prolonged detour meant forgoing a trip to the new Northborough Wegmans on the way home, which means that the apocalypse is forthcoming. If there were ever a test of my love for football, I think I just passed it.)
I got out of the car and sat in the fairly empty parking lot and soaked up the sunshine and the cool breeze and the contentment of just being there in those perfect minutes just before sunset. I literally could have sat and starred at that stadium for hours on end.
When I finally (finally!) made myself leave, I started thinking about this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
And it made me wonder. If I’m that happy being outside of the stadium, how much more fulfilling would it be to be inside the stadium? To be invested and involved on the inside instead or appreciating and then passing by on the outside?
The truth is, I’m usually content with being on the outside of my big dreams – football related or otherwise – because there is far less risk involved. Admiring from the outside means that nothing has to change, and nothing will change. There is nothing to be lost or gained. But being on the inside means that everything changes. There is plenty to be both lost and gained.
Let’s keep using football as an example. I can choose to be a fan for the rest of my life. I can stalk NFL stadiums and be a social hermit every in-season weekend (who am I kidding? every weekend) and sleep in my Packers jersey until it falls apart. There is nothing wrong with that. But what if I took this thing I love and made every effort to really be a part of it? What if I put every ounce of effort and heart I have into Football for Normal Girls? What if I tried to talk a team into hiring me? What if I reached out and networked with potential NFL contacts? It could all fail miserably, or it could end better than I could even begin to imagine.
Wouldn’t it be so much better to be inside that arena, as Roosevelt says, than to be timid with my dreams and never know victory or defeat? Wouldn’t it be so much better to invest everything I have into the things I love most, rather than simply appreciating them as an outsider?
Those moments sitting outside in the parking lot on Thursday are so special to me. I wouldn’t trade them. But I can’t wait for the day when I look back and find that they pale in comparison to what it feels like to be inside the arena, living my dreams.