Fluctuating thoughts. Bipolar thoughts. Mixed thoughts.
No matter what you call them, each of these expressions are characteristics of my current relationship with football.
Each of these expressions sum up to describe why it is/was so difficult for me to express my feelings about no longer playing a sport that made up such a large part of my identity for the majority of my life.
Now, football sits on the back burners. I’m a full-time working man in a corporate environment, where I’m lucky if I’m able to go outside for more than an hour during my work day. The question has been posed 1000x: Do you miss it?
My external response: Sometimes.
My internal response: “You really don’t know if you miss it or not, do you?”
Personally, post-football life has been a tug of war between my confidence and desires. In regards to confidence, adjusting to the corporate space has been very challenging at moments. Often times I see others pick up material much faster than me, and have to understand that financial analysis is something they’ve been studying years before actually entering the workforce. As a former athlete, it has been difficult to feel behind at times. Even when I battled so much personally, football was always the place where I felt as though I had control. For me, control and confidence go hand in hand. What luxury would life be if we were able to foresee every event of the future and handle it before it causes stress in our lives? Outside of a few exceptions, football didn’t cause stress in my life. Mainly because I fully believed (and still do believe) in my God-given athletic ability. Regardless of who lined up across from me, I knew I would win even before the whistle blew to start the play. In the corporate space, where your intelligence and knowledge is constantly tested, sometimes that comfortably doesn’t exist. Sometimes you have to accept that you don’t fully understand a concept and ask a coworker who has more experience than you. This shift in control has probably been the most difficult aspect of post-football life.
On the other side, lies my desires. As simple as it may seem, dating back to the moment I transferred to a private High school, I desired to be the man wearing the nicest suit. Although I know football players can wear nice suits as well, there was always something different to me in how a straightforward “business man” wore them. As I have grown up I’m not as obnoxious to state that “football players can’t be business men, and don’t possess the necessary knowledge.” However, in High School, I interpreted a man wearing a suit as someone wealthy, with a level of intelligence above their peers. I wanted that; and at the time, only saw it from wealthy Jewish men who were the parents of my High school classmates.
As I went through Dartmouth, I noticed that football players can in fact be intelligent business men, with the “sauce” of God-given athletic ability. This dual combination encouraged me to undergo a Business program at the Tuck School of Business, and understand my true capabilities. From that point on, football was no longer the primary thing that defined me. It was indeed a large part of my identity, but my mold became so much more than my talents on the field. My interests expanded to blogging, business, and an overarching desire to learn everything my mind wanted to consume. To this day, that desire is what keeps me off the football field. Not because I can’t be an NFL player and business man, but because I want to do something different. More importantly, I want to break the mental barriers which limit black men to the basketball and football court.
So yes, I still love football and at times miss it A LOT; especially when I feel my lack of control in the corporate space. But to counteract that, the opposing man on the other side of the rope, my desires, has dreams much greater than where a pair of cleats could ever take me.