This show, part of the Esquire Network lineup, is supposed to be a glimpse into the "reality" of youth football in Texas. After listening to my husband describe some of the scenes in the show, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Those of you who know my husband know that he is a very athletic, very competitive person. He loves sports and has spent many years coaching our kids various teams. He's also not what you'd call the "emotional, sensitive" type. He had to turn the show off because it was too upsetting. He said that his first thought was, "it's a good thing Jen isn't watching this." And I believe he was right. I can only imagine how I would feel if I had witnessed these things myself rather than hearing about them second-hand.
Still, I haven't been able to stop thinking about this. I haven't been able to peel my mind and heart away from the feelings that this show, this concept, is invoking in me. But what I have to say isn't for the producers or the coaches, or even the parents (though trust me when I say, I have plenty of ideas for conversation topics should I ever encounter them in person). My words are for the kids. The eight and nine year old children who find themselves involved in this.
Dear Friday Night Tykes,
I'm sorry that the adults in your life have failed you. I'm sorry that, as a society, we have forgotten that raising children is more than feeding and clothing and teaching you to keep up in a competitive society, it's also teaching you to accept your imperfections and realize that they don't make you less worthy of love and respect. I'm sorry that there were no adults there to stand at your side and defend you. I'm sorry that the same people who speak out about the anti-bullying movement are the ones who are humiliating you and bullying you and sending you the message that it's okay to be cruel because "it builds character". We, the adults, have failed you. That includes me. I wasn't there. I didn't step in and stand between you and the abuse. I'm sorry.
I'm sorry that your humiliation was recorded and displayed for entertainment, that our society is more concerned with ratings and publicity than with humanity. I'm sorry that the world sat back and watched on while you were forced to run until you vomited and then forced to run some more. I'm sorry that we sat on our couches and watched as the grown ups who should be setting the example for you, got in your face and spoke to you as if you weren't a human being, as if you don't matter. You do matter. You are important. You are loved.
I'm sorry that our culture is full of flawed philosophies and that some people believe that whether or not everyone on your football team gets a trophy will have a substantial impact on who you are and what you can do. It's not true ya know. Those things don't really matter. That trophy doesn't define you. It doesn't define your teammates. Recognizing your efforts doesn't make you entitled. In fact, nothing that YOU do will do that.
I'm sorry that our society is raising you to think that you have to know all your shapes by the time you're two and read when you're three and that education is all about competing in the job market and not about experiencing this life that you've been given. I'm sorry that you've been taught that what you have is more important than what you give and that what you have is never enough because someone else always has more. Because that's not true either. You have enough and you are enough and you can accomplish greatness because you are great.
I want you to know that these experiences are not going to be your life story. This time is going to pass and you can choose to let these experiences stay in the past. You can move forward and embrace the unique and beautiful qualities that make you who you are. You can treat others with respect. You can help those who need help. You can be a light. You are light.
Please don't let these experiences tear you down. You are stronger than that. You deserve better than what you have been given but you can create happiness and fulfillment. It's like a superpower.
Please forgive us, all the adults who have failed you. We aren't perfect and many of us have forgotten about that superpower. We think that happiness and fulfillment come from societal acceptance, material possessions and public recognition. We don't remember what is really important.
Will you remind us? Will you show us how to be better? Will you teach your children and never let them forget how powerful and amazing they are?
I hope that you will. I also hope that the next time your coach gets in your face and yells at you, or the next time your parent tells you to quit crying and get back out there...that you kick them right in the knee.
A Stupid Grown-Up