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Weis: The Rules of the Game

Although it’s not so politically-correct these days to admit it, I relish a good pro football game. This may stem from the fact that watching the NFL on TV was something my father and I enjoyed doing together back when I was a kid.

Hard hits didn’t appeal to us, but great touchdown passes or exciting broken-field runs did. And of course, there were those improbable, one-in-a-million plays that would live forever in our memories and become fodder for discussions between us for years to come.

In fact, to this day I clearly remember watching a fateful game with my dad in 1978. We were NY Giants fans, and on the last play of the game our team was poised to pull off an upset over the Philadelphia Eagles. All our quarterback had to do was take the snap, kneel down and the game would be in the bag. Instead, he tried to hand the ball off to his fullback and fumbled it. One of the Eagles players scooped it up, ran it in for a touchdown, and won the game for his team.

My dad and I watched this debacle with our mouths open, and it became a memory we referred to from time to time over the ensuing years. This was just one of the ways we cemented the bond between us, one that was sometimes tested but always held fast to the end.

One thing that tested our bond was politics. We were on opposite ends of the political spectrum, and this led to some pretty uncomfortable conversations between us over the years. But our differences never interfered with our love for each other, and I adopted many of my dad’s values as my own.

Some are worth remembering in fractured times like these. These include cherishing family and friends; listening more and speaking less; being honest and displaying integrity at all times; assuming leadership when it’s thrust upon you or when you believe you can make a difference, but not seeking it out solely to satisfy your own ego; and being respectful to those you disagree with, but never compromising your deeply-held beliefs just for the sake of gaining agreement.

And, oh yes, there’s one more: don’t ever hand the ball off to the opposing team when to win the day all you have to do is take a knee.

Russ Weis advises first-year students at Northern Vermont University in Johnson, where he also teaches writing and works closely with two student environmental groups.
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