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Life’s a Beach By Shelley Murphy

By Shelley Murphy

I can’t call myself a football fan. I don’t enjoy watching the sport, but I do rely on the NFL’s 17-week schedule to unify my family like a winning Super Bowl team.

The 2022-23 National Football League kicked off its 103rd season this month. The schedule continues into January, then playoffs follow and, of course, the season concludes with Super Bowl LVII in February.

For many folks, September is synonymous with football, though it also marks a month of change: the end of summer vacation, the start of a new school year, or a teen trading a childhood home for a college campus.

I’m a seasoned passenger on September’s rollercoaster of emotion. When my older son moved into his freshman dorm room, I fumbled to find a way to survive his surreal semester away from home.

Football has always been a part of our multi-generational family gatherings, but my enthusiasm for the sport soared when I realized it could keep my family huddled together.

Universities strategically schedule their Family Weekend to coincide with students concluding their crucial six-week adjustment to campus life.

Family Weekend is full of events, but the highlight is reuniting families to watch the spirited pigskin sport.

At the annual fall gridiron game, parents and classmates crowd into college stadiums, sitting shoulder to shoulder in the stands, as they join together and cheer their home team to victory.

After Family Weekend, my calendar marked the days to the next big game. I began counting down the days until our Thanksgiving feast and rivalry football matches. The next month marked football playoffs and my son’s return home for the festive holiday season.

Today, with both my boys residing in the Bay Area, NFL football keeps our family connected.

When my sons were small, we started a Monday night family football pool (my husband claimed it honed their math skills). Now, our tradition includes Thursday night games, too.

Each week, my husband and boys labor over their picks. I keep it simple: I choose the team to win based on which city I’d rather visit.

My strategy often wins the prize and is far less time-consuming than bothering with numbers, coaches or players.

Maybe our family’s football history is partially to blame for my boys’ Fantasy Football obsession.

The time and planning my sons put into their respective Fantasy Football Leagues rivals the planning of any Super Bowl halftime show.

They organize weekend trips, make draft boards, and devise elaborate competitions to determine draft orders. Their excitement and enthusiasm in the weeks leading up to their drafts is palpable.

Both of my boys’ leagues consist of childhood and college friends; some live in neighboring cities and others are scattered across the country. For years, football’s been the glue, transcending time and distance, for their continued conversations and camaraderie.

While football isn’t my favorite spectator sport, I try to keep up by watching ESPN’s College GameDay. Sure, it’s a show recounting football, but it’s also about storytelling.

The features they chronicle expose the emotions of human experience that are both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.

Their stories highlight tales of teamwork and friendship; tales of discipline and dedication; and, of course, the thrill of victory and agony of defeat.

My favorite part of the show is reading the entertaining handmade signs students wave, hoping to catch a television camera.

Saturday mornings, I’ll sometimes text my sons with the cleverest comments, like these family-friendly displays from last weekend: “It’s Easier to Get into BAMA than Whataburger”; “My Good Sign is in the Transfer Portal”; and “Pay My Tuition Please.”

Football is the No. 1 sport in North America, but it’s more than a game.

I can’t claim to be a traditional football fan, but I do treasure our family traditions inspired by the sport.

And, win or lose, my family scores a season of lasting memories.

For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to Picket Fence Media since 2006.

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