The Eagles won yesterday.
I should celebrate this, because it’s not likely to happen very often this season. They’re in their latest year of an eternal rebuilding process, one that they hope will win them a championship sometime after the sun goes dark and all other teams – including teams in other sports – perish of the cold, so starting off the season with a win is about as much of a victory as I’m going to get anytime soon.
But my interest in American football has been declining steadily over the last few years. I still watch, but nowhere near as avidly as I once did. For one thing, as the medical consequences of the game become increasingly obvious it more and more begins to look like cockfighting or gladiatorial combat, which is not a comparison designed to make anybody happy. For another, even without the blood sport comparisons, the simple fact is that other sports just appeal to me more on sheer entertainment value these days.
Most of the time, given a choice, I end up watching soccer or hockey. This of course means that my American citizenship will soon be revoked by the Gatekeepers Of All Things Murcan – the same folks who decreed that politicians had to wear flag pins or be declared unpatriotic and who insist that football is the One True Sport.
And to be honest, it’s kind of hard to watch the game for my own reasons too. A lot of my incentive to pay attention just isn’t there anymore.
My dad was a big Eagles fan. He grew up with the team, coming of age in the late 1950s just as the NFL was taking over from Major League Baseball as the nation’s pastime. It was his sport. My grandfather was a baseball fan first and paid attention to football as time and energy permitted but my dad was the other way around, and so the generations shift. Even as his health declined over last season, we could always get a good conversation going over the foibles of the latest game. The Birds were great conversation fodder that way, being a team composed mainly of foibles. Every week we’d dissect the game’s plays and talk about what they could have done if they had talent, leadership, vision, and/or clues, much as we’d been doing since I was old enough to understand the rules. It was a nice little thing we shared. A year ago today that would have been a good part of my morning, here on the Monday after opening weekend.
The thing about when someone you love passes away is that it doesn’t really happen all at once.
Oh, the physical part does, of course. People are alive one moment and gone the next and that’s just how biology works. But they ebb from your life by degrees.
You don’t notice it much at first, especially if you already live hundreds of miles apart and are used to not seeing them every day. And then you see something or find something that you think would be interesting to share and suddenly you realize that you can’t do that anymore. It’s an odd feeling, really, and in that instant that person gets just that much further away.
It’s a common feeling, I know. People die all the time, and other people survive them, remember them, miss them. Everyone goes through it.
That doesn’t make it any easier.
I will remember. I will hold those memories dear and cherish them. I will tell those stories and pass them along, even as the living person behind them recedes further into the past. I’m a historian – that’s what I do.