#NoKaepNoNFL, weeks 8 and 9: Cold, Dark Days

Since the beginning of my NFL boycott, one nagging thought has plagued me:

What if the Steelers go to the Super Bowl this year?

This was one of the risks. I am spoiled. My team is a perennial playoff team. They’re always in the national conversation.

This year is no exception. Most power rankings have them listed no lower than the fourth best team in the league. My son has taken to giving me weekly game highlights. From a seven year old’s perspective, which I often share, they are a very fun team to watch right now.

Of course, it doesn’t help that one of the other league frontrunners is the Philadelphia Eagles. I am not an Eagles fan, but I have jonesed for a PA Super Bowl for as long as I can remember.

“The Battle for the Turnpike”

“Primanti’s vs. Cheese Steak”

“Winner gets to replace Harrisburg as the capitol”

I’ve run this scenario through my mind a bit over the years. Right now, it’s not looking too far fetched.

Is this the year that the PA Super Bowl is going to happen? Really, Football Gods?!

These are pretty typical midseason thoughts for me, and I have to confess… I didn’t see the boycott lasting this long. I thought injuries or trades would force some team to swallow their pride and sign Kaep. Several teams had the chance. No takers. The owners dug their heels in.

In the meantime, the NFL has become another front for the culture wars, both sides claiming victory. Conservatives say that slumping NFL attendance is because of the on-field protests. Liberals, those of us who care at all, point to loss of black fans and allies over the Kaepernick situation. It’s amazing the lengths that people will go to erase black influence on the culture, even electing a… never mind.

Kaepernick himself is taking legal action against the league claiming they colluded to keep him off the field. I don’t know what will come of it other than forcing owners to defend their indefensible position. Perhaps that’s the point. It feels like a move that will make him even less employable. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s the right move, but I do want to see him back in the league again. I can’t imagine what this fall has been like for him…

In the time since I last wrote on this subject, the weather has turned. It’s chilly and rainy and the beauty of fall is transitioning into the gloom of fall. Football has long been a part of how I overcame the gloom. Sweatpants, comfort food, football. Sounds perfect right now.

The last couple of days have been plagued by seasonal affect disorder and a bit of a cold. These are also fall rituals for me. The dark days take it out of me. My garden has gone from teeming with life to a kind of melancholy mud pit with a few tomatoes hanging on for dear life.

In retrospect, football has helped me get through these autumnal doldrums in the past; a shot of testosterone and adrenaline at the beginning of the week to help counteract the cold, darkening days.

A lot of this past year has felt like a slog through dark, cold days. The “on this day” feature on Facebook was probably not meant to be as triggering as it is, but being reminded that a year ago I was trying to make sense of how the country had just handed the White House to a man who has been as bad as advertised… it’s not fun.

But those fights through dark, cold days gave us what happened this past Tuesday, big electoral wins and a reaffirmation that bigotry and close-mindedness will not have the last word. Perhaps the takeaway here is that the cold, dark days don’t get to have the last word. Perhaps…

But those autumnal wins came from work done in the spring and summer, when people felt galvanized. Fall is harvest time, when we reap what we’ve sown then rest.

One of my favorite reads of the last few years was written by Michael Pollen, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. In his book “Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education”, he summarizes his section on fall like this:

Autumn’s no season for defiance. You can dispute nature’s agenda all you want, play tug-of war till you’re blue in the face, but the duck party never wins, not really. So if I feel like giving up now, if I feel like shedding for a time the cares of this garden and following Thoreau out into that wider one, the October forest, then I will. To do so is not to forsake my garden, only to acknowledge the temporariness of my hold on it, and the inevitability of its demise. 

Pollon goes on:

A garden that never died eventually would wear; maybe gardens require a wall in time as well as space. The garden winter didn’t visit is a dull place, robbed of springtime, unacquainted with the extraordinary perfume that rises from the soil after it’s had its rest. That promise, the return every spring of earth’s freshness, would never be kept if not for the frosts and rot and ripe deaths of fall. 

Maybe that all seems morbid to you, but I find it incredibly hopeful. One of the damaging aspects of our industrialized world is that it has taken us out of natural cycles. We, in fact, are ramping up activity just as everything in nature is yelling “shut it down”. We start our school years then move into the frenzy of the holidays. The noise helps us to ignore what’s happening outside of our windows; cycles of life and death, the land going fallow, storing, gathering, and hibernating. All with the promise of a spring to come.

It makes me feel slightly more normal to know that nature is ramping down on these dark, cold days when I can hardly drag myself out of bed. Maybe this is the time when I’m supposed to power down, store up, and get ready for the work that will come next spring. And in the meantime, I can stop and reflect on the lessons of the summer that has just passed.

It’s hard to do that with football on in the background…

With all this talk of gardening, I wanted to highlight two things I cam across this week. One is the Smithsonian Gardens. While I’ve always known the grounds around the museums were immaculate, I didn’t realize that the Smithsonian also maintained several gardens for education and conservation. While most of them are ramping down, there are still year-round tours available for those in the D.C. area.

Also in the area is an organization called DC Greens. DC Greens does food education and food policy advocacy in the region toward the end of “Advancing Food Justice in the Nation’s capitol”. They work in schools equipping teachers and creating school gardens, they work with farmers’ markets to create greater access to healthy food, and they work with local lawmakers to ensure that food access and education are priorities in the region. I’ve absolutely loved learning about their work and I’m anxious to find more ways to get involved.






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