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Dublin: 18°C Sunday 13 June 2021

The Redzone: Touchdowns with Teddy

Watching the NFL with a 5-week old can change your perspective on the game.

Teddy makes the internationally recognised touchdown signal.
Teddy makes the internationally recognised touchdown signal.
Image: Steve O'Rourke

THERE WAS A moment near the end of the week 11 early games when it struck me just how much becoming a dad has changed the way I watch sport.

Up by five points, the Oakland Raiders — my Oakland Raiders — were hanging on by their fingernails as the Texans’ marched towards their endzone. With Ben Tate and Andre Johnson threatening, it looks as if, any moment now, the sea of black and silver would part and allow Houston safe passage to the promised land of their first win in eight attempts.

Matt Schaub was back under centre and the Texans had first and goal; surely the Raiders couldn’t survive this onslaught? Surely they wouldn’t hold out for their first road win of the year? Surely Teddy couldn’t have picked a worse moment to need his nappy changed?

But he did. So, as the Raiders showed the kind of heart I’d forgotten it was possible for them to possess, I was in the nursery trying to hear snippets of the game between the bars of Sydney the Seahorse’s rendition of Twinkle Twinkle.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, Teddy is my wife and I’s first child. He’s not — and I’m contractually obliged to say this by Amy — named after probable 2014 number one overall draft pick Teddy Bridgewater, that’s just a happy coincidence. And, in the five weeks since he made his way into the world, he has completely changed the way I watch American football.

It’s not always for the worse mind.

Last night, for example, he decided that sleep wasn’t on his current list of interests so, for once, I watched the late night game live, rather than the condensed version on GamePass this morning. The Broncos offensive line were particularly impressive in stopping the sack-happy Chiefs defence from touching their prize quarterback, especially after giving up eight sacks in their three previous games.

Later on, as I worked on the mechanics of Teddy’s throwing action (but if my wife asks, I was winding him),  I watched as the officiating crew gifted the New Orleans Saints victory over the San Francisco 49ers, penalising Ahmad Brooks for sacking Drew Brees and forcing a fumble that would have, had it stood, given the 49ers the football near midfield, with a three point lead and three minutes remaining.

Instead, the refs blew the call; deciding Brooks had clotheslined Brees across the neck which, as you can see below, he didn’t:

As a dad, as someone who writes about the NFL, as someone who has written about the need to protect players in all sports from the dangers of concussion, we can’t afford to force clean, fair, hits like the one above out of the game or we’ll lose the sport we love.

Another thought that has occurred to me during these five weeks of touchdowns with Teddy is actually related to the issue of concussions and injury. Every week, 53 players on 32 teams put their bodies on the line for our entertainment, for the teams we choose to support. And how do we repay them? Mostly by bitching about poor fantasy performances and wondering who we’ll draft to replace them next year.

Maybe, just maybe, we should appreciate the effort they make a bit more, especially those who aren’t on superstar wages, who are just trying to make a living like you and I. When you have to go to a silent count in your home stadium because your fans are booing so loudly, like the Texans did last night, there’s something seriously wrong.

I can’t remember who said it first, but before Teddy was born I was told countless times that watching the NFL would prepare me for the lack of sleep that comes with being a new parent. And that’s the final lesson I’ve learned from my son. You were wrong. Oh so wrong.

Now where’s my coffee?

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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