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Of Husbands and Football

I recently pondered why men are so drawn to the game.
By Barbara Rainey

While watching some of the recent National Football League wild card and championship games with my husband, I asked him about some of the finer points of the game. 

I understand the basics of scoring and the role of key players like the quarterback, but how do they determine where field goals are kicked, how does the wild card system work, and what is the backfield, anyway? Last weekend during the AFC/NFC championship games I finally learned what the secondary is. He likes it that I’m asking questions. By the way, go Indy!

Then I began pondering another question.

What is the draw of football for men?

When I asked him, my husband said it’s the competition, the physicality, and the aggressiveness of the game. It sounded so brutal. Not at all what I expected him to say.

Thinking further I understand what he meant and as a result I have a few more theories as to why men love football.

Like the relentless pounding of surf on the beach, football keeps coming back. Every year. It’s as predictable as seasonal changes. At the same time every year. It’s something we can count on no matter what happens in the economy or who is living in the White House.

I think the fact that the game has a myriad of rules is part of its appeal. Loyal followers know the rules, understand why the rules are there, and count on them being enforced fairly. The rules change very little from year to year which brings continuity to the game.  

When a foul is called, one team may feel it was unfair but within a matter of minutes or less, it is accepted and the game continues. No lawsuits in federal court, no changing of the rules so the offending team gets off the hook, no recount of votes, and rarely any fights or scandalous accusations. The players understand the rules and play by the rules. Done.

And because the rules are followed, the games finish in a reasonable time frame. And most importantly there is always a clear winner and loser. No one worries about the feelings of the losing team. It’s what they signed up for and it’s part of the game. 

Our men who love the sport love that sure outcome because most of life is not so clearly defined. Men today are confused about their roles as men. They are built to be competitive, to aggressively protect (not the quarterback, but their families and communities and country), but they live in a world so conscious of being offensive, so fearful of being sued that they are constantly worried that they will be held back.  A holding penalty is when a player literally grabs an opponent and holds him so he can't do his job. And a lot of men today feel that way—they're being held back.

To be sure, there are plenty of unsavory aspects to the game, but in balance the good outweighs the bad. In this confusing, shifting world of ours the predictable sport of football gives our men a respite—a place to watch men exercise their God-given aggressive, physical, and competitive natures with self-control under the watchful eye of a higher authority—the coaches and refs. 

They love watching men be men. It’s a microcosm of what the world should be like. 

I think it’s why I like football, too.  


Copyright © 2011 by FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.

FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.

Next Steps:

1. Read articles that will help you understand differences between husbands and wives.

2. Listen to author Shaunti Feldhahn tell FamilyLife Today® listeners about the differences between men and women.

3. If you have a husband, be sure he knows about Stepping Up, FamilyLife’s blog for men.

Meet the Author: Barbara Rainey

Barbara Rainey is a wife, mother of six adult children (plus three sons-in-law and two daughters-in-law), and "Mimi" to nineteen grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Arkansas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history, Barbara joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ in 1971. She and her husband, Dennis, whom she married in 1972, are co-founders of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru that is headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Barbara has published articles on family-related topics and is the author of Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember and When Christmas Came.  She speaks at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences and is a frequent guest on FamilyLife Today®, a nationally syndicated, daily radio program.  She and Dennis are the coauthors of several books, including Growing a Spiritually Strong Family, Starting Your Marriage Right, Moments Together for Couples, The New Building Your Mate's Self-Esteem, Parenting Today's Adolescent, Rekindling the Romance, and Moments with You. She co-authored A Mother's Legacy with her daughter, Ashley Rainey Escue and joined Dennis and their children Rebecca and Samuel on the book So You're About To Be A Teenager. Barbara has also co-authored Barbara and Susan's Guide to the Empty Nest, with close friend Susan Yates, and A Symphony in the Dark, written with her daughter, Rebecca Rainey Mutz. And Barbara has written a series focusing on character traits for families, including the titles Growing Together in Gratitude, Growing Together in Courage, Growing Together in Forgiveness, and Growing Together in Truth.

Having faithfully served alongside Dennis for more than 30 years, both in ministry and at home, Barbara has recently launched a new endeavor called Ever Thine Home™.  This new line of products, including Christ centered ornaments for Christmas, teaching tools for Lent and Easter, and beautiful additions for your home for thanksgiving and year round makes it easy to express faith at home in a way that is both biblical and beautiful.  Her heart for Ever Thine Home is based on the familiar Old Testament instruction:

"And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:9, ESV)

You can read more about Barbara's work at

Find Barbara online on:
Twitter @BarbaraRainey and Facebook



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