Dear Football,

Why’d I stick with you for 11 years? The best years of my life some might say, and I dedicated them to you. Somehow you convinced me to put up with you for so long and through some truly brutal times. What made you worth it?

Maybe it was your first impression. Getting involved with you as a kid was so much fun. That’s where you got me to fall in love. You guided me towards friendships and really broke me out of my shell. You taught me about passion, loyalty and work ethic. You allowed me to bring my family and city pride. You gave me goals that I didn’t know I would become so fixated on. The way you challenged me was amazing, and the way you pushed me to work changed me for the better. You actually helped raise me into the person I would become.

But then in high school you turned on me. The goals you put out before me became more high stakes and the challenges more difficult to overcome. You began to hurt me. By the time I was 18, you had forced me into three surgeries, a terrible concussion and pain that would last years. I thought about giving up on us. Why wouldn’t I, once you made it so painful for me? I wanted to push you away because you turned my body into an enemy. And that doesn’t even account for the emotional pain. The times I walked back to the locker room from practice crying to myself. The embarrassment when I would mumble and stutter because of what you did to my head. The never-ending arguments with my coach. The suffering that came with never quite being the best. You played a cruel game with me at times.

But you were still so gripping. And you were still so worth it. Look how proud we made my city, how happy we made our family, how deep the friendships you brought me became. Yeah, you beat me up for most of the year, but those handfuls of moments where I could release all that emotion and play the game I fell in love with as a kid were so rewarding. I knew that if I focused on these good times with you then you’d give me a chance at changing my life. So I did, and you came through with the opportunity of a lifetime.

That’s when you really almost lost me, though. Once we got to college, you started challenging me like never before. Honestly, you were dominating me. You told me how much I could sleep and when I could take class. You threw bigger, stronger and faster guys at me. You made me feel so pathetic and small at times. I told my dad that I wasn’t sure I could get used to the new relationship that we had — and all of this was just the first two months! During those first couple years in New Haven, you really made me hate you. I considered leaving you like so many did, but somewhere in the back of my head were the good memories and all the people that loved to see me with you. So I stuck around, but I wasn’t happy. Then something changed.

I saw what you were doing to my teammates, the pain you inflicted on them and the trials you put them through. You treated most of them worse than you did me, and through that forced me to see how much they loved me. They stuck with you because it meant they were sticking with me. We were in this together, through the terrible things that you did to us and for the amazing moments that you afforded to us. Here at Yale you taught me that whoever volunteered to struggle with me would in turn build a bond with me unlike almost any other. You made my teammates and me into a family. We bonded over our love for you and our hate for what you do to us. I know they are willing to suffer for me, and they know I will endure for them. I will gladly take you on with a torn labrum because I’ve seen my friend return to attack you after you tore his knee apart. Once I found love for my teammates, I was able to rekindle my love for you. My teammates and I will look back at our times with you during our last semester, reunions and weddings and be grateful that you brought us together.

So thank you, football. Thank you for teaching me so much and molding me at a young age. Thank you so much for the chance to represent my family and city and for getting me into college. Thank you for challenging me in so many ways. And thank you for the people that you have brought into my life and the family that you gave me. We’ve surely had a love-hate relationship, but now we can part on good terms. Thanks for the last 11 years. Thank you, football, for being worth it.

Sincerely,

J. Hunter Roman

Contact J. Hunter Roman at j.hunter.roman@yale.edu .