My husband recently retired from the NFL, and thus, we retired from our one bedroom apartment full of rented furniture and silverware. Cort furniture is pretty common among NFL’ers [well not big wigs… I’m talking about the 75% of guys on the team who make minimum, and whose jobs aren’t necessarily guaranteed year after year, no matter what the contract reads] Anyway, the ones who know what I’m talking about, know all about those white Tupperware bowls with the blue lids. I kind of wish I had them in my kitchen now, solely for nostalgic reasons.
The one thing we haven’t retired from when it comes to our experience are the friendships. I was introduced to some of the most beautiful, inspiring and downright fun to be around women because of my husband’s job. As a wife of a professional athlete, there are some things only the women who have blazed the trail before you can prepare you for. They teach you tidbits like how to survive training camp, or pack up an apartment [because he just got cut and/or picked up by another team] faster than you can cook a meal. They are the ones you spend holidays with because your real families aren't present. But most importantly they provide you with a solid backbone and network of ladies you can depend on for the rest of your life. You’ll forever share the common bond.
My experience with “NFL wives” so to speak was nothing short of memorable. I was surrounded by like-minded spiritual women through bible study, served at shelters, and gave back to the community in more ways than one. We got manicures, talked and cried for hours about life, binge watched reality TV and grabbed beers while the boys were away. We protected each other on gamedays [provided snacks, and blankets a plenty as well] from analysts and coaches in the stands, who thinks your husband needs be out of the game. We took deep breaths and held hands when one of our men got hurt, because we knew the ramifications. Pre season was the worst as you saw your friends’ husbands competing for the same role, or even if not the same role, just trying to keep a job. You naturally hope the best for your husband, but you hate to see your friend and their husband to be out of a job. Eventually you learn and understand it’s the beast of the business and just the way it goes. It's a business. Here today and gone tomorrow. A revolving roster, if you will. You then become fans of other teams, but really fans of the player, because you want to see your familiar faces of friends succeed.
My ladies were the ones who understood the hustle and bustle of the lifestyle. They got the schedule, the ups and downs, hirings and firings, and so on. I admired their tenacity when it came to protecting their families and at the same time found their humility and vulnerability in times of despair and uncertainty inspirational.
Michael and I have been incredibly fortunate to accumulate friends from the league who live all over the country. We’ve gone to weddings on opposite coasts, taken impromptu and last minute trips. We picked up a few pals at the airport at an unhealthy hour in the morning, because they happen to be in town for a few hours and we don’t know when we’ll see them again.
When Michael decided to retire this past year he told me of course going to miss the game, but he’s going to miss the locker room and his friends [+ their nerf gun wars] the most. He told me no one else understands what that bond feels like unless you experience it first hand. And he’s had the same bond, and the same routine with guys for 15+ years.
Wait. Did someone say nerf gun wars?
Although my time "in the league" was vastly shorter than his, I feel this way with my ladies. The laughter, the tears, the moments are difficult to put into words, but it’s an unspoken bond, you’ll forever hold onto. It’s going to be weird watching games on Sundays this year and not being in the stands with my girls or not waiting in the family room. It'll be strange not making bets to see whose man is the first out of the locker room and who takes their sweet you know what time. It’s bittersweet though, because my husband had a successful 5 years in the league and escaped in one piece, including an in tact mind. And for that, I’m grateful.
To my Falcons and Steelers ladies, you made football seasons [+ offseasons] beyond enjoyable. I am in constant prayer for you and your men as you both take on a new season [+ with your new babies BECAUSE ALL OF YOU ARE PREGNANT]. I pray for their health, your wisdom and patience to make it through another year.