First and Goal

Patriots-Steelers 2005

Patriots-Steelers 2005

The very first blog I wrote was about football. American football. I was dissuaded from posting it, because, I was told, it would have little relevance to those I hoped would read my book. I wondered why. I wasn’t really talking about football, but the inspiration, awe, thrill, high and low emotions that any game we follow and are fanatic are about brings us. For me, when I lived in India, it was cricket. The game, the skill, the teams, the players, wins, losses, arguments about who was the better bowler, batsman, all of it was an endless source of captivation. It was personal. From the time I was eight or nine, I remember the atmosphere in the public bus during the test match season – the whole bus hanging on someone’s radio to listen to the scratchy, tinny commentary, as if a war were in progress, our life depended on it. Then there was tv, and I was delighted when we were playing Australia, and I got to see Jeff Thompson with his blond hair doing a little dance as he ran up to deliver devastation. As an adolescent, I had a crush on Ravi Shastri. Later, I had bitter fights with dear friends about my unpatriotic love for the Sri Lankan team. And then, I moved to Southern California, and there was no more cricket. That space was empty. I tried to understand baseball, but it was not for me. You have to grow up here, play it, or at least watch your children play it, you have to have a sense for it – a cultural sense – just like I had for cricket.

And then one afternoon late in September of 2001, soul tired from watching what was the only thing on every talk show and news show, I surfed away. And there it was, that odd and jerky and violent game, the New England Patriots playing another team in colors that I did not know, yet. I watched. I did not get it. But as the months, and years have gone by, I get it. It will be many years before I fully understand the details of the game – I did not grow up with this one either, as I had with cricket. I don’t have the history, nor do I know every last intricate rule yet. But I get the feeling, and feel the things that every sports fan feels when their team is up, and when their team is down. It allows me, again, to ride those emotions with abandon, to allow myself to be jubilant, or crash and burn without fear.

“New England is back in form” it says in the sports section today.

After losing the final game of a perfect season, after losing number twelve to a shoulder injury the following season, and after a shaky start this season, New England is back in form. And reading that made me feel almost happy. I’m finally ready to take whatever comes, be that reviews that revile me, poor sales, or even, god help me, some people reading my book and liking it. Because, whatever happens with A Pack of Lies, The Patriots have another chance at the Superbowl this February. And a chance is something to look forward to, and to enjoy, and a reason to live in a present with a sense of the future.

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