This is going to be a weird weekend, I thought. There aren’t any football games this weekend. What will Emily and I do to occupy our day? For the past twenty-plus weeks, Emily and I have watched football. Saturdays have been a sprinkling of college games (this is the first year we have watched them). On Sundays, I began to plan our day around NFL games. We usually watch football, but not with the regularity and dedication of this last season. Why was this year different? Skin in the games? Possibly. I just know that we watched and now we are a little disappointed the season if over.
In August, my dear friend (and awesome accountability partner) invited me to join a football pool. I am not sure if it is called a pool, but let’s just use the term. (Please reach out to me to enlighten me on the correct terminology. I am a novice at all of this football stuff.) Koko needed at least 30 participants willing to give her $25 to create decent payouts. I thought 30 people seemed impossible to get.
“What do I have to do?” I asked.
Koko explained the basics of the game: “Each week, I will email out a list of all NFL games that will be played. There will also be five or six random college games included. You pick the winners of each game and guess the total points on a game as a tiebreaker. The top three each week get money. The amount will depend on the number of participants.” She added more information about the regular season and the playoffs. After she said we had to pick the winners of all NFL games and college games, I stopped listening. I had no intention of committing. This sounded overwhelming and complicated. We ended the conversation with me committed to thinking about it. Truth be told, in my mind, it was a no.
Why was I unwilling to give it a try? It wasn’t a substantial amount of money. There was a time in our lives when spending $25 on something nonessential would not even be a possibility. I can always quit if I get overwhelmed or it is too difficult to keep up. You are not a quitter anymore, remember? My inner chatter continued for a day or so, as I pondered committing to one more thing in my life.
It wasn’t long before Koko reached out to our accountability group. This time she expressed she was close to having enough people but needed a few more to commit. Just knowing she was close to reaching her goal pushed me to say yes. I, along with a couple others in our accountability group, decided to join. We invested our money and waited for instructions. By the end of that day, Koko not only met her initial number of 30 participants but exceeded it. By the time the games started, she had over 40.
I received email instructions for our first week picks. It outlined how much money the first, second, and third place winners would get each week. It highlighted the date and time our picks were due back. The details were all there. It included the games for the first week. It was an 8 x 10 sheet of paper of requests and decisions. My brain, once again, went into freak-out mode: This is a lot of games. This is going to take forever. Why did you commit to this? Where is Clemson? What the heck is a Razorback? What the hell were you thinking? You know nothing about football. This was a stupid idea. You do not have time for this.
My thoughts naturally lean toward “freak-out mode” with any decision I make (or don’t make). I am going out on a limb here, but I bet your mind goes to all the things that can go wrong. It throws shade at your choices and tries to deter you from trying something new or engaging in the unfamiliar. We are hardwired to stay in our comfort zone. Anything we pursue outside of the normal settings gets the mental chatter flowing and my chatter was in overdrive.
I would love to say I figured that it out like a boss and won first place, but that is not how it progressed. Next to the line that said “total points”, I put 1001. (I really did.) I also added a note in the margin, “I am supposed to guess the total number of points for all these games every week? This is ridiculous!” I scanned my answer sheet and emailed it back to Koko. A few minutes later, I got a phone call from Koko. (A text was not going to get the job done.) She explained that I was only guessing the total points for the Monday night game for the tiebreaker. Well, hell-o Operator. I told you that I knew nothing about football or this pool thing, but I managed to make it more difficult. I proceeded to give Koko a reasonable, yet highly unlikely, total number of points for the Monday night game.
The interesting thing was as the week’s progressed and each game was decided, my interest increased. It was exciting to watch the games. My energy and focus on what was happening increased. I started to learn some of the names of quarterbacks. I would complain about “bad calls” by the referees. Some of the calls would make me mad. I paid attention to news blurbs about players, team injuries, and that damn COVID thing. Who invited COVID to play anyway? I could not believe that I was enjoying this. Who am I?
I continued to add my commentaries and protests on each sheet I sent to Koko. I complained about not wanting to pick a winner for certain games. I spoke of decision fatigue or that I did not like the team I chose to win. I encouraged Koko and praised her for running this. It was hard work. She got my added chatter each week on my pick sheet. She got used to my added llama drama in the margins.
A few weeks into the season, Koko had to undergo emergency surgery. Justin and I agreed to collect and record the scores for one week. It took a lot of time and energy to coordinate and collect the data each week. (Full disclosure: Justin did all the heavy lifting. I merely hounded the crew to get their picks turned into us.) My appreciation for Koko’s skills at collecting and calculating everyone’s picks increased. I even started to keep my complaints and chatter inside of my head and not include it on my sheet. Koko had enough work and didn’t need my thoughts added to the mix.
I did not win “big money”. I did manage to get last place one week! I was proud of that win. I won 33 cents of the “last place buck”. Two others had done just a poorly at guessing as me. The truth is, we all were just guessing. Some of did educated guesses and others flipped a coin. When the final payouts were made, I collected close to $27. The investment and reward were about equal, but the real payoff was the amount of fun I had. Child-like fun. I enjoyed cheering on the team I picked each game. It was great to learn more about the game and the rules. I loved that there was a little friendly competition between my accountability group. I enjoyed the text threads we shared during the Sunday games. I loved these chats. Women talking football. My father-in-law started calling me during games to ask who I picked to win. Sometimes we were cheering for the same team and sometimes we weren’t. The short talks with him were a gift I never expected, and a memory I will have forever.
Saying YES to something I knew nothing about enriched my life. I gained both knowledge and appreciation for the game. Watching TV is something Emily and I do together. Football is something we both enjoy watching. That was a huge win. I loved that my boys would sometimes get caught up in the game, and we would all gather together in the living room. Those moments certainly made me happy. Football was also a way I could connect with my father-in-law. By saying yes, I created more JOY. I also added more connections to my life. Go ahead, say yes to something outside of your comfort zone. It may bring you more than you could ever imagine.
Added commentary: This post drops on Tuesday at 11:11 am. Tuesday is also 2/22/22, which is said to be lucky. It is also Koko’s birthday. Happy birthday Koko! May the day and year be full of joy and luck.