I can’t tell you how many times I get asked what my spirit animal is. I’ll be out at a Baskin Robbins picking up a customized cake for the team, and I’ll feel that familiar tap on my shoulder. Or I’ll be gazing absentmindedly at a stack of clipboards and a fan will call out my name. I must fight the urge to run far, far away from these interrogators who can’t resist asking me about my spirit animal. That is why I am speaking to you today, in the hope that I can get the truth out there and you people will stop asking me about it.
My spirit animal is a football. Obviously.
Why would it be anything else? I’ve dedicated my life to studying the football, the powerful shaman that guides me through this confusing existence. But some people can’t accept that. They suggest my spirit animal is an elk, or an eagle, or a bighorn sheep, not knowing how deeply they wound me by challenging my divine conviction that the football will forever be my spirit animal.
The football is everything to me, and has been since I first laid eyes on one when I was 16 years old and instantly recognized that I had found the corporeal manifestation of a presence I had felt my entire life.
Imagine my joy when I learned that there was a whole game—nay, an entire industry—built around the communal glorification of my spirit animal. To know that there was a legion of people dedicated to running around on a field, exchanging footballs between soft gloved hands or flinging them majestically through the air so they could soar better than an angel, or just watching people doing those things on the television—it gave me a sense of purpose.
There have been times when my confidence was shaken. One day, when I was playing at Georgia Tech, I saw a teammate run into the end zone and spike the football obscenely on the ground. While each and every football is an august materialization of my spirit animal, this particular football had recently aided me in passing my engineering exam and given me comfort after Jane, a girl I was particularly fond of, had spurned my advances. Needless to say, I was shocked that my spirit animal could be treated with such wanton disdain by another person who I thought was a fellow traveler canonizing its power. And I was despondent with the knowledge that the football had been unable to stop itself from being spiked, had allowed it to happen. It was a dark time.
But after much reflection, I realized that along with strength, the football had taught me grace. It had taught me humility. Now, I don’t care whether I win or lose a game. I don’t even know if my team wins games or not. The actual game is nothing compared to the transcendent glory of the football itself.
I don’t allow my players to spike a football, or fumble it, or even set it down roughly. I can’t stand it when that happens. When it does, I scream at the players who don’t understand the profound wisdom the football is trying to teach them. On the television, it may look like I’m shouting about a blown receiving route or contesting a referee’s call, but I’m not. I’m only ever yelling things like, “The boundless courage and magnificent intensity of this divine spirit are amazing to behold every second, and you should treasure the gifts that this enlightened football is constantly feeding to your soul.” I say it loudly because when the football is your spirit animal, you want to shout its praises to the uppermost parts of the sky.
I also think field goals are disrespectful.
In fact, I’ve come to believe, at the core of my being, that the game of football does not properly worship the football itself. If the game of football was just a lush green field with a football in a glass case of the middle of the field and there were no people around, just me, and it was me and the football locked in an eternal gaze, that would be better. Or if you played football in a spare white room filled with soft cushions and it was just me and a center who hiked the football to me as many times as I wanted. Or I would be my own center, hiking the ball to myself over and over again, in an endless loop of spiritual awakening, growing closer and closer to nirvana with every snap.
So I have just one thing to say to people who have callously suggested that my spirit animal might be a mountain lion, or a Ford Mustang, or an entire flock of doves: I take my own life seriously, and so should you. I’m not one of those people who sees what I do as just a job. The football is my spirit animal, and the only reason I’m a head coach in the NFL is so that I’m in a place where I can be surrounded by as many footballs as I want at all times.
Now leave me alone.