Maybe a year or two ago my eldest son started getting into soccer. Football, I guess you'd call it. He chose Aston Villa in the English Premier League as his team and began following the games. I was mildly troubled, as a lifelong American football player and coach and fan. It was like he was experimenting with some illegal drug, or was a Montague flirting with a Capulet. But, perhaps out of character for me, instead of turning my nose up at this foray into the unfamiliar, I leaned into it. We watched Ted Lasso as a family. And I sat down alongside the lad and we played FIFA 23 together on the PlayStation.
We assembled our squad as ruthless partners, usually in some uncelebrated corner of the sporting world, stripping the team of elderly overpaid veterans and scouring the earth for young talent. I even learned how to play the matches a bit, though I think some of the more complex skill moves are beyond this old dog's capacity to learn. But it was hours spent together, laughing and talking and sharing the experience. It was something of a fly-in-amber moment, one I'll cherish for the rest of my life.
Am I a soccer fan now? Well, I've watched more roundball than pigskin over the last few months. And I know where Villa stands in the Prem table and who most of their players are. If you'd have told me two years ago that any of that was true, we'd have enjoyed a good chuckle. But here we are. Such is the power of a game.