is there a game tonight?/oh, they get engaged

connection, culture, mindfulness -

is there a game tonight?/oh, they get engaged

Tonight, sixty-five thousand people will gather at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for this year's Super Bowl, mirroring the same number that the Roman Colosseum could hold back in 80 AD. The parallel draws a vivid line through history, connecting us with the ancient spectators of gladiatorial contests. Despite the millennia separating us, much has remained unchanged with these competitions - they're rich with contradictions.

My fascination with arenas is not just historical; it's personal and dates back to my childhood. I love the moment as you walk to your seat and see the stage or field for the first time. I even have a beautifully framed pencil drawing of the Colosseum, acquired in a bustling piazza, which adorns the wall next to the indoor trainer in my so-called "bike cave." It serves as a daily reminder of life's complexities and evokes Theodore Roosevelt's profound "The Man in the Arena" speech:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

This sentiment echoes in the words of performance psychologist Michael Gervais, who writes, "Our fear of people's opinions (FOPO) is a hidden epidemic and may be the single greatest constrictor of human potential." 

We all talk to ourselves. However, it is challenging to admit publicly. Sometimes, our self-narrative is encouraging, but often, it can be harsh, especially when we fear, which is different than care, what the critics might say. The consequences are life-altering. We beat ourselves up, play it safe, don't speak up, and over-index our "just trying to fit in" behaviors and end up living someone else's life. 

"I am not who I think I am, and I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am." - Charles Cooley

Although few will experience the thrill of performing before sixty-five thousand spectators or being watched by over 100 million people, life ensures we all have our arenas to contend with, complete with critics. Embracing these challenges with the support of a mindfulness practice is the essence of daring greatly, of living fully.

My first principles can clash with the spectacle of the Super Bowl and The NFL, but like most, I'm a perfectly imperfect cognitive gymnast. While I've softened my stance on the inherent risks of football since I participated in a sport where my next ride might be my last, I struggle with the NFL's inability to care for their modern-day gladiators who create their wealth and its continued racism and misogyny that mirrors our society. 

But tonight, I will enthusiastically watch, scarf down my vegetarian Frito Pie (talk about a contradiction), soak up the commercials, and, 'Yeah,' groove to Usher because I love the athleticism, chess moves, and awe that bubbles up in an arena. I love the stories on the field and know everyone in attendance and watching has a story worth sharing, and I wish I could hear everyone. 

So, let's welcome the critics, for they play a role in our stories. It's time to "dance in the rain..., fearless," stepping into our individual and collective arenas to dare greatly. It's Game On! It's the moment to embrace life's arena with courage and heart.

Kansas City 27, San Francisco 24, and The Swifties rejoice - Taylor and Travis get engaged - but don't bet on it. I'm horrible with predictions.