When James Joyce, Irish writer and voluntary exile of the Emerald Isle, wrote of the Catholic Church, he said: Here comes everyone.
What he meant, of course, was to make a global institution or a small village family, it takes all sorts to make it work. Every family has the grafter, the joker, the sporty one and the mummyish one and that slightly shifty one that always has a good story even if you can’t quite persuade yourself that it’s completely true. And you love them.
The Essex Spartans are such a family; indeed, when they come, here comes everyone. It’s been more evident this season than ever and not just because of a small but noticeable increase in points and wins on the field.
When I first became involved with the Essex Spartans in 2013 under the wing of Head Coach Marc Saunders, he was quick and persistent in his telling me that the Spartans were not just a team, but a family. Every success they had had in their past, on and off the pitch, had worked because the men loved each other like brothers.
On Marc Saunders’ departure and the inauguration of current Head Coach Seán Benton, an internal overhaul led to the creation of more voluntary roles in the running of the club, and last season saw far greater participation on the side lines on Game Day as well as more wins on the grass.
Well – the 3G, but the effect is the same.
And that’s where you see the families. It’s not just the players who are a family. After an Academy player scored his very first touchdown of his thus-far brief career on Scrimmage Day last summer, there was only voice you could properly hear over the general cheering and merriment.
“That was my brother! That was MY BROTHER!!”
And then a small woman stood next to me nudged my arm and said, “That’s my son!”
Some families I’ve seen at every game and every function for the past two years and they are every inch a part of the team as a star quarterback even though not one of them plays. One coaches, one organises, and two run around in ‘soccer’ shirts taking penalty shots at an abandoned goalpost, but their faces are as synonymous with the team as a black and gold logo.
American Football was sold to me as the ‘ultimate’ team sport in which no matter what shape or size you are, or what your skill set is, you are valuable. Just like in a family. And it’s no good having twenty perfect D-linemen when no one knows how to throw.
It takes all sorts to make a church or a village, and it definitely needs everyone possible to make a team.
Join the family.