Excerpt from Hamza Abdullah’s book, “Come Follow Me”
“I said scoot over!”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Hamza Abdullah, who are you?”
“Well Madrigal, why are you so close to me?”
“Because there’s no room in here.”
“Yes there is. Scoot over.”
“I can’t, I’m squished.”
“Yeah, someone’s on the other side of me.”
“Well, tell them to scoot over.”
“He you, scoot over,” Madrigal yelled.
“I can’t scoot over and why are you yelling at me?”
“Because Hamza’s telling me to scoot over, but I can’t. You’re in the way,” Madrigal said.
“I’m Hamza. Who are you?”
“I’m Ryan. I don’t appreciate you guys yelling at me.”
“Well I don’t appreciate you guys being so close to me,” I said, annoyance in my tone.
“We have no choice, there are millions of us in here,” Ryan revealed.
“Millions? Where are we?” I asked.
“We’re in the football testes. Pee Wee Football.” Ryan said.
“The football testes?” Madrigal inquired.
“Yeah. This is the starting place for everyone who wants to go to the National Football League.” Ryan declared.
“How many get to go?” I asked.
“One.” Ryan stated.
“One?” Madrigal and I asked in unison.
“Yep. One,” Ryan said proudly; “and I’m going to be that one.”
“[strikethrough] Bullshit,” exclaimed Madrigal, “I’ll be that one.”
“Well, I don’t know who’ll be the one to make it to the NFL, but I’m about to get to work.” I stated with a hint of shaky confidence, “But may the best man win.”
My introduction to football was standard amongst most NFL Players. We get our start in Pee Wee football, or the football testes. We begin as a single cell trying to defy the odds. We aspire to be that one cell that reahes the NFL’s fallopian tube. We understand it won’t be easy. We contend with the other millions of cells who also covet the inner lining of the womb’s walls. When the whistle is blown on our first competitive football game, ejaculation has started, and the race is on. We sprint to be that chosen one.
The first test is the cervix, or high school football. As we squeeze our way to te top of the tract, we begin to notice millions of our comrades begin to falter and fall behind. The transition from youth league to high school is a massive leap. There are no longer volunteer coaches, team moms, and post game pizza parties regardless of the game’s outcome. It’s all about winning now.
After high school is Uterus University, or college football. When we make it to the uterus, we notice the millions of aspiring cells have dwindled to just thousands. Still a large number, but we can’t worry about those cells. We have to stay focused on the task at hand. We have to keep swimming. We begin to exercise habitually. We believe lifting weights and taking supplements will aid us in our ascent to the fallopian tubes ampulla region – otherwise known as the NFL Draft.
We enter the final stage of the tube in search of the egg, football’s Holy Grail. The egg is where security, comfort, and nourishment happen. We set our sights on the egg, praying our name is the one that’s called to fertilize and become one with the egg.
“With the two hundred thirty-first pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select: Hamza Abdullah, Defensive Back from Washington State University.”
After our victory lap we are indoctrinated on the way of the womb. The NFL’s womb. As long as we adhere to this specific policy, our time in the womb will be pleasant. Veer too far right or left and a miscarriage will be the consequence. When we begin our embryonic stage of the NFL, we develop a sturdy capsule around us – the NFL Shield.
The Shield brings pelf, privilege, and protection. The NFL must protect their investment while making sure the embryo is carried to term. The average term of an NFL pregnancy is three-and-a-half years.
Just like the pregnancy cycle of a human being, there are certain dangers that accompany an embryo that doesn’t make it to term as well as if it’s carried past the term. For embryos that don’t make it to term in the NFL womb, they will be without health care and benefits after birth. For the embryos that occupy the womb longer than the term allows, they are subjected to illusionary hopes. They will grow bigger and fatter in the womb, thinking they’ll never have to leave. To them, birth is an urban legend.
Shortly after their inception into the womb, the placenta is grown.
The placenta is equipped with agents, financial advisors, manager, and personal assistants to ensure the proper development of this new being. The placenta is directly connected from player to the NFL through an umbilical cord. The umbilical cord provides nutrients from the NFL to its newest offspring, and discards the waste. Legal issues, bad relationships, and old neighborhoods are among the many wastes being removed through the umbilical cord.
Life is good inside the womb.
While inside the womb, we are unaware of the realities of the world. The NFL goes to great lenghts to protect its embryo from the important issues that would take focus away from the utopia it experiences.
Politics, religion, war, violence, and death have no business entering the womb. Layer after layer protects the embryo from the outside world.
My time in the womb lasted seven years. Seven years of comfort and protection. Then all of a sudden, my world around me began to tremble. The contractions began when I least expected it.
“Hey Hamza, come up and see me when you’re done down here.”
“Of course, Coach.” I nonchalantly responded.
After cleaning my locker out, I headed upstairs to my coach’s office.
“Now Hamza, you’ve done a remarkable job for us this season.”
“Thank you, Coach.”
“You’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do and more.”
“I’ve tried my hardest.”
“You stayed healthy all year and anchored our Special Teams unit.”
“Yes sir. I wanted to make my mark on this team wherever you needed me.”
“…And you did. We talked about replacing last year’s Special Teams captain, and you filled the role valiantly.”
“Thank you, Coach.”
“You were a leader in the locker room and you stepped up as a leader on the team.”
“Like I said, Coach, wherever you needed me, I was going to be there.”
“I know. I have to admit something else to you,” reluctance in his tone.
“What’s that, Coach?” I eagerly anticipated his words.
“When our starting safety got hurt, I should have put you in the lineup.”
As a player, these types of statements from coaches make our blood boil. We abide by the rules, we do the dirty work, we keep our mouths shut, and we work hard with the expectation that when it’s our turn to shine, we get to shine. So when the opportunity comes and we don’t get to shine-after paying our dues-we are upset.
“Coach, I’m going to be honest. I don’t know what to say to that.”
“I know. I know it’s not something you want to hear, but it’s the truth and I owe you that.”
“It’s a little late for that.”
“I apologize, Hamza. I really do.”
“So what do I have to do to make sure I’m not overlooked again?”
“Honestly, Hamza? Nothing. With other players, I can tell them go home and work on this or work on that, but for you, I can’t.”
Another statement I’ve heard my entire career. I’m trying to be cordial, but I’ve had enough of the politics. I’m a football player and I want to play football.
“So what am I supposed to do now?”
“Well hopefully we’ll bring you back and give you an opportunity to compete for the starting job. That’s if you want to come back.”
“Coach, I just want to play. I miss playing on Defense. I miss playing when it counts. I miss playing football.”
“I’m sure you do, and all I can say is I want you back.”
“What does that mean?”
“Well, from the coaches’ perspective, we want you here, but as you know, the other side of the building is an entity of its own.”
“The Front Office?”
“Yeah. We just tell then who we want back and they determine if the economics coincide with that plan.”
“What year is this for you Hamza?”
“I just finished my seventh year, Coach.”
“Well, you know how this process works. You’re a veteran with a good contract; I’ll be surprised if you’re not back next year.”
“We’ll see…Thank you for your time, Coach.”
“Thank you, Hamza. It really was a pleasure coaching you. All the best.”
The contractions begain and I began to slide downward. The contractions in the NFL usually consists of outside pressures, injuries, a first rounder drafted at your position, a new coaching staff, or an expensive contract.
The first sign of change is usually a player’s thirtieth birthday. That’s when his water breaks. It’s not a matter of if birth will happens, but when it will happen.
From that point on, the fully formed fetus is on the way out. Our descent into real life takes on a slow, careful, methodical transition. We come out head first to a different type of light. Our vision is not quite ready for the world, so we close our eyes as we are flushed out of the womb. When we are halfway ot of the womb, we are abruptly snatched out. We, along with our placenta are promptly discarded. Our lockers are swiftly cleaned out, name plate removed, and any remnants of our existence are thrown into a garbage bag. Our umbilical cord is cut, and that’s the last time we receive proper nutrients.
An abrupt end to what we once assumed was our “happily ever after.”
The NFL prepares the womb for another unsuspecting embryo. With every baby born by the NFL, the host NFL becomes stronger, wealthier, and more powerful. The NFL cuts its ties, leaves the being in the wilderness to fend for itself, and searches for the next sperm cell to cultivate and grow.
The doctor in a human birth has two patients, the mother and child. It is the doctor’s responsibility to make sure both patients have the best care. In the instance of an NFL birth, the player doesn’t have the same insurance the NFL has- so the player will not be taken care of.
The NFL walks away healthy, but the child is left to mixed results. What’s needed in that delivery room is a nurse. That nurse is the other former players; the players who not long before were also being birthed after an NFL career. The nurse’s responsibility is the overall care and development of this NFL infant until that infant can grow to take care of himself. The NFL Alumni Association and National Football League Players Association can act as midwives to check in after the baby’s birth to make sure he is on track to becoming a healthy contributor to society.
These infants, when properly looked afte with great pediatric care, can move on to become some of the most influential people in our society. It’s a shame that some will die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome before ever reaching their full potential.
It’s perceived that many NFL players- after they leave the NFL-have a tough time adjusting to life after football, yet there has been little done to alleviate the problem. I am to see if this is true, and if so, to find a cure for SIDS in NFL players and to help put an end to players going broke, getting divorces, or committing suicide.
I’ll have to go back where it all started…
Reprinted with permission from “Come + Follow Me” by Hamza Abdullah ©2016 Hamza Abdullah, all rights reserved.
Sheilla Dingus founded Advocacy for Fairness in Sports in October 2016, after a stint with Defenders of the Wall, a New England Patriots based blog where she dived deep into the legal aspects of Deflategate. Along the way, she observed many inequities in sports and felt a need to address some of the under-reported stories in sports law. She draws from her background as a former professional dancer, who like many of the athletes she writes about, took an early retirement due to orthopedic injuries. After a return trip to college she worked for a legal software company, with seven years as a Project Manager and Analyst. She brings her analytical skills to the table in breaking down complex lawsuits, and enjoys pursuing her longtime interest in journalism.