What truly makes something what it is? Is there a specific right answer for what definite characteristic makes an apple an apple or a computer a computer? In the article by Marc Tracy, “NFL Rule Changes: When is football no longer football?” he asks this question as well. Tracy discusses the recent rule changes involving the Pro-Bowl and how they affect the future of the American national sport.
Tracy questions whether the elimination of kick offs and new regulations regarding helmets pose to undermine the sport of Football in its entirety. After exploring defining characteristics, he ends his point by writing, the “NFL needs to decide what Football is”: its rules, its traditions, and its future. What Tracy hints at is called a constitutive rule, or a regulation that helps makes something what it is, that when broken, says you are no longer engaged in that activity.
What is family? Strictly speaking, a family is all of the descendants from a common ancestor or a group consisting of parents and children living in a household. I guess some might say that “relative” is the constitutive rule of families. Tracy’s open ended thinking got my brain processing, asking myself what is blank? Searching to concretely define anything in my life that had held a permanent presence. The one that hit home for me was family.
I hail from Los Angeles, CA quite a long ways away from here—2250 miles to be exact. Being this far away in Ann Arbor, MI isn’t easy, for many reasons (yes I know comments about the weather usually make their way into the conversation at this point,) but being away from my family is definitely the hardest. A phone call from my much younger brother can always make my day and put a damper on it at the same time, it seems that every time I hang up I continue to get struck by how much I miss him. While the distance from my family has certainly been an adjustment, I haven’t been alone.
The friends that I have made so far in the first semester of my freshman year, particularly the ones that live up and down my hall, see me in the same light my family does each and every day. We eat meals together, live together, go out together—we do all the same things family would do. In this respect I more than consider them family. In fact when I went back to L.A. for fall break, to my real family, I was shocked by how much I missed them: I couldn’t sleep because I was so used to my roommate’s presence during the night, and I couldn’t stop texting and snapchatting them for fear I was missing even the most minute of events.
In every respect, my friends are my family. While they may not fulfill the constitutive rule of my genetic descendants and relatives or replace the family that I have temporarily left behind in California, they are always there at my best and at my worst, precisely the love that family provides. It’s important to respect all opinions and definitions that people place on ideas and concepts. There is more than one way to define a common idea. Family, home, football can mean many things to different people.
As Tracy points out, there are some people who are never going to be satisfied with the risk of injury football at any capacity unfortunately provides, and there are some that respect it for the violent and gritty game that it is. Football, in its ideal form, is different for many kinds of people. But will it ever stop being football because of those differences? With family stop being family because different people can find different types of family in other places?
It’s good to be inquisitive. It’s good to think about how you define important things in your own life. Tracy’s article encouraged conversation, questioning, and self-reflection. What is my opinion? Well let me do that same: “what is yours?”