Husband and wife excitedly watching a football game together

Super Bowl LIV Tight End Indirectly Affirms How I Tackle My MS

George Kittle doesn't know me, but I'm sure the tight end for the NFC Champion and Super Bowl LIV-bound San Francisco 49ers gets me and how I take on living with multiple sclerosis.

Seriously.

I recently had to pause and rewind the live TV broadcast of a 49ers playoff game to capture exactly what NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya shared about a pregame conversation she had with Kittle.

"I’d rather hit than be hit"

“He told me, ‘I’d rather hit than be hit. I want to give everyone my best shot so that by the fourth quarter I’m standing tall, and they’re not.’ He said he runs straight at opponents as fast as he can, like he’s gonna run through them. And then they start to think about getting hit, and Kittle said, ‘The second you slow down to think, you’re a step behind, and I’m a step ahead.’”

Replaying his inspiring comments

After replaying the comments several times, I looked over to Jennifer and said, “See? That’s what I’m talking about!”

My loving wife of nearly 15 years, who also has MS, knows I’m going to shout at the TV about the same thing every time we watch a football game. Jennifer just smiles, lets me have my moment, and occasionally chimes in to acknowledge she understands why I regularly get frustrated with the running back, receiver or kick returner.

“Straight ahead!” Jennifer echoes as though she’s my pigskin parrot. “Stick your head down and go forward!”

I get annoyed watching players stop

I get so annoyed when the ball carrier chooses to stop. Stutter step. One way…and back. Again. Faking out nobody and doing little more than giving every defender ample time to close in and tackle him for a two- to three-yard loss.

This is why Kittle, who last season set the single-season record for receiving yards by a tight end, connected with me about how he plays the game.

My life with MS is a competition

I always have approached my life with MS as a competition: It’s Me vs. MS. So why should I respond to my competition with MS any differently than what I expect of the football players I figuratively coach from my couch?

Facing challenges

There are countless challenges that I and so many others face in living with MS, including:

I take action

I could ignore any or all of these challenges. Act like they’re not there. Try faking them out. But all this would do is give MS ample time to sack me for a loss in my quality of life.

And so, I do my homework and take action by:

Developing a game plan every day

I develop a game plan every single day. For example, I know my hands are better for typing in the morning, so I do the bulk of my writing assignments before noon. Whenever possible, I save my editing and proofreading until the afternoon.

Being flexible and making adjustments

Like all great coaches, my game plan includes factoring in the flexibility to make “halftime” adjustments if MS brings an unexpected symptom or challenge to the competition. Let’s be real: there are days when MS will get the best of me, but I remind myself that these days only are for brief moments in time.

My goal is to be ahead of MS at the end of the game.

Staying one step ahead

I can’t do this trying to avoid the realities of living with MS. I move forward, thinking the same thing that I scream at the football players each game.

And I now will think of a lesson straight from George Kittle’s playbook to always give it my best shot, run straight through the competition and stay a step ahead of said competition in the game that is Me vs. MS.

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