What the Super Bowl Taught Us About Families
My husband went to California on a business trip a few weeks ago. While he was away, I found myself doing something completely out of character—switching on the TV while cooking or reading the paper. I’m a voracious consumer of podcasts and audio books, but somehow, in the empty house, it felt less lonely to have human faces and voices at least notionally in the room. Bob eventually returned, but for millions of Americans, living alone is the norm. In 1960, just 13 percent of households were composed of single adults. By 2021, that figure had more than doubled to 28 percent.
Some people who live alone are not lonely. They are single by choice and involved with friends, extended family, and activities that give their lives shape and meaning. But most of us are not that independent. I know I’m not. A Cigna study found that 80 percent of Generation Z and 70 percent of Millennials report feeling lonely and more than three in five Americans say they often feel left out, poorly understood, and/or that they lack companionship.
“Lonely” is one of the saddest words in the language, and it’s also freighted with stigma. To be lonely is to be a bit pathetic, like the kid no one invites to the birthday party or the high school student eating by herself in the cafeteria. Loneliness shouldn’t be shameful. We are at our best when we love and are loved in return. This social isolation is an artifact of our post-industrial wealth and other trends, but that doesn’t mean it should be tamely accepted either. I can’t prove this with statistics, but I suspect that many lonely people fill their empty hours with social media or gab TV. And I further suspect that because they don’t live with flesh and blood humans who can serve as reality checks, they are more likely to be drawn to outlandish ideas and strange beliefs.
We did not evolve to live alone, and as the rabbi noted at our wedding several decades ago, one of the first things God pronounced about humanity in the Garden of Eden was: “It is not good for man to be alone.” The social science literature bears this out unambiguously. Married people are happier, healthier, and wealthier than their single peers, and the children of married parents do better on every metric than those raised in single-parent homes. But most Americans seem unaware of these data. Only a minority of Americans say that single women raising children on their own is bad for society (though the percentage who have concerns rose from 40 percent in 2018 to 47 percent in 2021), and 50 percent of women believe it makes no difference.
Intact families do matter though, for adult welfare yes, but even more for the children they nurture. While Valentine’s Day is usually given over to the joys of romance, the just-concluded Super Bowl offers an object lesson in the importance of what romance can lead to if it is yoked to responsibility: raising well-adjusted, successful people.
You’ve heard all about Super Bowl LVII being the first ever to feature two black quarterbacks. Another story is that both Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts were raised by married couples that featured dedicated dads.
Hurts’s father, Averion Hurts, is the head coach of Channelville High School near Houston. In fact, he was Jalen’s coach. Jalen’s mom is Pamela Hurts, a special education teacher and chair of the special services department at Anthony Aguirre Junior High School.
It doesn’t seem to have been all roses growing up as the coach’s kid. ESPN described Averion as “the type of guy who can change a room’s temperature just by entering it.” They say he was particularly hard on his sons Jalen and Averion Jr. to preclude any charge of special treatment. It became part of Jalen’s armor. When he was berated by the Eagles coach Nick Siriani (also a coach’s son), he let the coach know that he could handle it.
I’ve been telling him all year that I’m a coach’s kid. Basically all the coaches’ kids out there know what that means. It means they’ve been coached. They’ve heard everything. In high school I lived with the guy that was chewing me out. I made it clear to Coach all year, “You know, you can get on me a little bit.”
But his father was also his mentor and his rock. In a pre-Super Bowl interview, he volunteered:
He’s the reason I am who I am on the field, off the field. Being a coach’s kid, I talk about it all the time, but I truly lean on that. To always compete, to always give my best, to always show respect to the people around me, I think those are some core things that he instilled in me. I always go back to my experience and my time of being a coach’s kid. Those are times I wish I could go be that kid again and do that again. Those are special times. But I learned so much, and I saw him lead.
Patrick Mahomes is the son of Pat Mahomes and Randi Martin. Randi always knew that Patrick would excel in whatever sport he chose, and recalls that “I had to ground him from practicing when he got in trouble as a kid.” Pat was a professional baseball player and now runs a sports podcast. Randi is an event planner. The couple divorced in 2006, when Patrick was 11, but both have remained very involved in Patrick’s life. Pat has not missed a single one of his son’s games, and Patrick honored him by naming his first son after his dad (he’s actually Patrick Lavone Mahomes III.) Pat apparently hoped Patrick would stick to baseball, but supported his son completely when he announced he was devoting himself to football alone. When Patrick was asked whether he ever felt pressure to follow in his dad’s footsteps he said, “Not at all. My dad was always just looking out for my future. He knew once I made the decision to commit to football what it meant to me—that I loved this game, and I always had his full support.”
Both quarterbacks have given back to their communities through charitable work. Mahomes has a foundation that distributes books to Kansas City schools and provides other support to children in need. Hurts has volunteered for the Eagles Autism Foundation, Operation HOPE, and several youth football camps.
It goes without saying that these two are great athletes, but in this age of angry, rootless young singles and bizarre incels joining online cults, they are also role models, at ages 24 and 27, of what grounded, mature men should be. Both had dedicated parents with high standards. It’s not that complicated. Parenting is the key to nurturing responsible, admirable citizens.