A Son of Football Calls His Mother

by longformphilly


Dan Barry | The New York Times | April 2015

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. — A mother sat at the edge of her bed. Angel figurines gazed down from a shelf, and a wooden sign on the wall offered inspirational words about life and love. They provided no comfort. She was on the edge, cellphone pressed to her ear.

This fraught conversation with her son had started as a quarrel over his scatterbrain ways. A Dartmouth graduate, a decade out of college, should be able to balance his checkbook. But not Patrick, whose troubles in navigating everyday life frustrated everyone. Especially Patrick.

His mother, Karen Kinzle Zegel, sent him a maternal text message to calm down, all will be well. He sent a quick response that, if you knew Patrick Risha at this stage, reflected either bristling anger or unnerving apathy: I am calm.

Now her son was on the phone again, saying disturbing things in a casual tone.

As she looks back on that late night last September, their conversation wasn’t just about a measly $400 bank overdraft. It was about football. The word was never uttered, but that’s what this was really about.

Writer bio: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dan Barry, who lives in Maplewood, N.J., writes the “This Land” column for The New York Times.

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