53: The Fan

53: The Fan

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

The Fan

There isn’t a single professional sports season now that doesn’t go on at least a month too long. Baseball starts in football weather, and football in baseball weather, and basketball overlaps them both.

~James Reston

“Throw it to Austin! He’s wide open… nooooo! Interference! Where’s the flag, ref? He was all over him!”

That nutty fan screaming at the television from the couch in the den is a fairly accurate portrayal of yours truly on any fall Sunday afternoon, but when I married Scotty ages ago, I was a TV sports virgin. Oh, I’d always played sports. I even went steady with a lineman on the high school team and played powder puff football, but watching sports on the tube was a foreign concept to me. So when the man I loved suggested we sit in front of the TV and watch the Cowboys play football on a fall Sunday soon after we were married, I was crushed.

I’d just started a job teaching school, and he was working on a graduate degree in accounting while holding down a part-time job. Sunday afternoon constituted a significant portion of our free time together. I thought he was already tired of me. Why else would he choose to watch a football game when he could be doing something fun with me? I vowed to win him back.

The next Sunday he turned on the game and I launched my campaign.

“Hey, sweetie, it’s a gorgeous day, why don’t we take a hike with the pups?” I suggested.

“Sure, babe, as soon as the game’s over,” he replied without moving his eyes from the screen.

Okay, score one for the Cowboys, but that was only the first down!

The following week I tried again.

“Scotty, you wanted me to help you reorganize the garage. I’ve got the afternoon free — no papers to grade, no lesson plans due.”

“Great! Thanks, honey. We’ll do it right after the game,” he said as another handful of popcorn made the trip from the bowl to his mouth.

Second down! Score two for the noodle headed boys in blue!

The following week I played what I hoped would be my trump card. “It’s such a cold day, Scott. Why don’t we spend the afternoon in bed cuddling?”

Surely no red-blooded guy could resist that invitation!

“Ummm! I like that idea! The game will be over in an hour. You climb in and keep my place warm, okay?”

Well, that was it. Three tries and no first down meant it was time to punt. Even I knew that much.

Admitting defeat, I sat down beside him, leaned against his shoulder, and dug into the popcorn that was an inevitable part of the Sunday ritual. I could handle this. After all, football season only lasted a few months, right? Then I’d have his full attention on Sunday afternoons. I’d use football season to show him what a good wife I was and how lucky he was to have me. How many men had a wife willing to sit down in front of the television for a football game just for the pleasure of being with them?

So began the new order of things. Whatever happened Sunday morning, by eleven o’clock we’d be curled up on the couch with the popcorn trying to pull the Cowboys through to a win. Now that he had his game and my attention, Scott was in heaven. He explained the intricacies of football with patience, and I gave him my full attention.

I can’t say exactly when it happened, but within a few weeks I became aware of something really strange. I no longer woke up Sunday morning dreading the game I’d be watching in the afternoon. What a nice surprise! A couple of weeks later I woke shuffling through my mind to remember who our opponent was that day, then found myself talking to Scotty over breakfast about what our chances were. It still came as a shock when I realized I was actually looking forward to game afternoons, but I really knew I’d seen the light when I volunteered to make the popcorn.

Once he had me hooked on football there was no stopping him. I soon learned that basketball season followed football season and that baseball filled the summer months. Should there be a gap between seasons there was always tennis or golf. The Triple Crown of thoroughbred racing captured our attention for three Saturdays in the late spring, and of course the Olympics came around every couple of years.

Although I never became a baseball fan, the two of us were pretty much in sync for a few years, but Scotty was like those early pioneers who heeded the call, “Go west young man!” He was always on the lookout for a new thrill, a new challenge, or a new pleasure. With the inception of video and computer games his loyalty to the Cowboys, the Mavericks, and the Rangers began to wane, and our Sundays in front of the television began to bore my husband. Ten minutes into the first quarter he’d begin to fidget. Glancing at him sideways, I’d notice his hands flexing as if he were working the joystick on a computer game.

“I think I’ll go play on the computer,” he’d mumble sheepishly.

“But this is such a big game! If we beat the Eagles today we’ll cinch a berth in the playoffs,” I’d remind him with the passion of the true fan.

“Yeah, well, keep me up to date on what’s happening. I’ll be in the other room,” was his response as he stood to leave.

Before long any pretense of interest disappeared, and he’d head for the computer room as soon as I turned the TV on.

“Scotty, aren’t you going to watch the game?” I’d ask.

“Nope, you pull ’em through for me. I’m gonna play on the computer a while.”

After ten years of marriage I knew him. His loss of interest in watching the football game had nothing to do with me. In the “been there, done that” mindset that was so much a part of his persona, Scotty was simply moving on. Sadly, I faced facts. Our shared Sundays in front of the TV were over.

In spite of the disappointment I felt, I am aware that I am the one who benefits the most from my husband’s approach to life. Scotty blazes the trail, trying anything and everything that comes his way. I follow a few steps behind, sampling each new game, challenge, or pleasure for myself, picking and choosing those that work for me. His passions blaze fiercely for a while and then fade into ashes. Mine are slower to kindle, but more lasting. For this reason, his full throttle approach to life enriches mine in ways I might miss without him. My life was full long before we took up scuba diving, motorcycles, and skiing, but it has been even better since these were added to the mix. Introducing me to the pleasures of spectator sports has been his greatest gift of all.


~Pam Bailes

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