Sports and Love

On Sunday night the Chicago Bulls lost to the Atlanta Hawks, which has tied them in the series (2-2). When the Bulls lose, so do I.

A Bulls loss has detrimental side effects for my¬†Midwestern¬†born better half. It would be similar to someone telling me that I have to give away all of my books or retire my running shoes for a month and not run. I’d be crushed. I’d get angry. (You’ve not seen an angry woman before unless you’ve seen someone try a snatch a book from me…or a Reeses PB cup).

Everything was fine until the 4th quarter. That’s when my lively sports loving husband grew quiet and withdrawn. With five minutes left in the game, he threw his prescription eyeglasses onto the floor and chucked the remote across the room. That’s when I knew things weren’t looking good. He was crushed. He was angry.

Having lived with a man for almost two years, I’ve learned a lot. I grew up with two rowdy older brothers and thought I knew what to expect from living with a boy. But I learn something new every day now that I share my bath towels and bed sheets with one.

I’ve learned that I should never, ever, under any circumstance, refer to a sporting event as “just a game.” It’s marital suicide. Especially if you marry a Chicago Cubs fan.

As a wife without much knowledge of sports (couldn’t tell you what exactly a quarterback does in football), I don’t quite know what to say when my husband’s favorite team loses a game. Last night was no different.

“They’re tied in the series, that’s not bad. At least they still have a good chance!” I say to him, fully aware of the delicate eggshells I’m walking on. The Bulls loss can knock the life out of a guy who posted newspaper clippings of Michael Jordan on his bedroom walls for sixteen years of his life.

“No,” he replies with the sad eyes of a little boy who’d just watch someone pop his favorite balloon.

I used to think that sports were silly. I lamented the idea of sitting in bleachers for three or four hours to watch guys run around and holler about a ball. “A waste of time” I’d say.

Now I think I sort of get it. Sort of. In the same way that I’d be offended if someone told me that reading or writing were “silly” or a “waste of time” I was naive to once think that it was okay to say this about sports. Because I never understood the depth and dynamics and richness to it.

Watching Dave throw his glasses onto the floor as the Hawks secured their win with a 12 point lead made me sad. I wanted him to be happy. I wanted him to rejoice in their win.

It was eight o’ clock at night and I wanted to spend time with my husband. If this were to happen I’d need to knock the Ebeneezer Scrooge scowl off of his face and get him out of the house.

“Let’s go to the beach” I announced.

With that proposition, a sliver of life resurfaced in his face. Like a wounded soldier amidst battle he stood up and shook it off. “The beach sounds good, let’s go.”

And we were off. We brought along a blanket, warm coats, and a bottle of water. I snuck a sleeve of Nutter Butter cookies into my purse on the way out. Because I’m a rebel, clearly.

The California coast on a clear cool night can bewitch and enchant most anyone out of a bad mood. There’s magic in the salty smell of the Pacific after the sun goes down.

We spent a good hour on the sand watching waves crash and talking about tsunamis and crickets and music. On the drive home we listened to the radio. I belted out “Ms. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel and Dave sang along a throwback Pearl Jam song, his favorite from junior high.

I’d like to think our spontaneous trip to the beach alleviated the crush of a lost Bulls game. It seemed to. I think sometimes you should just drive to the beach with a blanket and a sleeve of Nutter Butters every once in a while. While you’re there, be silly and pee in the sand if you have to go. Talk about the moon and the smells of the sea. Let the salty wind ruffle your hair and pay close attention to the music of the waves splashing in and splashing out like a song.

I may never know the right thing to say after the Bulls lose. (Or any other team Dave loves for that matter). But as I’ve seen it to be true of his love for sports and boneless BBQ wings and Radiohead, if he loves something he really loves it. And when we love something we give it the power to potentially hurt us. Even if it’s something we think to be silly. Like a basketball game or peanut butter cup or our favorite band. When these details let us down, it shows.

And when this happens, my best advice would be to grab a blanket and a pack of cookies and drive to the beach.

It’s not going to remove the disappointment but it’s a good way of starting. And if it can work for my husband, my guess is it will work for you too.

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May 10, 2011