Do Sports Fans Threaten Marital Harmony?
Should a woman take seriously a proposal of marriage from an admitted sports fan? Surely less desirable traits abound and such unions cannot be dismissed out of hand, but have we overlooked the corrosive effect upon married life of this type of addiction? Can she really expect him to be ardent and attentive when he’s already formed other emotional attachments? Can she live with his divided loyalties, cope with his emotional instabilities and put up with his self-imposed exile attending a game or perched in front of the TV set? Students of marriage who have long pondered the adverse effects of such factors as impotency, infidelity, religious differences, age differentials and alcoholism, had better not overlook the impact of our sports- obsessed society. How it can intrude into and disrupt the everyday affairs of husbands and wives will become clear enough in the marriage encounters that follow.
When it comes to sports, men and women alike harbor a variety of prejudices. That women may be genuinely interested in sports is a proposition many men have difficulty accepting. Even when women are enthusiastic it’s regarded as merely a shrewd strategy designed to ingratiate themselves with men by demonstrating they’re one of the “boys.” Strip away the deception and you’ll uncover a sports vacuum. Men delight in exposing how little women actually know about sports. (Case in point – former Giants football coach Bill Parcells commenting on his wife’s knowledge of football: “She doesn’t’ know if it’s blown up or stuffed with feathers.”) In mixed company they may even use sports terms, aware that it tends to exclude and isolate women. Indeed, have a conversation turn to sports and women often take that as a signal to depart.
Women can be equally as intolerant regarding male sports fans. Often such men are judged to be primitives who suffer from arrested social development as they devote outrageous amounts of time to totally unproductive activity. Hopelessly self-indulgent, eternally juvenile, prone to mindless speculation and escapist fantasies, their indictment can be severe. Given this evidence of mutual suspicion, even hostility, can a woman marrying a sports fan expect to find happiness? Let’s find out.
Beware early warning signs and be sure not to dismiss them as harmless or make needless concessions. Remember, if unopposed he’s not likely to change his ways. And should his early efforts succeed you can expect him to take even greater liberties down the road. Be on your guard when he starts talking about season tickets touting them as the ideal way for the two of you to spend time together. An occasional game, whatever the sport, could be enjoyable, but not a steady diet. Also, be prepared for his fallback position which is to have a friend join him for the game. Stand firm. A concession here and you can count yourself among the legion of sports widows. Ask the price of the tickets. That should put him on the defensive, especially once you follow that up with a tally of home furnishings on your most-wanted list. You’re likely to win this skirmish; he’s not prepared to go to the mats on this issue. But don’t press your advantage. Offer no objections when he goes out to watch games with the boys or has them over, even if it’s without much advance notice. Expect to supply beer and snacks and make yourself scarce during the game while they’re consuming your food. You can, in time, get him to limit the frequency of these get-togethers, but don’t insist upon eliminating them entirely. Allow the male bonding to run its natural course. You may, however, discover that the pleasures of being a sports fan are for him less social than you might have supposed. He is perfectly prepared to go it alone, to enjoy the games by himself and find satisfaction in a uniquely personal way. Where that leaves you is a question properly asked but best not pursued.
Marry a fan and you’ll find your social life increasingly hemmed in by his prior sports commitments. It becomes risky at best to arrange social events without first consulting him. Upcoming games generally take precedence. Schedule something that conflicts with his viewing plans and he’ll do all he can to sabotage the occasion. Failing this he will leave the house “under protest” and declare his “sacrifice” to any and all listeners. But that’s not the end of it. Never underestimate the persistence of a sports fan. He will still do all he can to keep tabs on the game. Enter a restaurant and he’ll head directly for the bar to catch a bit of the action on TV or position himself where a television screen is always in sight. Or, he will turn to his smart phone for continuous updates. If the get-together is in someone’s home or apartment, so much the better. After the initial pleasantries and drinks he will begin plotting his getaway – the den, the basement, an upstairs bedroom – anyplace where he can get to a TV; better still, if he can induce others at the party to join him and share the onus of seeming antisocial. Usually he can attract other kindred spirits eager to escape the chitchat and do what they enjoy most – watching a game. Once the procession starts, other men, initially reluctant to break away, will now do so. In time these viewers begin drifting away, either out of guilt or because the game has become a one-sided affair. He remains on until forcibly evicted or lured away by tempting sweets on the dessert table. But it is a triumphant fan who finally emerges. Despite obstacles and in defiance of convention he remained true to his higher calling. Having thus established his credentials he will be even less inhibited in the future. His “rights” as a fan will be assumed and respected. Hosts may even remind him that a game is in progress, offer him a choice of TVs and assure him that refreshments have been set aside to enhance his viewing pleasure. He’s been labeled all right, considered now something of an oddball, but what true sports fan doesn’t revel in in being misunderstood, even maligned.
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Just try going shopping with Mr. Sports Fan. You’re in for a struggle unless you can somehow maneuver around game times. Not much for shopping anyway, unless the need is desperate, his preference is always to stay home and watch a game. Having him agree to venture forth is in itself a minor miracle. But getting him out of the house is another matter. With a game in progress he is in no hurry. To gauge the level of resistance simply count the number of “be with you in a minute” responses to your requests to leave. Always the game is at a critical juncture, or so he says. Finally, however, he’s out of the house, in the car and off. But at once the game goes on the radio and there’s no talking to him as you drive together to the store (except during the commercials – bless them). Once there he again offers resistance. He’ll stay in the car, then meet you inside shortly. Time passes but he does finally show up inside, only to tell you he’s heading off to the appliance section to watch the game on the display TVs. In no time, he’s comfortably settled there, with lots of other guys, all enjoying their release time from the pressure of shopping. He’s not likely to be of much help at the store anyway. His mind is elsewhere, which may be a good thing. Should his team be winning and his mood upbeat he might even say “yes” to items he would ordinarily veto. Go ahead, take advantage before the opposition rallies and his euphoria fades. On the way home, be sure to thank him warmly for accompanying you and giving up his afternoon. He’ll not likely see the humor in this and may even wonder why marriage has for him involved so many sacrifices.
Some women have trouble keeping their men at home. That’s not an issue here; our guy is not keen on going anywhere. If ever there was a homebody it’s our Mr. Sports Fan. Trouble is he’s at home but not very much a part of the household.Though in the next room he can “leave” for hours at a time, tune off and enter his own insular world. Attempts to make contact rarely succeed. Enter the room, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t even take notice. Have the telephone ring, but don’t count on him to pick it up. Ditto the front door bell. Prepare dinner, but unless the game is over his place at the table will remain empty. Nor is this a sometime thing. Add the capabilities of cable and streaming to the existing array of network sports coverage and he’s as good as gone a good part of the year. “Off season” and “between seasons” and “slow season” are relics of the past. He’s got himself a full-time job moving from baseball to football and tennis or golf or from basketball to hockey and boxing, watching them together, flipping around, rarely at a loss for sports action. Come night time the pace doesn’t slow. A break for dinner and he’s back at it (or he may choose simply choose to dine in front of the TV). And he may stay with it well into the night, especially with games from the West Coast, and the ever-present rebroadcasts. Ask him to come to bed and you’ll get excuses, and then endless delays. When pressed for an explanation those dread words “overtime,” “extra innings,” or “sudden death” recur with disturbing frequency. Get accustomed to going to sleep alone.
Is there any way to live with a sports fan and avoid conflict? Only for someone with the sensitivities of a stone. Still, even though the provocations are coupled with the occasional blowup, you must keep your emotions in check. Marriage is, after all, a negotiated peace. Does he care more for sports than he does for you? He won’t answer that one, but certainly a case can be made and ample evidence presented. That he spends more time watching than he does with you is beyond dispute. And for what? What is to be gained? Clearly it’s a waste of valuable time. A man ought to grow, achieve, fulfill his potential, at least pursue more serious matters. A juvenile regression – sports represents a little more. When the argument is joined he shrugs and offers little in the way of a defense. Certainly you have the best of it, but it’s not a victory you’re after. You want your man back. But can he be deprogrammed and begin to change his ways?
It is possible. He can gradually wean himself away from his steady sports diet. Encourage him to develop new interests. At some point he’ll come to recognize there is more important work to do and more meaningful relationships to cultivate than those with his favorite teams and players. You in turn should set aside your resentments, recognize that he intends no harm and that having other loyalties does not mean he loves you any less. You may also come to realize that there are decided advantages to living with a sports fan. Consider that all he wants in the morning are the sports pages, which leave you the rest of the newspaper. Count on him to be the most genial and generous of people when his teams are winning, a thoroughly delightful companion; and open to compromise when it involves sports. He will happily exchange an opportunity for expanded, uninterrupted sports viewing for the performance of some chore you wish done. Eager to watch a game on Friday night, he’s likely, in return, to agree to Saturday night out at the movies. On those occasions, when having your space or time alone or with a friend becomes important to you, he will enter no objections. Away in his own world, watching a game he’s not likely even to notice you’ve been on the phone for ever so long. Everybody wins! Then, too, should a baby enter your lives, he will likely be most eager to initiate the youngster, particularly a male child, into the mysteries of sport. You may then discover a side of him you’d scarcely imagined existed.