During the first year or two of our marriage my wife indulged me (even as she regarded my preoccupation with sports as largely time wasted). Not knowing much of anything about sports, she left me alone when I headed off to watch a game. She had little sense of just how long I’d be “away”. In time, she learned. Whether it was baseball, football, basketball, hockey, tennis, etc., I would be gone for hours. That would not stand. I was made to understand that no longer could I count on disappearing for such extended periods of time. Such departures would now become subject to negotiation, with my “needs” competing with her “plans”, which all too often required my participation. The luxury of endless undisturbed viewing became little more than a fond memory.
I had now to alert her in advance about my game plans (which in all fairness she would, at times, try to work around). When, she would ask, is the game scheduled to start? How long would it last? Did I really need to tune in right from the beginning of the broadcast, a question especially pertinent once she understood that pre-game programming had become essential to the overall experience. Starting times I knew, but who could predict when it would be over. Best be evasive here because – 1. I didn’t know; 2 – declaring it would be many hours seemed needlessly provocative. It tried appeasement; were the game to become hopelessly one-sided, I’d not stay to the bitter end. That I assumed represented a major concession on my part. Except she discovered that most games remained close and that my definition of a “runaway” was unduly restrictive.
So, what evolved has been an ongoing cat and mouse game between the two of us. Under this new regime I was obliged to provide periodic updates regarding the progress of the game, plus projected end times. Initially I enjoyed the upper hand. Whenever asked about time remaining, I’d “low ball” it. For a time that worked because it made it seem as if the game was in its final stages. But eventually she caught on. Minutes left in the game did not, she recognized, signify how much time actually would elapse before play finally concluded (think endless commercial breaks and repeated time outs). She wasn’t sure why that was but she became wise to the fact that whatever number I offered needed to be multiplied several times over before I’d be shutting off the TV. lf I declared “three minutes”, she knew that translated into twelve to fifteen. If, for example, I declared it was the “fourth quarter”, she recognized that plenty of time was left. Trying to convince her otherwise was futile; she had come to know the ropes.
What does she most dread? You guessed it – overtime or, in baseball, “extra innings”. When this happens it upsets all her calculations. Plus, she realizes that I’m not about to pick up and leave. “This game can go on forever”, she will often mutter.
At such times I am sympathetic, understand why she’s upset. She’d already counted on my availability. Now her plans have been set back. Did I mistreat her? Am I being unfair and unreasonably selfish?
And so once in a while I will turn off the TV at this point, allow them to finish the game without me. Peace and harmony come at a price, one I’m willing, on occasion, to pay.
Fortunately the Super Bowl enjoys such an exalted place in our culture that none of what I’ve just said will apply on Sunday. It’s free sailing for me, from pre-game buildup to post game commentary (unless the game becomes so one-sided that I shut it off – and suggest we go out for dinner.