By David Schel
As baseball season nears the home stretch, football is gearing up. Sports, like entertainment in general, provides needed distractions from life’s difficulties. It also mirrors what goes on in our relationships and, in particular, marriage.
I say this as I’m going through my annual ritual of mustering up the energy to face another season as a New York Jets fan. Twenty years ago I moved from New York to California, but the New York Jets are still my team. I married them forty years ago, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Every time I thought they couldn’t play any worse – they did. We’ve been victory poor and it feels like rooting for them has taken 20 years off my life. They’ve let me down more times than I can remember. Unmet expectations – I’ve got a ton!
Every year, though, they tell me things are going to be different. I remember last year’s promise of a winning season, too. The Jets traded for Tim Tebow whose unconventional style and knack for winning was going to breathe excitement into our team. We were going to try new things, get wild and crazy, and recapture our youth. It didn’t happen, and there was an ugly divorce. Tim remarried our archrival. But now at season’s start, once again, as always, I’ve recommitted myself to my team and am excited for the new season.
The fans of the Miami Marlins baseball team have had a rough go of it with their team as well this year. The Marlins sit in last place with a beautiful new first place stadium. As the story goes, the city spent a lot of bond money building the stadium and then the team shed its expensive payroll – its superstars. Hence the team plummeted to last place, with low attendance and less tax dollars coming into the city than expected. A once hopeful relationship soured into ugly words and lawsuits. Marlins President David Samson defended criticism by saying that just because the team went through a divorce didn’t mean they lied on their wedding day.
And therein lies the problem. I assume the Marlins had good intentions just like every bride and groom on their wedding day. And so, at first glance, it seems David Samson was correct – divorce doesn’t mean the team lied on its wedding day. However, the flippancy with which Samson remarked speaks volumes to the ever growing dilution of our word as our bond everywhere in life. Today, when rationalizing away ownership of problems is as common as loyalty no longer is, when free agency in sports is only outdone by free agency in marriage, then yes, divorce does in fact mean we lied on our wedding day.
So what does all this mean for our marriages? Someone once said professional sports is tens of thousands of people who need exercise watching a few who don’t. The funny thing about being a fan is when we win, it’s just that, “we” won. We are as much a part of the team as the players. When our team is struggling and losing, however, somehow we become expert at telling “them“ all the things “they’ve” done wrong. I can’t count how many times I’ve sat on the couch – potato chip crumbs all over my shirt and my unshaven face stained by mustard – yelling at my favorite player: “ You idiot – how could you miss that play!”
Likewise, the slip-ups our spouse makes never seem to go unnoticed either and when things are not going well we’ve got easy answers for what ” they “ should do better.
But words from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi about football are as true for sports as marriage. Like football, marriage requires “perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, [and] dedication….”
Being a New York Jets fan has always been difficult, and this upcoming season has difficult written all over it. Still, I’m never going to quit on my team. I’ll just have to cheer harder.