As the NFL season approaches week 11 and the holidays are nearing, this is about the time each season where guys start to complain more and more that their significant other is getting after them about how much football that they watch.
Allow me to preface this article by saying that I am probably the luckiest sports fan in the country. Not only does my fiancé love baseball with every ounce of her being. She wants to learn more about football, already knows and enjoys basketball and hockey, and even gets excited about golf, the Olympics, and almost everything sports related. She is also supportive of 2 living room TVs and the fact that if I get more than 10 minutes of actual fresh air on Sundays in the fall, it’s a rarity. It makes warm inside thinking about my good fortune. I know that I am already violating my last guideline, but it was necessary to preface. I couldn’t ask for anyone better, but for those of you that didn’t get so lucky, or there is still time to get out, allow me to give you some guidelines.
Note: This article isn’t necessarily for the casual sports fan that watches a game or two now and then. Nor is it really for those that are social sports fans, that are past the point of helping and have to be “allowed” to watch sports from time to time. This is for the sports junkie that can tell you not only where the 2nd string Tailback on their team went to college, but also his parents names, kids names, and favorite breakfast cereal… ok maybe not to that extreme, but you get the picture. If you don’t care about sports, or understand how adults can plan their lives around them, more power to you, but this information probably doesn’t apply.
- Don’t Settle! – I mean it, don’t settle! This is the #1 problem that happens. A sports addict takes someone out on a few dates, is lukewarm about the prospects, but keeps going out on dates. Pretty soon it has been a year, and they just don’t feel like starting fresh with someone else. At this point, unless they did their homework beforehand, they might be stuck with someone that hates sports. If this is the case, they need to GET OUT before they decided to commit themselves for the rest of their lives. Otherwise, Sundays afternoons in the fall will be spent apple picking, watching Extreme Home Makeover on DVR, and taking ballroom dancing lessons. If this is what you want, then by all means marry the first girl that you see. Keep in mind that coaches make game plans (well I don’t think Art Shell ever did, but most do), and you have to as well. You should always ask if they like sports, but since just about everyone lies on a first date, make sure to dig a little deeper. If you like what you hear, proceed, if you don’t; wish them well and politely decline another date. Getting out before it’s too late is important, after all, whatever time that you put into it, is less than the rest of your life.
- You Won’t Change Them. - Call it ego, call it whatever you like, but many people think that they are going to change someone else, or that person will want to change for them; it’s not going to happen. If your significant other hates sports, that isn’t going to change. Sure, everyone will adapt and change a little bit, but what makes you an individual isn’t something that you are going to give up. If they are open to sports and learning about them, they can become sports fans, but if your life is measured in TV timeouts, you aren’t going to like watching Lifetime when Monday Night Football is on. Just the same, your sports-hating wife won’t like watching the latest 30 for 30 when Khloe Kardashian is in the middle of a tough acne breakout on E, or some “Real Housewife” from Topeka gets into a fight at the drug store on whatever channel that’s on. So if 2 TVs isn’t an option for you, make sure to pick someone who understands your inhuman need to watch the week 16 Rams-Seahawks game even though you live in Orlando.
- Compromise – A relationship is built on respect, and if you don’t respect what she likes, you can’t demand that she care about your passions. The easiest situation is to find someone that loves sports as much as you do, but if you aren’t that lucky, you have to compromise. Plan nights out on the weekends. Just because its college football season, doesn’t mean that you can’t still go get dinner and see a movie once in awhile. The key is to be strategic. In August look ahead and see which Saturdays have weak primetime games. Plan special dates for those days, and give her your full attention. Sure, you may have to run to the bathroom to check your phone, but you will get a lot more back for doing that than you are giving up. Likewise, plan to go on walks, or the aforementioned apple or pumpkin picking on Saturdays where either the 12 o’clock games or the 3:30 games have little interest. Your efforts won’t go unappreciated, and your significant other will understand that certain games mean more than others.
- Take Them “Out With the Crowd” – Some women don’t like sports because no one bothered to explain them. For all you know, they might think an illegal procedure is a back-alley botox injection, and a tight end is the reason that they hate your secretary. Make an effort to take them to a game, explain it to them game, and answer any questions that they may have. If they ask when halftime is in the baseball game, don’t over-react. You don’t know the difference between the 13 pairs of black shoes that they have, but I’m sure that they do. Besides, if you over-react, that will leave them with a bad memory relating to sports, and that is the opposite of what you are trying to create. So if you start yelling that Kwame Brown is the worst player since Yinka Dare, explain why, and more than likely she will be yelling right there with you.
- Understand – Understand that they aren’t going to care about sports as much as you do; that’s what your buddies are for. Don’t expect that just because you introduce them to sports, they will become rabid fans that paint their faces at home and swear like frat boys playing Call of Duty. In reality, that’s not what you want anyway, otherwise you will never have any time to yourself. Having a wife that’s a sports fan and a wife that is addicted to sports is completely different. Everyone needs time with their buddies. Time to sit around, drink a few beers, make crass comments, and mock professional athletes from the comfort of your own home where they cannot hear you. Your significant other needs time to do her own thing too. Time to hang out with their friends and talk about work, kids, Brad Pitt’s abs, or whatever it is they talk about. They understand that you don’t really care about their new purse, and they don’t expect you to. Similarly, don’t expect them to really care that your team is switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and why it’s stupid. If they do, that’s wonderful, but their job is to listen to and support your rant about how you are smarter than the coach, nothing more.
- Be Flexible - Look, I know that your team may be 43-5 when you wear your John Madden boxers and sit in the same chair drinking the same beer. Unfortunately, there will be times where all of those things aren’t available, and you are going to have to deal with it one way or another. I am as guilty as anyone. I have been known to sit in the same position without moving during a big comeback. Yes, it was torture to sit through 3 Overtimes without moving in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the team that I was rooting for got the win, so it was all worth it. There will come a time, when there is a game on, but your wife’s coworker is having a party the same night. You can complain that you have to watch it in your chair, or you can make her happy and watch it over there. Yes, watching sports with non-sports fans can be both exhausting and aggravating, especially if they seem to agree with everything Tim McCarver has to say. You are still watching the game though, having drinks, and your wife is having a good time with her friends. So while it’s not ideal, it’ll do the job, and much better than the alternative of not watching at all.
- Don’t brag – If you have a wife that’s a sports fan, odds are that you have plenty of friends that don’t. They already realize how lucky you are without you telling them every 15 minutes about how your wife calls sports talk radio shows or screams about the misuse of the bunt. If your wife knows Sabermetrics and how to beat the Cover 2, that is wonderful and you will be happy for the rest of your life. Just understand that while you enjoy baseball games down at the ballpark, they will be watching Desperate Housewives on Blu-Ray for the 82nd time. Their life is sad enough without you adding to it. Those are also the same people that need guy hang out time more than they need clean air. So make sure not to force your significant other’s presence on them more than need be. After all, that’s the time they will complain about their wives, and if there’s a spy in the room, they will keep it pent up and eventually their heart will do a Mike Gundy impression.
This article may seem male-centric, and while that may be true, the thoughts are gender neutral. If it happens to be that you are struggling with a guy who isn’t into sports, focus not on the words, but on the ideas. It also certainly isn’t comprehensive. There are many other ways to navigate a relationship, but if you incorporate these tenets into your daily life, you might just find yourself a bit happier in both the short and long term.
At the end of the day, a relationship is a partnership. If you owned a sporting goods store, you wouldn’t advertise in a hair salon regardless of how nice the salon looks. You would want to partner up with a sports bar or a local sports team, something related to your interests. That’s how you should approach dating. Sure it’s fine to stop in the salon here and there to check it out, but when it comes to the rest of your life, you’d be much better served scanning the bleachers rather than the shoe stores.