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I Was a Sports Widow

I didn't realize how much I'd compete with football for my husband's attention!

We interrupt this marriage to bring you football season." This is the quote monogrammed on a pillow my mom gave me six months into my marriage. Having lived with a chronic golfer her whole married life, she knew what I was going to learn being married to a football fanatic.

When I married Trei, I'd been to a handful of football games and watched a few games on TV. And having grown up in the Midwest, I was prepared to slap on my favorite jeans, pour a Thermos of hot chocolate, and hang out with my husband in the stands a few times. A few times. Little did I know that my husband, who grew up in the South, had a different perspective on the whole "game day" routine.

When we moved to Mississippi, I quickly discovered football in the South isn't just a game—it's practically a religion. The preparation for game day actually starts a few days beforehand as you bake gourmet goodies, fry chicken, and whip up a pitcher of sweet tea to fill your tailgate picnic basket. Once the food's complete, you find your favorite cloth napkins and matching tablecloth in team colors, of course, and toss in your silver candlesticks to set up your party (a.k.a. tailgate) in this huge park along with thousands of other southerners who show up to socialize several hours before the game.

And you can forget about your jeans. In the South, people don't just take a date to the game, they dress up: men in ties, women in heels and pearls.

When we weren't attending games, we were watching them on TV—all of them. Soon I began to resent football. And I dreaded the fall. That meant I'd lose my husband every weekend.

"I'm glad you have a hobby," I told him one day, "but do you really need to go to every game?"

"You can come," Trei said. That's when I realized he was just as likely to give up football as I was to give up shopping.

Reluctantly, I decided if I didn't want to be a sports widow every fall, I'd have to pull out my heels, put on my game face, and give this southern tradition another try. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it and got to spend the entire day with my husband.

And that's what kept me returning to the games, both in the stands and on TV. Trei was patient with me as I asked a barrage of none-too-informed football questions. But soon I learned what it means to snap, punt, and hand off the ball, and I discovered I actually enjoy football and can cheer with as much enthusiasm as Trei—well, almost.

Also, the more I learned about the players, the more involved I got. For example, one of the Rebels' tailbacks spent a summer mentoring underprivileged kids in Costa Rica. When my husband shared that personal tidbit with me—rather than telling me how many yards the guy ran last season—I was much more interested in watching that tailback play.

Which was a good thing, because when we moved to Illinois, Trei decided we'd keep going to the Ole Miss games. So on Fridays, we'd pack up the car and drive the 800 miles to the deep South to tailgate. Or if we didn't travel to the games, we'd watch them on TV. The surprising thing I discovered was that my watching an hour or two of football became a great leverage to get Trei to try out my leisure activities—like shopping!—for an hour or two once the game was over.

Instead of having football interrupt my marriage, it's strengthened it. We now share a hobby and I don't lose my husband anymore. I join him watching football on TV, and when we drive to Mississippi from Illinois, we have the car ride to talk.

Now I relish the leaves starting to change. It means I get to pull out my red and blue clothes, unbury the picnic basket, and spend an afternoon with my husband. And now that we've become parents, Trei and I get to introduce our son to a tradition I hope he'll cherish as much as his mom and dad.

It's Your Turn!

Been married five years or less and have an issue, challenge, adjustment, or rant about marriage? Tell us about it! We'll pay $150 for each story that's featured in this column. Send your story, name, address, phone number, and a quality photo of you and your spouse to:

Starting Out, Marriage Partnership, 465 Gundersen Drive,
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188


Starting Out: Situation: Critical
"Constructive criticism" is a bit of an oxymoron in our home—but we're working on it!
By Elesha Coffman
MP, Summer 2003

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