For 36 weeks out of the year the TV in my house pays its’ dues. When it’s not occasionally filled with the few shows my wife and I find truly entertaining, it’s a court jester: Hey!! Look here! It’s The Vampire Diaries. House hunting internationally?! Get a load of this!
Which means that for the next 16-plus weeks, the forlorn box of circuitry perched across from my sofa and I are delivered from evil every Sunday, Monday, and Thursday. And—despite her usual predilection for comely teenage vampires and reality show train wrecks—the missus is gamely along for the ride. Sort of.
See, it’s not like she has a team. She doesn’t. Doesn’t have a favorite player. Doesn’t even really understand the game beyond the basics. What she does possess however is estrogen and, with it, a preternatural weak spot for drama. And therein lies the key.
Let’s flashback for a second to Super Bowl XL. Steelers/Seahawks. Jerome Bettis is about to put a cap on a 12-year NFL career and his rookie quarterback makes him a promise: Pittsburg will win the game for their beloved rusher, so the Hall of Fame-bound running back can retire with a championship. Now did she, my wife, give a shit that in that game Willie Parker broke off the longest touchdown run in Super Bowl History? Of course not. Did Antwan Randle-El hooking up with Hines Ward for the first ever receiver-to-receiver scoring pass in a Super Bowl impress her in the least bit? It did not. All she cared about was if Big Ben (whom she still mistakenly—or is it Freudianly?—refers to as “Worthlessberger”) was going to make good on his word to The Bus and help the big fella ride off into the sunset with a ring.
Now I realize this sort of emotional manipulation wouldn’t be necessary had she, say, gone to an SEC school, grown up in a house with all boys, or worked as a longshoreman. Playing puppet master with her heartstrings also hasn’t blossomed in her a fuller, more genuine appreciation for the subtleties of the game or things like individual player statistics/ accomplishments, records, or displays of freakish athleticism. Tell her a guy’s 6’ 3” 245 and runs a 4.4 forty and she’ll glaze over. Tell her his twin just received a transplanted baboon’s heart, she’ll start following him on Instagram. “Who cares if he sucks? His brother’s the guy from Untamed Heart.”
Such off-the-field storylines may be labeled as “distractions”, “baggage”, and “issues” by scouts, coaches and media, but, for a guy looking to share the wonderful pastime of watching sports with a semi-receptive, non-begrudged female companion, anything non-sports related needs to become sports-related: dying grandmothers, Black athletes raised by white families, famous girlfriends—if you aren’t likely to consider it when drafting a guy for your fantasy team, your girlfriend or wife will probably eat it up. Within reason, that is.
Not everything concerning a player’s personal life is going to get her sporting eye-black and musing about read option offenses. Guy kills somebodyin a vacant industrial lot two months before training camp? Probably not gonna get her panties wet. Runs a notorious multi-state dog-fighting operation? You get the idea.
But the next time you’re about to settle in on the couch to watch a game and your better half says she’s just gonna ‘go in the bedroom and watch the iPad’, try floating out the little nugget about the Australian kicker who landed a tryout with the Jets because he had a dream and a YouTube account. Unless of course you’re both perfectly cool with her giving you, and your TV, some well-deserved guy time. In which case you should forget everything you’ve just read and revel in your good fortune. And, while you’re at it, maybe buy yourself some scratch-offs.