Sports Envy

My wife was shocked when I suddenly turned into a rabid basketball fan 12 years into our marriage. But not as shocked as I was about to be.
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Sports Obsessions? Not Me

They say you should never marry someone expecting him to change. But that's a myth. In fact, you should marry someone assuming he will change. But it will always be in some absurdly unpredictable way -- and never the way you might have secretly hoped.

Here is one big way I've changed: When Diane and I got married, I was one of the only men she knew who didn't give a damn about sports. Didn't read the sports pages. Hardly ever watched sports on TV. Went to Super Bowl parties pretty much for the big buffets.

Generally, I was baffled by my friends and their obsessions with sports. Which I guess made me more like a typical wife. And, like too many wives, I learned to fake it. This was especially easy during football season, since teams play only one game a week and it's simple enough to get the gist from the TV news teasers (home team won, be happy) so you can nod knowingly in the locker room.

I always knew Diane really appreciated that I wasn't like the other sports-obsessed guys. And I remained that way for so long that she had every reason to believe that my non-interest in sports had reached some sort of tenure status in our marriage.

The Metamorphosis into a Sports Fan

So imagine her distress when I suddenly began morphing into a raging pro-basketball fan. It began innocently enough. Several years ago some friends of ours conned us into buying half of their season tickets for the Philadelphia 76ers. I initially saw this not so much as a commitment to sports as a commitment to 20 nights out. (Just like anything else married people subscribe to, it's more about getting out together than seeing the Belgian touring company of Les Miserables.) I even thought Diane might enjoy coming to some games, but she only came when she felt sorry for me because one of my guy dates backed out at the last minute. And then she spent most of the time drawing amusing caricatures of players, fans, and cheerleaders in a little sketchbook.

She was missing what turned into a magical year in hoops. Much to everyone's astonishment, the team suddenly got really good. In fact, we (yes, I had started thinking of 76ers and me as a "we") made it all the way to the finals against the Shaq/Kobe Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA's evil empire. And somewhere in the middle of those dizzying playoffs I became hopelessly addicted.

I started memorizing the sports pages, obsessing over substitution patterns and obscure stats. Around the guys I could suddenly talk the talk.

At home, however, this made things a little weird. Diane was confounded by these changes. I was turning into a "guy guy" and she had gone out of her way to marry someone who wasn't. She did her best to tolerate my aberrant behavior and adjust to having an ESPN-pecked husband. She only really complained when I began insisting that any televised basketball game should automatically edge out whatever program we would usually watch on our only TV, the one with the dysfunctional VCR.

Continued on page 2:  Diane's Surprising New Passion


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