Catch a whiff of that? Something more pungent than Sex Panther and Axe body spray is in the air. It is sinister, even deadly. You, sports aficionado, are in love. Smitten as a kitten, you giddily confide to family and friends that he/she is the one. There is one Texas Stadium sized problem: his/her sports ignorance. “March enters like lamb and goes out like a lion. So what is this Madness everyone is talking about? El Nino?” your love asks. After letting out a sigh that would make Jim Boeheim proud, you flee to your laptop and commence your annual spring fling with Joey Brackets.
As Joey Brackets discusses this year’s brackets, you may want to cover your eyes. Matched up against overzealous sports fan in the Hopeless Romantic regional, your relationship isn’t escaping the first round. President Obama agrees. So do Bilas, Rece, and roughly 99% of completed brackets. Plunging headfirst into the stormy waters of relationships, I am here to mentor you--sports-addled Neanderthal. Your Love Boat (Vikings’ fans--that joke will haunt you twenty years from now) is in danger of capsizing.
One may reasonably ask: What qualifications do you, sports Romeo, possess? Absolutely nothing--except a degree in the School of Hard Knocks. And, dare I mention, a Triple Crown in relationship mismanagement: bungled relationships in college, law school, and grad school. But unlike you, wandering soul in the relationship wilderness, my previous courtships survived March Madness. Here are 10 common-sense strategies for a healthy relationship and sports sanity...flowers sold separately.
10 Friend--Still Figuring Out the Benefits
From our college years, we all have that drunken imbecile that we alternatively chuckle and wince at. Their maturity is, ahem, a work in progress. Unexpected Vegas escapades? Sign him up. Late-nights where he nicknames your significant other “The Handcuff?” Of course. You laugh until you realize that you will be big spooning Fido on the couch. Your buddy’s redeeming qualities: He is a diehard sports fanatic and, more importantly, he is your diehard sports fanatic. College relationships die hard.
Not surprisingly, your significant other finds your buddy’s schtick more juvenile, than justified. Her face contorts into a Pat Summitt scowl whenever his name is innocuously mentioned. So how do you handle your long-time buddy without jeopardizing your relationship? The answer: one sports trip per year. You unleash your buddy on an unsuspecting college town, supervise (OK participate) in a healthy dose of idiocy, and then return to your significant other more doting and appreciative than ever. And, of course, wearing a well-worn smirk after reliving your college days.
9 Date Night
She wants dinner and a movie; you want Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson breaking down the Spurs’ Riverwalk chances. The answer: baseball. You satisfy your unquenchable sports thirst and she enjoys a relaxing night in a cozy stadium. My personal take: baseball is the sports equivalent of the rom com. Safer than Jerry Maguire and just a couple lengths behind Seabiscuit. And, who knows, the stadium may be adjacent to your city’s Riverwalk: Honey, how about a late night stroll?
Dating tip (in addition to 25%): If you are worried about running out of talking points during the date, take your date to a minor-league game. With wacky promotions and quirky giveaways, your date will be entertained. The sports version of Jon Stewart, the minor-league St. Paul Saints have been salvaging awkward dates since 1993. And where else are you going to find a Larry “Wide Stance” Craig bobblehead doll?
8 Sharing Is Caring
During singledom, you controlled the television like Kim Jong-un. From ESPN’s Tuesday night filler to X games ridiculousness, you were the Czar of the Remote. A highlight didn’t escape your Billy the Kid quick draw. You were also more isolated than the North Korean dictator when Friday nights hit.
Your significant other, rightfully so, expects to watch their go-to shows. “Your must have missed that sharing lesson in kindergarten. This isn’t a dictatorship,” they bark. You can pout like Coach K after a questionable call or you can ditch the game plan and figure out a compromise. One suggestion: Set a day where you can monopolize the TV. As for that missed Northern Illinois--Temple match-up on Tuesday night, a steady diet of the Bachelor might be beneficial. And Amazaon Prime: How about a Cliffs Notes: Dating manual?
7 A Winning Strategy
Fantasy football is a touchy subject--as in if you want your girlfriend to touch you, you do not discuss fantasy football. As much as women enjoy listening to you debate Freddy Jackson versus Christine Michael, fantasy football causes more break-ups than Ashley Madison. Rumor has it that Johnny Football’s roadside dispute stemmed after one too many comments about his fantasy football squad. Welcome to the (relationship) waiver wire, Johnny Football.
For once, I agree with Johnny Football. Fantasy football is an institution. It is a way to keep in touch with college buddies, banter with siblings, and prepare for that inevitable Goodell call about running the (insert favorite team). As importantly, if you drop your buddies for your significant other, the taunts will be merciless. So it is time to apply those fantasy football negotiation skills and strike a deal with the real GM of your relationship: your significant other. Insist on fantasy football/fantasy hoops and dangle other fantasy sports as trade bait. Matt Kemp may cost $36 in an auction league; you can add three zeros when your significant other finalizes that divorce. That’s reality, not fantasy.
Glued to your 82 inch television on Saturday and Sundays, you invite your significant other over for some “quality time.” Alternating between gleeful shrieks (“Did you see that call. That was a hell of a play-call”) and panicked disbelief (“I can’t believe we are going to lose. I can’t believe it”), you barely acknowledge them. You then instruct--no demand--that they sit in the self-described lucky chair.
On this Saturday night, the chair is the only one getting lucky. After giving you the Kobe death stare, your significant other storms out. How do you calm the situation? First (and 20), admit you screwed up. You were more temperamental than Trump during a presidential debate. Once the games wrap up--remember it is still GameDay, Operation: Apology commences. Sorry, Trump, this isn’t a fireable offense--more a flowerable offense. This time. But moving forward, you must be be more savvy. If your team is embroiled in a bare knuckle brawl against your hated rival, save the “Honey doo” call for halftime. Or, better yet, Sunday morning. The last recommendation: sell that lucky chair.
5 Bets Off
Gambling is a risky bet--no pun intended. While it provides a guaranteed endorphin rush, you are staring glassy-eyed at your empty billfold and questioning your sanity come Monday morning. And there is that minor detail of subsisting on ramen noodles for a month...as a 35 year-old. But cheer up sport--at least you aren’t cooking for your significant other. Maybe permanently.
With my competitive streak, I understand the temptation of one more hand or one more sports bet. Boasting an encyclopedic recall of the 1987 NBA draft, you can outfox the Vegas sports books right? Not exactly. There is a reason Vegas is more lit up than a Christmas tree while you are couch surfing to pay the monthly electric bill.
Rule of thumb: If you discuss stock purchases with your significant other, apply the same theory to your gambling habit. And when the alluring lights/sounds of Vegas tempt, encourage your friend to finally propose to his long-time girlfriend. You may have to persuade him in person to run the hurry-up offense because your can’t pay your cell phone bill. But pesky details…
4 Wait--Don’t Throw Out Those Baseball Cards
As a sports fan, we all have priceless mementos. My vintage t-shirts commemorating the Hawkeyes’ Rose Bowl appearances are a look but don’t touch for future Mrs. Loebs. For other sports fans, it may be a prized football, a ducat from a memorable game, or a framed picture of your brothers after a Hawkeye victory in Madison. Jump around, Hawkeyes.
When your significant other launches into their anti-sports spiel, you may be in a House of Pain but try to view their critique as a conversation starter. That slo-pitch softball league where your team resembled the hapless squad in Major League? They framed that photo. Your family’s bowling tradition every Thanksgiving? They joke that Black Friday stands for the time they defeated you in front of your stunned family. These are cherished memories for both of you.
3 Message Delivered
Hawkeye Report, Inside Carolina, Orangebloods. If you graduated from a big-time sports school, you check these sites between your morning cereal and coffee. No problem there. And if you chime in with the insightful post about your alma mater’s spread offense, more power to you.
The problem: If you are spending more time researching 8th grade prospects then talking with your eighth grader, there is a problem. Rivals is a website, it shouldn’t summarize how your significant other views your online obsession. The answer: put yourself on a message board count. If your favorite hurler is on a pitch count to protect his arm, why can’t you be on a message board count to protect your relationship?
Travis from Texarkana--and his in-depth analysis of the latest second grade prospect--will still be there.
2 Holy Days
The first four days of March Madness are mandatory viewing. During these four days--incidentally the greatest sporting event worldwide, the constant bickering with your significant other shouldn’t be the equivalent of an 8 versus 9 tussle in the East Region. So...plan accordingly. Notify your supervisor, submit all required TPS reports, and, most importantly, have a conversation with your significant other. Something like this, “I will be emotionally unavailable over the next four days. If you or the kids need me, I will be betting obscene amount of money and drinking top-shelf bourbon with my degenerate friends. Good day.” Or you could try the softer, more strategic sell: “I will be reconnecting with those loud-mouthed idiots this weekend. Yes, these are also my friends. To make it up to you, I will set up a mani/pedi double-header at your favorite salon. And our lovely children--Aunt Silvia has them for the weekend so you can spend the weekend catching up on your favorite shows and sipping the latest Cabernet. You are welcome.” With a little foresight, your March should resemble the typical Duke tourney draw. And, unlike the Dookies (recent championship noted), you will be cruising into the second week.
1 Uncle Gil and Aunt B
Your in-laws are significant boosters...for your loathsome archrival. Every holiday season, they taunt you with the same tired anecdotes. You nod, smile awkwardly, and scan the room for the nearest escape route and/or alcoholic beverage. In this one instance, you have a small amount of gratitude (there is a God) that your significant other didn’t inherit their sports fandom.
So the question: Do you slowly simmer or confess your bubbling frustration to your lovely partner? The answer: None of the above. Chatting up Gil and Aunt B over a couple of drinks, you mention your plan to propose to their niece/nephew and gently ask whether they would help you and your beau defray wedding expenses. Their annual donation to Safe T. School, you clarify, would be the perfect amount.
Planning the guestlist, you almost overlooked one important guest. While he jetsets around the country during the winter and spring months, this guest has been an integral part of your relationship. He is off the wedding invitation “bubble.” Sending a thoughtful note, Joey Brackets can’t attend the nupitals but does predict that your team and marriage will both be playing well past March. He then offers a fitting toast: Survive and advance--both your marriage and sports sanity.