Confession: my husband and I are recovering sports addicts. Or maybe I should say reformed sports junkies. Actually, I should probably say reforming sports junkies, because we haven’t been to church on Wimbledon Championship Sunday in, like, a decade, and tennis isn’t even our favorite sport. Anyway, we used to watch and follow many sports very closely in our dating and early married years. It was one of our common interests. It was probably one of the reasons I fell for my husband in the first place — he didn’t freak out when I made harmless but seemingly alarming to most guys comments like, “Wow, that’s a good ERA.” This is a rarity. To this day, guys cast wary glances at me when I make comments about flagrant fouls or false starts (maybe because all the comments I make are actually really boneheaded…but I try not to over analyze this). The point is my husband appreciated the sports enthusiast in me. We watched sports, we played sports, we talked sports. To be fair to us, we had a lot of other common interests, too, but sports were pretty major until about five or six years ago, when we realized we had a problem and we needed to do something about it.
Disclaimer: this is not my parents’ fault. It’s kind of amazing that I turned out to be a multi-sport fan, because I did not come from that kind of background. Picture a family who watches their favorite Southeastern Conference football team every Fall weekend, decked out in the school colors and occasionally some face paint, and then picture the opposite of that. You know what we watched on Sunday afternoons in winter? Figure skating. That is, my sister and I watched it while my parents took their Sunday afternoon siesta or read books. The only sport we ever watched as a family, besides the Olympics, was baseball. I have known what stuff like IP (innings pitched) stood for since I was eight, and this is kind of weird for a Southern girl. Boston girls are allowed to know this, but Southern girls are supposed to know (a) how to apply enough hairspray to withstand insane humidity, (b) how to make a mean breakfast casserole for tailgating at 12:00 football games, and (c) how to avoid talking politics. The ability to grow hydrangeas or bake real buttermilk biscuits is a nice bonus, but not required. (Before you start writing me a nasty letter, please pick your sense of humor back up—I’m [mostly] kidding).
So I’ve always liked baseball. My true love of sports goes kind of like how some people talk about religion. “I always grew up in church, but when I went to camp at age 14, I really made it my own.” I always liked baseball, but it was when I discovered college basketball that I truly fell in love with sports. It was all downhill from there. I even began to enjoy watching golf, a sport I had been known to ridicule. (Don’t knock it til you try it!). In fact, I considered it a huge plus that my third child was born last month on opening day of the British Open. I watched pretty much the full day of coverage while laboring with her. No one should watch a full opening day of a golf tournament except golf analysts. Nobody. I also draw the line at overly violent sports such as MMA, or overly un-sportish sports such as bowling or fly fishing. Oh, and sports in which new tricks are invented every two minutes (I’m looking at you, snowboarding).
So, there we were five years ago, getting sucked into every sport that came on TV, spending money on tickets to local events, going to brothers’ little league games, reading articles, playing Fantasy Football…it was all getting to be too much. That’s when we drew some lines. It started with the realization that our finances were hurting because of our sports addiction. We got rid of cable (Goodbye, Atlanta Braves…), we stopped spending outrageous amounts of money on tickets to basketball and football games, and we stuck to sports that were cheap or free, like tennis and frisbee. Then we began to draw lines when it came to time. We began the slow progress we have finally made to only picking one or two events to watch a weekend. And voila! We’re recovered sports addicts. That is, except from late August through December. Because, for better or worse, football is King in the South. Fall is basically like the holidays for a recovering alcoholic. How do we just pick one game to watch on a Saturday and Sunday? How? We’re still figuring this out, but here are our basic steps:
1. Make it a point to watch our favorite college team with friends or family. Then it doesn’t actually count, somehow, because it’s more like a party and less like watching a game. It’s all about quality time…
2. Buy a membership to our local awesome park and make it a standing tradition to take a picnic dinner there every Sunday. Too bad if the best NFL game on is at 4:00 p.m. It turns out, we actually don’t care.
3. Focus on books! (you saw that one coming, didn’t you…). Fall is a great time to find some page turners to distract from Football and mold your brain back into a shape.
4. Ask the kids what they want to do.
5. Read an article about a third world country. Only do this if you really want to be challenged and disgusted by the excess that football both creates and embraces. You paid how much for that licensed Peyton Manning jersey? That could feed a family in Africa for a year.
6. Think ahead, and save up your TV time for March Madness.
In all seriousness, we still enjoy sports, and we’re okay with that. What we’re not okay with is looking back on our lives and realizing that our passions and resources were poured into something that is, ultimately, meaningless. We’re excited that college football starts today, and that’s fine! But if you’re the type like us who can reach Christmas before you realize your weekends were a blur of first downs and touchdowns you don’t even remember or care about, maybe you can gain some perspective from our experience with toning down our fanaticism. I’m pretty sure our eighty-year-old selves will thank us.