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Be A Good Sport

A Husband And Wife Face-Off On Football

He Says: It's a hundred degrees, and a thousand percent humidity: the perfect weather for Transformer-sized men to pull on pounds of pads and protective gear and get ready to restlessly pound themselves for four quarters of football!

So, while our poor son readies himself for the trials and tribulation of seventh grade, I'm giddy with joy that Saturdays, Sundays and, yes, even Monday night, means one thing ... FOOTBALL!

My wife Annabelle doesn't understand that the start of football season — late August for college, early September for pros — is a religious experience for me and, for that matter, most men who have been football fasting since early February. It's like a long hibernation and when we wake up we're ravenous for the scintillating crunch of shoulder pads, the bestial grunts of hard hits, the delicate intricacies of a well-executed screen play and the thrill or agony of a last second field goal.

Annabelle doesn't get that, in the short season of football, every game matters, so that watching each one is not a volunteer vocation but a mandatory contract forged when I was a little boy between the gods of Football and me.

What will happen this year: Will the Jets finally make it back to the Super Bowl after 41 years? Will Brett Favre finally retire or will he really lead the Vikings to the promise land? (First it was the former, then the latter, so who knows?) Will Donavon McNabb make or break the Redskins and will the Eagles be better or worse without him? ...Read More

Annabelle had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. And maybe, just maybe, that's what makes football even more enjoyable for me. It's like another language, culture and reality that is there for me to escape to away from the loving rigors and passionate domestic patterns of our daily marital strife. Wait, did I say, strife? I meant life. I did, I really did ... GO JETS!

She Says: Jeff has no idea who he married. Somehow, in the daily marathon we're running known as the two-working-parent-family, and, even in the hectic heady days of our early courtship where the biggest sporting event in our lives was timing how fast Jeff could sprint to my apartment — and the clock was ticking on how fast he could de-pant me — talking about football never came up. “First down” had an entirely different meaning back then.

It just so happens that I know a lot about football. In fact, I would bet I watched more football growing up than Jeff who was raised in New York and had the classic Yankees/Mets rivalry competing for his heart.

I, on the other hand, was born in Alabama where my father attended University of Alabama and played on the team, attended games and once shook hands with (depending on the day) legendary football coach Bear Bryant. We later moved to Miami, where it was all Dolphins, all the time. I even played on a girl's football team in high school and, though I'm unsure if he's in or out of retirement this year, I know who Brett Favre is even if, like Ben Stiller's character in There's Something About Mary, I can't pronounce his name.

It's true my interest has slightly waned — if "slightly waned" means I am totally uninterested in football — except to note that on July 27th the NFL unveiled signs informing players that the sport can cause irreversible brain damage, finally giving Jewish mothers across the globe the ammunition we've always wanted to keep our sons from playing the sport.

But, this year, I'm looking at the positives:

#1: At least when football season starts Jeff will be watching a current game and not lost in a nostalgic haze of anticipation. ESPN may have a viewership that includes women, but, come on, women don't watch ESPN Classic. That name "Classic" really begs for a complete investigation of what the term really refers to: Are we using "classic" in the sense that Madame Bovary is a French classic, or "classic" as in its usage when a potato chip company declares its chip is a classic?

#2: Here's another way I'm focusing on the positive: My new standard of judgment is to ask, "What would Mad Men's Don Draper do?" Would Don Draper watch hour after hour of football on TV? In a word, no, he'd be sleeping off a drunken night or in bed with one of his kids' teachers (season three), so again, football mania is looking pretty innocuous.

#3: On the serious side, an important aspect of men watching sports is that it's an activity that they can do together. Studies have shown a quantifiable health and longevity benefit from longstanding friendships, however, women typically invest more time and effort in maintaining this kind of fellowship, while men tend to isolate. On top of the health benefit, this kind of thing may prove particularly important at this juncture as men currently make up the majority of the unemployed in the country.

So, instead of fighting it, you might want to insist your guy invite his friends over or watch the big game at a pal's house. Here's where I draw the line, though: I'm not going to tell Jeff that I know much about football, as he might insist I watch with him, so that will have to remain our secret — don't worry, my husband never reads anything I write!

SHOP NOW: You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story by Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, $24

  • You may not have the same level of love for football as your guy, but, hey, while he watches the games, you can sneak off for some me-time.

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Be A Good Sport
A Husband And Wife Face-Off On Football
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