Watching football: An act of love

The Super Bowl is bittersweet for some of you. It’s the climax of football season, but it’s also the swift end of the season. The long, long season…

Cory is among you. As the reporters rushed the field to crowd Peyton Manning and get statements from other Broncos players Sunday night, Cory stared at the television forlornly and said, “Well, there won’t be another football game until…September.” To which I raised my fist in the air and proclaimed, “Woooooo!”

I did not grow up in a football family. I don’t think both my parents and my sister put together have ever seen, much less actively watched, an entire football game to this day. We were a basketball family. UK basketball to be exact. (Now 80 percent of you will stop reading this blog. I promise, we’re not the couch-burning types.) In fact, now that my sister is married and has kids of her own, she and my 7-year-old nephew Colin wear their UK attire and watch the games together. I think the little guy even cried when UK didn’t win it all last season. It was a regular occurrence in my house to hear my dad grumble when he turned the TV on Sunday nights after church and dinner to watch the news, only to find a football game still on. From a young age, I associated football with annoyance, confusion and boredom.

Super Bowl time was always a conundrum. Why is an entire day of television broadcasting dedicated to this one game? Why do advertisers pump obscene amounts of money into advertising during the game? Why do people have parties? Is this a holiday? People watch just for the commercials? I agree with Jennifer Lawrence in an interview she did with Conan O’Brien a few years ago: “You’re not having a fun time if commercials are your favorite part of…anything.”

Although previous boyfriends showed an interest in football and asked me to watch games with them occasionally, my relationship with football changed when I met Cory. Specifically, when he switched shifts at his seven-days-a-week job several months ago, meaning he would be off work in time to catch Saturday and Sunday afternoon and evening games. I’m not going to lie, I dreaded this. The thought of spending approximately 16 hours in front of the TV every weekend for months watching a game that after enumerable tries I still dislike made me queasy. But the expression of unadulterated joy and excitement on Cory’s face almost every Friday when he would shout “And tomorrow is footballllll!” kept me on the couch.

Albeit often on the couch checking Facebook, texting, writing in my notebook, reading, waiting for clothes to be done in the washer or the dryer, etc. Sometimes I would sit on the couch during the commercials so I could chat with him and not interrupt the game, then get up and wash dishes or clean my apartment if he was at my place when the game came back on.

After nearly a decade of being unable to steadily watch a season of football because of his job, Cory was finally getting to watch football again. For a girl who comes from an anti-football family, the hype is puzzling. For a guy who likes football, it’s been a welcome gulp of water after wandering through the desert of working seven days a week. And that’s something I’ve had to come to understand. Cory himself has said he feels like he’s been let out of a cage just watching football again. To him, It’s more than just doing what he wants to do and watching a game; it’s a little piece of freedom that a lot of us get regularly each weekend.

This is not to say that Cory insisted we watch every single game every single weekend. When he saw that my patience was growing thin with the white noise of the crowd and the constant stopping and starting of action on the field (of which there is an average of only 11 minutes in any game), we’d watch one game and switch over to Netflix or go eat dinner. Or if no one he cared about was playing that day, we’d go do something else.

Some people may view this as either a) me giving in to Cory’s every wish and not speaking up for myself, or b) me being really whiny because I’m not getting my way. Well, you’d be wrong on both accounts. First of all, I’ve tried to keep my honest-to-goodness whining to a minimum because I’m 25 years old, and that’s too old to be whining. Second of all, I “give in” to Cory’s desire to watch football because I want to. Obviously, Cory is a big boy and can watch football all by himself, but I know he enjoys me being with him. I can tell he feels that way by the way pulls me in to sit closer or gives me a little smile.

But it’s not just because of Cory’s expressions of appreciation or affection that I hang around for football game after football game. I have learned that when you love someone – when you love them in the forever way – and they love you back in the same way, you can’t help but show it in more ways than verbalizing it or giving a sweet peck on the cheek. You take time to straighten your hair every now and then because you know he thinks it’s pretty. You watch a romantic drama she picked out, even though those movies aren’t really your thing. You make him his favorite cookies just because. You grow a beard even when it’s kind of hot outside because you know she likes it.

And sometimes you sit through hours of a game you still don’t care for all that much because you’re together, and that’s really all either of you wants.

I’ve often heard people say that when you love someone, you want to do things for them that make them happy. I think that was just a phrase for me until I realized I love Cory. I see now that with other guys, I did things for them more out of a notion of obligation to make them happy, because I wanted to be a good girlfriend. Sometimes they reciprocated, sometimes they didn’t. But it always seemed like two sort-of grownup people playing house. I guess I’ll do something nice for you because you did something nice for me, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be, and I want to do what I’m supposed to do. Maybe you could say it was a revelation with Cory. Finally, that phrase I’d always heard had become a reality in my life.

I’m not trying to make it sound like nearly every Saturday and Sunday for five months has not occasionally included me groaning, rolling my eyes or just really wishing we could watch anything but another four hours of the one sport that is least deserving to be included on the list of fast-paced sports. (One day I thought I would literally weep for joy when we changed the channel to a PBS special about birds building nests.) But I make an attempt to rein in my frustration. Just like watching football, for Cory, is about more than watching football, watching football with Cory, for me, is about more than watching football with Cory. It truly is an act of love.

And I intend to continue that act when September rolls around again.

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