With Super Bowl fever about to engulf the country, I begin to think about the wonderous role of professional sports in our national culture. Many of my friends discouraged their children from following professional sports, feeling that the elevation of junk yard peasants to the status of heros would threaten their childrens’ values and life goals. Since I was fairly comfortable that no child of mine would be capable of more than eight minutes of continuous physical exertion, I was fairly confident that a career in professional sports was not a life’s path I needed worry about discouraging. Moreover, with the paucity of recreational venues for me to take my children, and my eagerness to play hero to my boys, I found Shea and Giant Stadiums to be wonderful bonding arenas. But aside from serving as a parenting device (and my kids amazingly seem to drop their interest in the box scores once the high school charm of Torah studies kicks in), and a topic of safe conversation in the office (“so, those Knicks, eh?”), professional sports also highlights many lessons that would otherwise have been elusive to me. The magic of marriage is one such example.
When I was about eight years old, my father took me to my first sports game, in no less than the holy temple of professional hockey, the Montreal Forum, a’h. I vividly recall my wonderment at the passion and excitement of the crowd. The cheering, the booing, the chanting and the wailing. I recall remarking to my father that it was curious that so many people actually had money riding on the outcome of the game. After trying to figure out how I knew about sports betting (my Dad still does not know that I ran book on the ’73 NHL playoffs), my father advised me that the vast majority of the crowd had not bet on the game. I then spent the remainder of the evening, and days thereafter, trying to figure out why the crowd cared about whether the home team won. I then began to question why people, who do not have an equity stake, ever consider a professional team “their” team, particularly since few players were born, went to school, or even live in the home town. Years later, I determined that the basis of the relationship of a fan with his team serves as an insight into one of the ingredients of the magic potion of a solid marriage.
You see, a fan really has no cerebral reason to cheer for his team. The team may play ineffectively (or in sports vernacular – stink) and the team may change its players annually. Occassionally, one’s team may even hail from a distant town. But once I have selected a specific team as “my team,” it is my team, to live by or die. There may be no way to articulate the logic behind my allegiance, and no tangible justification for my pride in my team’s accomplishments or my sadness at the team’s defeat. The team may absolutely never win the big game. But, you gotta remember, it’s my team. Ask any Cubs fan.
Though varying to degree by cultural norms, a spouse is supposedly chosen via thoughful consideration. Whom can I best assist through his/her life’s work, and who is most able to assist me in mine? Who will make the best parent for my children, and who will take care of me, and allow me to take care of him/her, when necessary? And who is the smartest, kindest, and most attractive to me? And when a person is found who meets the various criteria, a glass is broken and a family is born.
But how many can claim that their spouse is actually the smartest, kindest and most attractive around? After the initial passion and excitement cool, to allow for true love to mature, how many can be confident that this person, now called “my love,” is actually the best candidate in the world to have been chosen?
A healthy and flourishing marriage does not work because the spouse is the “best,” but rather because the spouse is the person that was chosen. We become invested in our selection, and we live and die by our choice. It is the act of choosing that creates the reality. It is the act of committing that creates the bond. Sort of like what life is all about – making choices.
Apparently, we have the sense that once we we pick a team, that team is ours. And boy, do we cheer for our team!