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JACK SMITH ON SUNDAY

Domestic Gridlock : Football Weekends Create Problems Too Difficult for Many Couples to Tackle

September 30, 1990|JACK SMITH

I WONDER WHETHER there is any social phenomenon in this nation that divides men and women as much as football.

I know. Millions of women like football; but many more millions loathe it but put up with it to keep peace in the family.

It's true that there seem to be almost as many women as men at the stadiums on Saturday and Sunday afternoons; but going out to a game is one thing: It's festive . It feels good to be outdoors on an autumn afternoon; one eats hot dogs and drinks beer. One cheers. At least it's a way of getting out of the house.

But television has changed the context. It has brought football into the house and increased the number of games watched in one weekend from one to four. Add Monday night football, and that makes five.

If a woman doesn't happen to like football, the sound of crowd roar and hysterical announcers for six hours on Saturday and six hours on Sunday adds up to serious stress. This noisy intrusion is not ameliorated by the presence of an indolent husband periodically demanding to be fed.

But I have an idea that it makes for accommodation, as it does in our house. My wife really tried to appreciate football, for my sake. When I met her she didn't know the first thing about it, though today many high school girls do.

I took her to one of her own school's games. When the coach sent in a whole new team, a girl nearby shouted, "Hey, look! He's sending in 11 new men!"

My future wife nudged me and said, "You think I'm dumb. That girl doesn't even know there're only nine men on a football team."

At least she said there're instead of there's . Her grammar has always been impeccable.

There was a time when she really tried to understand the game. Really tried. She would sit down with me in front of the TV screen and try to ask intelligent questions. But she rarely got excited, as I did, when a particularly good play was executed.

"Did you see that ?" I'd scream.

And she'd say, "No, I guess I missed it. What happened?"

Finally she quit trying. She would go into the kitchen and tidy up the dishes and fix some lunch or go into the bedroom and iron. I would be left alone to my vice. Whenever there was a great play, I would yell, "Come in here! You got to see this on replay."

She would come and stand in the doorway and watch the replay and nod. I no longer call her in to see replays. In fact, I no longer watch football on the living room set. I watch it on the bedroom set, unless she wants to iron, in which case I watch it on the living-room set.

A colleague of mine complains privately that before he married his wife she pretended to be an enthusiastic football fan, as he is. She went to games with him, cheered, seemed to be having a great time and even learned to "talk" football. Alas, since the day they were married, she has never gone to a game or showed the slightest interest in the sport.

Something like that has happened to me in recent years. I no longer watch four games every weekend. Some weekends I don't watch any. I wonder whether this means that I have become more mature or whether it is a reflection of our failed companionship. A man can't share a house with a woman and ignore her on weekends.

On the other hand, it is now I who feel isolated. She has learned to spend her weekends ironing, washing, gardening and so on; now, when I'm available for companionship, she is not.

I discussed this recently with a married woman who verified many of my observations. She said that her husband, too, insists that she come into the room to watch replays. She has never been able to convince him that she isn't interested.

Although my wife has failed to share football with me, she has succeeded in drawing me to the theater, the concert hall and the opera. At none of these events is one permitted to eat hot dogs and drink beer. One wears a necktie and jacket and does not applaud between movements.

In some ways I feel more civilized. Football is, after all, a bruising game in which physical strength is the dominant factor and in which one is very likely to be seriously injured or even permanently disabled. The ballet dancer is almost never in such danger.

I'm glad to have my weekends back, far from the roaring crowd. If the Rams can put it together, though, I might regress.

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