We had just finished ordering when Georgia opened its first drive against Florida. There my wife and I sat surrounded by Bulldog fans, the quiet before the storm. Because minutes later that all too familiar chatter I know so well began, the dialogue between diehard fans and an inanimate object.
My wife is not a sports fan. Perhaps by association — my negative influence — she could be deemed a fan of all Michigan teams, except Michigan State for obvious reasons. But that is an incredible stretch.
However, on Saturdays and Sundays she still puts up the effort of supporting my fandom. And even on nights when the Red Wings hit the ice or the Tigers take the field she is there wishing them well — when she can remember which team goes with which sport. Though she does not watch entire games with me, she will share a cheer when she passes by the TV or hears the pitch of the crowd, asking what happened.
She has been there at the worst of times, from the rebuilds of the Wings and Tigers — both currently ongoing — to the yearly disappointments of the Detroit Lions, who now appear to once again be staring irrelevance in the face.
One moment in particular comes to mind when thinking about my wife’s relationship with sports, when she attempted to provide comfort following the 2015 punt debacle in the Michigan-Michigan State game. This jaw-dropping mistake, when it appeared victory was in the bag, came after she joked prior to the game the Boys in Blue would lose, which they did.
I suppose she must have felt some guilt, though she will never admit it. But now the superstitious side of me always makes sure I am in Valeria’s good graces before game time, because believe me the Lions are bad enough as it is to also have some bad juju working against them.
This fandom of mine, I wonder, must not make a bit of sense to her. She endures my long-winded rants to only see me return each weekend to watching my beloved teams. And now with the one note of positivity for my teams coming with Michigan in the top 5 once again and playoff aspirations looming overhead, it seems like this puzzling cycle could just as likely start over as it always does, as the monkey on Harbaugh’s back — Ohio State — waits at the end of the tunnel.
But maybe it’s the stories I share with her that reveal a deeper meaning of what sports mean to her husband. Like imagining me sitting on my father’s shoulders, dressed in red, yelling out for Stevie Y as he held up the Stanley Cup while riding in the Red Wings victory parade in 2002. Or thinking back to when as a 4-year-old I hid under the bleachers from the late summer sun shining down on the Big House, as the eventual national champions willed themselves to victory over Iowa.
Maybe it’s her way of glimpsing into the youth of the man she loves — the player and the fan. A portal into a culture she was not raised in, where rituals are formed in the bond between fans and their teams.
Then it may all make sense, this crazy world of sports and the escape it affords — the renewal of hope with each new season.
So as we sat at the bar taking in the game, I smiled and leaned into her, saying, “You see, I’m not the only one.”
We didn’t stay until the game ended, with the Dawgs burying their rival. We had other things to do, for this was a bye week for Michigan after all.
Spencer Lahr is the managing editor of the Calhoun Times. He can be reached at SLahr@CalhounTimes.com.