Historically, women just don’t understand men’s love of sports. Maybe it traces back to the original Olympic Games, where women were not invited to participate in the nude wrestling. Or war, which excluded the fair sex from the fighting until recently. Generally, men tend to enjoy watching men hitting each other more than women do. But this divide can really affect your dating life, whether you’re a guy or a gal. Based on my experience as a rabid Chicago sports fan and generally single guy, here is my advice for both teams in this game.
Let’s assume you’re not one of the lucky ones who’s snagged a sports-loving babe like a Hail Mary hurled by your favorite quarterback. Let’s say you’re dating women who may tolerate your pigskin passion (or roundball romance, or love of the links, etc.) but every sports-related distraction moves the needle farther toward the red zone on her Annoyance Meter. By the time you interrupt her mid-sentence to exclaim “That was NOT a foul!” she’s reconsidering that urbane, opera-loving fellow who might be manly enough for her, after all. Don’t let it happen to you…
Once you’ve sussed out that your date is athletically ignorant (perhaps when she gives you a blank look at your witty reference to the Mendoza Line), it’s time to set some boundaries. Basically, you have to pretend that you aren’t obsessed with your fantasy team and that your mood is not contingent on the outcome of game day. Now that most of us can indulge our sports addiction wherever our phone gets reception, this would appear to be harder then ever. Actually, it isn’t. Rather than squinting at the sports ticker on the bottom of a distant TV screen, you can just use your iPhone while she’s in the bathroom to find out if Albert Pujols came through again. When you’re with her, pretend that American Idol is the only competition you follow. Then, between dates indulge in an orgy of sports consumption. This will ease the pain of abstinence while you’re focusing on your lady friend. Trust me, the other kind of abstinence is more painful.
Relationships are all about compromise, so you can also consider sports a bargaining chip in the inevitable give-and-take of what to do with your weekend. If you find yourselves in a “one for you, one for me” arrangement, trade a trip to the ballpark, sports bar or your buddy’s big-screen mancave for the opera, ballet, stage-play, art museum, etc. She’ll see it as a guilt-free way to get what she wants. Everybody wins, which is the one cool thing that’s never happened in sports.
New experiences are exciting, so hopefully you’ll both embrace the opportunity. She might start rooting for your team and you might develop an appreciation for abstract expressionists. Either you’ve expanded each other’s worlds, which is a good feeling for both of you.
Couldn’t tell me the difference between a double play and a three-step drop? Feel the urge to commit suicide when SportsCenter comes on? Now you know how I feel when you coo about Love, Actually (which I hate, actually). But for the future of the human race we must find a way to come together. Find out what your guy’s priorities are and when the games are on. Give him one sport per season and two games a week. Either let him watch them without you or endure them in exchange for a comparable sacrifice—say, a salsa class. The more you dislike sports, the more you can get him to do to make it up to you!
Try to enjoy the manly bursts of testosterone that sports inspire in your stud. It’s kind of sexy when he gets all fired up, isn’t it? If his team wins, he’ll be feeling generous and celebratory—after the game is a good time to suggest a nice dinner. If his team loses, he’ll be looking for distraction and consolation—another opportunity to suggest something a cut above the norm. Basically, either way you’ve got him right where you want him.
Here’s a secret, too. Sports are a great insight into a man. Does he blow a gasket over a bad play? Does he gloat obnoxiously when his boys are ahead? Will he cheer an injury if it benefits his team? On the flipside, can he appreciate a good play even if it goes against him? Does he lose gracefully? Is he loyal to his team even when times are tough, rather than a bandwagon fan? There are so many moral and interpersonal signals to be observed if you’re paying attention. You can tell a lot about a man, even what kind of husband and father he’ll make, by how he handles himself as a sports fan.
So whether you’re a man or a woman, remember that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you watch the game.