To Have and To Hold: A Football Story
Once upon a football season, the love story that is my beautiful marriage nearly ended prior to the altar. The culprit: a kicker; and the jury: a sense of sportsmanship. Yes, you heard (read) correctly, “Sportsmanship – (noun) sportsmanlike conduct, as fairness, courtesy, being a cheerful loser, etc.” My union with a Steelers fan was almost de-railed thanks to fanaticism.
You see, my hard nose stance on excellent sportsmanship has less to do with losing than winning. As the only girl, when I won a feat of strength or athletic skill it was bandied about that the opposing brother/friend must have gone easy on me. Or made a mistake. Or caught an unlucky break. The win: tainted. As competitive as I was (ok, am), winning under those circumstances was losing. Which perhaps, now that I have some psychology and life experience under my belt, was exactly why that ribbing ensued – a taunt about not actually earning the win usually kept me from a second attempt, why fight a fight you can’t win for winning?
Regardless, my concept of sportsmanship grew to center around being the best, doing one’s best, and beating an opponent at their best. Which brings us back to the Steelers. And their playoff run. Joshua, my then fiancé, had invited me over to watch the game. Clad in one of his many jerseys, the game held his attention. To be fair, that last quarter was a doozy, and we all found ourselves on the edge of our seats. Then the fumble. The defensive struggle. The seconds ticking down until a field goal alone stood sentinal. The opposing kicker walked onto the field, and Joshua did it.
He pronounced a curse on the kicker. And the kicker missed.
I missed the missed kick being aghast at Joshua’s action. How could he want to win based upon someone’s mistake? How could he cheer a team advancing when they didn’t earn it?
We are entering our ninth NFL season together. A kicker curse didn’t break us up, neither did a inflexible stance on what comprises sportsmanship. The passion of loyalty and the desire of preeminence were married in us, tempering and refining each part while creating the sum. It's what marriage does. Pitts the best in one against the best in another, as well as the worst in one against the worst in another - and sometimes for "kicks" plays the odds by setting the one's best against another's worst. Providentially, our seasons have seen us come out on top - without either of us levying a curse on the other!