Sunday, December 17, 2006

Football, Marriage & Transformation

Marriage changes you! Yes, I know, to those of you who are married (even to those of you who aren't but have close married friends) that doesn't come as a surprise. I even expected it when I got married. You know, the whole idea of the 'sacred marriage' - the tumbler in which God smooths away those rough edges and shapes you more and more into the person He wants you to be. That incredibly intimate relationship in which the other person knows all of your deep dark secrets and weaknesses and failures and shortcomings and yet somehow accepts you as you are and helps you to overcome them and become better than you were. That lofty, spiritual ideal.

Yeah! That's it. So I'm sure you can understand why it came as such a shock to me today when I realized that I'm actually enjoying football! That's one change I never expected to happen - even for the love of my life.

You see, I used to hate (American) football. I thought it was stupid, boring, disgusting, and certainly not worth the fanatical dedication it seemed to inspire in its fans. It had no finesse. It was just a bunch of over-muscled macho freaks bluntly running into each other. "Yaaaawn" at best. "Idiots!" at worst.

Now true football: futbol. Don't even get me started on the glories of futbol! The skill, the finesse, the grace! After all football is only a provincial pasttime, a product of the thuggish imaginings of those gauche Americans. But futbol - that crosses borders - it is a beloved pasttime of the rest of the world and surely six continents cannot be wrong, can they? But I digress...

Now imagine my distress when I discovered that I had married cross-culturally without knowing it. I love futbol - she's immersed in the culture of football. Yikes! Well, okay, I can accept her as she is, I guess. Sunday afternoons will just be an excuse for a little alone time. I can get some reading done, recharge for the week ahead. We can make this work.

Now we have a daughter and my wife wants to indoctrinate that poor, innocent soul. And our friends - the ones we usually have lunch with on Sundays after church? - want to get together for football potlucks on Sunday afternoon. So I find myself thrown unwittingly into situations where I can't avoid it without looking un-Christian for avoiding our Christian community (I am joking, of course). My wife and friends are trying to teach my daughter how to say "Go Bears!", and I at my subversive best twist it into "Goobers!"

The truth of the matter is, though, that it's difficult to avoid for too long something that is so important to someone who is so important to you. Out of sheer confusion I began asking questions, and now I find myself actually understanding what's going on on the field and some of the, yes, finesse that is occurring. And today I didn't even realize until afterwards that I spontaneously cheered when the Bears won in overtime and genuinely felt excited that they had done so! Hold on. Wait a minute. What?! Does this mean I like football? Yikes! How did that happen?

Marriage changes you! And, yes, I know that doesn't come as a surprise. But every now and then a change occurs in me, under the radar, without me even realizing it until after the fact, that takes me entirely by surprise. In some small or large way I come closer to my wife, become more one with her. Sometimes it's a matter of faith. And sometimes it's a matter of football. Now if I can just get her to start watching the World Cup.