Are You More Loyal to Your Sports Team than You are to Your Spouse?

I’ve always been a fan of sports. As a kid I remember listening to Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reece call the one baseball game of the week that was broadcast on T.V. I had a Yogi Berra catcher’s mitt when I played catcher in Little League. In the summer of 1971, while camping with my family, we listened via radio as Jack Buck described Bob Gibson’s no-hitter. During the 1960’s my family lived in Alabama where Bear Bryant was almost equal to deity, so I had to be an Alabama fan. When Joe Namath went to play pro football with the New York Jets, my allegiance went with him. For the past several decades I’ve been a fan of the Atlanta Braves and the University of Tennessee. And when the Houston Texans moved to Nashville, I became a fan of the Titans.

Sadly, all three of my teams have fallen on hard times in recent years, which means they are more famous for blowing leads and finding creative ways to lose than they are for winning championships.

Recently, in a fit of hopeless despair following a weekend when all three of my teams lost, I posted on Facebook that I was going to have to find some new teams to root for. Not that I really intended to change loyalties. It was just a frustrated cry of pain and agony. What I expected from followers was a chorus of sympathy singing, “I feel your pain, brother.” What I got was a virtual being dragged through the streets by a mob, placed in stocks in the town square, and pelted with rotten fruits and vegetables.

People were outraged at my attitude of deserting my team just because they weren’t winning. The mob cried out, “Fans don’t quit on a team just because they are losing!” “What is wrong with you?!” “Are you just a fair-weather fan?!”

This experience got me to thinking about people’s attitudes toward marriage. Fewer and fewer people are getting married, preferring to just live together. Marriage itself is treated like a throw-away commodity, producing a staggering divorce rate. While I understand that in some cases the dissolution of a marriage is the reasonable option, in most marriages that is not the case.

So what would happen if people had the same attitude toward their marriage as they have toward their favorite sports team? Take these common sayings by sports fans:

“There’s always next year.” Sports fans are eternal optimists. Not every member on a team can bring their “A game” every single time. Your spouse is not always going to be on their “A game” either. They are going to disappoint you. It’s inevitable. Does that mean it’s time to “change teams?” What if you encouraged them instead of hammering them for failing you? How would that make them and you feel?

“If it weren’t for injuries, we’d have a good team.” Nearly every team starts the year with everyone in good health, but injuries are certain to follow. Sometimes your spouse will incur an injury – death of a loved one, depression, losing a job – that will prevent them from “performing” up to their and your expectations. Is that when you should cut them from your team and find a replacement? Or should you try to be helpful during this difficult time and give them the time they need to heal?

“Just hang in there.” Sports teams move through cycles. Take for instance the Atlanta Braves. I followed them during the Dale Murphy years, even watching Ted Turner come out of the stands to manage the team. The only good thing about those years was watching the talented Murphy. Then they went through a stretch of winning pennants year after year (ah, those were the days). But now? Well, not so much. Marriages go through cycles, too. I’ve been married nearly forty-two years. During that time there have been amazing stretches, but there have also been times that were less than stellar. My wife and I have learned to take the cycles in stride and not panic. We take stock of ourselves and see what we need to do to get back on track.

“You can’t give up.” To quit on a team just because you are unhappy with them is unthinkable to the true sports fan. You continue to root for them, cheer for them, and wear team clothing. In a word, you do everything you can to encourage them to do better. Many marriages would be transformed if each spouse would take the same approach with each other.

If your marriage is not where you’d like it to be, maybe you need to readjust your attitude and approach. Be a true fan of your marriage. The end result may make it well worth the effort.

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