First of all, let me make it clear that I do not hate sports. I'm a competitive person and I see sports as a way to compete without dropping nukes on each other. I also occasionally enjoy watching a game or two with friends. I've yelled and hollered with the best of them. I don't like the violence that comes out on the screen. I don't like the break his arm break his leg kill him that passes as cheering. But again, it's better than nuking your rival.
But in saying that I also have to tell you about my relationship to sports as a young adult still living at home. It involved cringing and hiding somewhere until it was over, and by over I don't mean the game itself. I mean the aftereffects of a father who used it as an excuse to inflict verbal and physical abuse on his family. If his team lost, the endless beer and cigarettes kicked in and if by some miracle the physical abuse was saved for later when he could inflict it on my mother in private, the verbal abuse didn't.
It was an endless stream of unrelated to the game itself blaming and accusations. It was having all your imaginary faults dragged up and flung in your face, even if there were no faults and nothing of any validity to drag up. It was being made to feel like a failure just because his team lost, even though you didn't fail and in fact were succeeding in school and in just about everything non-home related.
I managed to survive that and while the spousal unit loves his sports and loves to yell at the TV in encouragement and wrath, not once has he directed his disappointment at me. He knows it's just a game and I am much more than that to him. He's also not an abusive man or we would not be together. I had enough of that crap in my childhood. If he even sounds like he might be disrespectful to me, he hears about it, and most importantly he hears it. It's how the men in my community of friends treat each other.
Or I thought so until this morning when I received an email from a friend who recently moved in with a sports fanatic. She hates sports but following my example, figured she could find ways to live with it. As she said, she has lots of things to catch up on while sweetie is yelling at the TV.
But today I received an email that started out with "Is this normal?" She went on to describe how her sweetie's team lost and that for about half an hour he sulked in silence. And then to her bewilderment he started criticizing her over meaningless things. He didn't like the color of shirt she was wearing. The neighbor next door was too nosy, they might have to move. It soon turned into a full-blown argument with him accusing her of things she didn't do, attacking her for personality traits he made seem like fatal flaws. I could see the tears in her words.
I immediately wrote her back and told her that no this was not normal but it was not uncommon. I suggested therapy for both of them because my own issues with this topic were too painful to do either of them much good. She asked if I was sure and was slightly offended that I didn't have the heart to hear her out on it much. So I told her my personal story that happened pretty much a year ago this December.
I remember that Seattle won. In fact they knocked San Francisco out of the play-offs. To me it was okay, it's just a game. Our side won. It was an incredibly busy time of my life, probably the busiest of the year. I went back to work. I also picked up a small writing gig that would bring in some much needed holiday cash. In other words, I was busy and not in the mood to be bothered.
But I was bothered. I received this awful email from a fan of the other team. Yes, it was someone I knew well, a little too well. Ordinarily I would recognize the opening salvo for what it was, the disappointment of someone whose team lost. I would ignore it, let them vent and delete it and go on.
But maybe because it was "my" team who knocked his out of the play-offs, he was not going to let it go. He needed a victim much as my father needed a victim to blame. It got strange really quickly and awful. The writing gig I was working on was about the crazy teabaggers and Obama Derangement Syndrome. Someone writing a larger piece hired me to put together some words based on one of my blog entries. I was in a fantastic mood. I was thrilled to get some extra money. And I was writing about my favorite subject, crazy people whose prejudices are played like a perfect racist fiddle matching their biases.
Then I got the email that set me off. It was about how "my boy" Obama was keeping marijuana from being legal. Keep in mind this was from someone that hasn't gone a day in his adult life without getting high. He kept going on that now that Republicans were in charge, weed was going to be legal nationwide and Obama wouldn't be able to stop it.
Setting aside the fact that this person's grasp of how government actually works was pretty much on a third grade level, and that his comments were revealing his inner racist in a way that was making me extremely unwilling to continue the conversation. He was one of those people who care for nothing but sports and their lack of the basics in a lot of fields is pathetic. Being me, I tried to give him a brief primer on how it wasn't Obama's call. I sent him a short civics class in two paragraphs.
Trust me that it did not go over well. If I was less tired I would have let it drop, but I just finished reading a whole bunch of conservative sites where the comments were deranged conspiracy theories by people suffering from advanced Obama Derangement Syndrome. I got the feeling this person had finally developed another interest besides sports, but unfortunately it was listening to and embracing the most lunatic of conspiracy theories. I wondered how much he spent on tinfoil that year? It must have been considerable.
He then proceeded to attack people on my facebook page, making bizarre accusations of me enabling and featuring welfare queens. I realized I was not dealing with a sane person. I blocked him from my page and email. I deleted his phone number. I cringed in fear that he would call me and be verbally abusive. In other words, it was my childhood all over again for one of the same reasons.
That day ended my relationship with this person. I left open the possibility that it may resume if he got therapy, something he desperately needs for this and other things. I was able to separate his reaction from the normal behavior of the men I know because he was not normal. He was sick. You see, this person was like my father, and the poor women in his life no doubt got a heaping helping of his verbal abuse whenever his team lost. I say "women" because with such an abusive personality, maintaining a relationship is impossible. Every time his team loses, he will find a fault in his current partner. It's the way men like him behave. It was my father all over again.
But the difference was that I am not my mother nor am I this man's wives/girlfriends. I don't allow anyone to abuse me for any reason, especially over something like their sports team losing. He needs therapy to deal with what his own father left him as a legacy if he ever wants a genuine relationship based on respect and love. I feel sorry for him but I can't let him back in my life until he fixes what ails him.
And that's precisely what I told my friend. I told her she can't fix him. He has to fix himself and until he realizes he's broken, nothing will change. I told her if he won't go to therapy, then she needs to go alone. She needs to hear from someone other than me that although there are men like this, many of them, and also women to be fair, there is never an excuse to take out something as ridiculous as a team's loss on your partner, even if there's no violence, no hands laid. It is still abuse and unacceptable and over a period of years, it affects you as much as if he had beat you daily. The majority of men yell at the TV, drink a few beers, mourn their losses, celebrate their victories and don't have to top it off by abusing those in their space.
I hope she listens to what I said and what I wrote in this blog. I hope many women, with the beginning of the football season, listen to what I say because there is never an acceptable reason for abuse. Never.