Marriage, Generosity, and Football

Last January, I wrote a post about Generosity and Marriage, and how – according to researchers at the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project – even the simplest act of giving (like making your spouse a cup of coffee in the morning) can be a huge factor in your marital happiness.

But what about football? Can going to the big game with your spouse – or even watching it on TV – bode well for a relationship? I’m no sociologist, but this past weekend three things happened to make me think that football represents a prime opportunity for generous living, and could well be a sign of a healthy relationship.

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First, I saw a car commercial where this cute girl picks up a guy, presumably for a date. En route, she discusses the strengths of their team’s rushing offense while using the rear-view mirror to apply eye black. When they finally reach their destination – a stadium – the guy is speechless. It’s the date of his dreams: a pretty girl, talking sports, taking him to a football game! Granted, the ad wasn’t real, but if you could have seen how incredibly happy the guy was – what a gift the girl had given him – you would know why I have no idea what sort of car she was driving.

The second thing that happened was that my pal Anne Ferrell, who is married to the Alex Trebek of sports (Bob can name just about every college mascot in the country, from the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs to the Fighting Pickles of UNC’s School of the Arts), told me that she has undertaken a “30-Day Challenge” in which she’s trying to soak up as much football intel as she can. Players, coaches, weekend highlights – they’re all on her list. (If you could have heard her discussing Navy’s triple option offense on Saturday, you would know what a dedicated student she is.) Needless to say, Bob (who played for Navy and still holds like 17 records) is thrilled.

And the third thing that happened – the third football thing in 48 hours that made me think there might be a pattern here – was that, on Sunday, I got a text from my girlfriend, Dee, who got married last summer:

Now, Dee is not big on punctuation. I knew that. But she’s also not big on football – or at least, I didn’t think she was. Ask her what the Real Housewives are up to, or what fell out of the closet during the most recent episode of Hoarders, and her eyes fairly dance; when it comes to Reality TV, she’s a curator. But televised sports? That’s blank stare territory.

“I realized,” she explained, in answer to my question, “that if I wanted to see my husband in the fall, I would need to watch football. Because that’s what he does. On like five different TVs. And so I asked him to teach me the game.”

(And apparently he did, with great enthusiasm, because she went into a long explanation of who all the players were, what they were supposed to do, and – did I know this already? – that they had four chances to go ten yards every time! Marvelous!)

In each of these cases – the car ad, the 30-Day Challenge, and the football tutorial – the men were overjoyed. No surprise there. But what captivated me (and what gives credence to the whole “’Tis better to give” finding in the National Marriage Project) was how utterly giddy the women were.

Dee hasn’t been this excited about television since, I don’t know, she watched that woman sew clothes for a squirrel in My Strange Addiction. Anne Ferrell has mastered so many plays that she could coach her own team by now; I bet she even knows what a “slotback” is. (I don’t.) And that girl in the car ad? I don’t think she was acting. She loved it that she could make her fake boyfriend’s day.

Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

Maybe the National Marriage Project should adopt that line as their motto. Because these gals started learning about football as a love-gift for their men, but honestly? They’re the ones reaping the blessings! They know the joy of making someone happy. The satisfaction that comes with learning something new. And the sheer delight of spending time (and, one would hope, eating nachos) with a guy that they love.

If your spouse’s interests include coffee in the morning (and Robbie, if you are reading this, can I just say thank you?), bring ’em a cup. If it’s football that he (or she!) values, go ahead and Google “triple option offense” (they have diagrams online; I checked).  Whatever it is that your beloved is into – old books, new cars, gluten-free meatloaf – take some time this week to learn about these things, or to give them a place amid the stuff that matters in your life.

You’ll think you’re the one doing the giving (and you are). But take it from the adorable couple in the car ad:  Generosity cuts two ways. You will both be happy. And you will wind up refreshed.

(And P.S.  Bronco’s fans, don’t worry about Dee’s text. You’ll get ’em next weekend. And besides, it will be nice for Peyton Manning, who seems like such a nice person, to break the passing yards record at home. He needs, what, three more yards? Four? I don’t know.)

(Will have to ask Anne Ferrell.)

 

 

 

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