There are plenty of ways in which Sara and I don't follow the antiquated roles of husband and wife. I'm the one who feels most comfortable in the kitchen. Sara is the driving force behind all of the home improvements we undertake. I want to talk things out and discuss our emotions, while Sara is neither "touchy" nor "feely." Also, Sara rarely wears makeup, while I feel absolutely naked without concealer, lip gloss, and a dusting of blush. OK, not so much the last one, but the point still stands. However, when it comes to sports, we put the "stereo" in stereotype. I love sports and my wife would love it if I turned them off once in a while.
Sara actually enjoys watching a game now and then, but the kids aren't about to let us both root, root, root for the home team at the same time, so sports has become my mistress, and a seductive one at that. It's not that I love the Red Sox more than Sara. I just love them in different ways.
I'll admit, I've often been ashamed of the time and money I spent going to fantasy baseball drafts or ballgames, because I realized what I was doing was selfish, a guilty pleasure in name and deed. However, Sara and I have always found an uneasy equilibrium, as long as I kept the spousal "we" time in first place and the sporting "me" time in the runner-up position. When we're out for a date, there is no checking out scores on my phone or sneaking into the bar to catch a few plays.
However, the paradigm changed in 2005, when I was hired by a small website to pen a weekly column about fantasy football. Suddenly, watching a few games per week became important to my credibility as a columnist. A year later, when Boston.com offered me a chance to write two fantasy football columns a week, planting myself on the couch every Sunday was research instead of pure recreation. And by the time I landed a gig this past winter writing about fantasy football, baseball, and golf for ESPN.com, I felt that not watching sports was akin to loafing on the job.
So I asked Sara how her attitude about my watching sports had changed, now that I was paid to write about them. Sara gave me a look that began with a hint of puzzlement, moved to a mask of deep thought, and then evolved into the slightest nod of recognition. "It hasn't . . . but I guess it probably should."
If I'd had a penalty flag, I would've thrown it. I always thought there was a distinction between things Sara and I did for recreation that cost us hard-earned money and endeavors that helped to further our careers and expand Hazel and Teddy's college fund. By turning a hobby into a moneymaker, I felt as if I'd created a win-win. But Sara's scoreboard didn't read that way.
I know the old proverb says, "Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life," but it seemed as if Sara had taken that literally and decided I was never really punching in. I have deadlines. I have editors who kill my favorite lines. I get hate mail from readers who claim I write with my head firmly planted somewhere that's physically impossible. It sure feels like a job. It made me wonder if I'd begrudge Sara if she turned something she enjoyed into a source of income. Would I care if she had the chance to review day spas or if some local socialite paid her to be part of her own personal book club? Of course not.
I considered making a big deal out of Sara not appreciating the way I'd turned work into play. I was ready to explain to her all the reasons why watching the US Open, World Series, or even the NFL draft was crucial to my writing and how failing to do so could end my career as a sportswriter. But before I opened my mouth, it dawned on me. I also get paid to write about my marriage, and putting anything ahead of that subject matter could end a lot more than my tenure as a columnist. In the words of Bill Belichick, "It is what it is," and it is more important to be a good husband. So until the Patriots threaten to take me to couples counseling for missing a Monday night game, that's the way it's going to stay.
Shawn Peters lives in Metrowest. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.