I knew the man who became my husband for several years before we started dating. It’s somewhat common knowledge that our first date occurred 18 months before our second date. (We refer to that as our second first date.) Therefore you could say that I knew him pretty well already when early in the serious part of our relationship, I went to watch him play soccer.
At that point he was playing with a team called the Coloradans. They were a serious team in the top division of the local men’s recreational league, mostly guys who’d played in college. What was most notable about them to me is that several of the guys on that team were married to women who played for the dreaded Predator Pigs in the women’s soccer league. The Predator Pigs were a team much like my team in that the women were a bit older in comparison to the rest of the players in the league’s top division and had quite a few children between them.
The difference between them and us was that they were tough and good and had long played in the top division. My team had languished at the bottom of the lowest division for years, when it suddenly became good enough to be promoted up a division, then up another division one season later. On paper, the Predator Pigs were the closest thing to a team we should have been able to compete with in the top division, but the games were far from competitive unless you counted nasty fouling from both sides. They didn’t like us and we didn’t like them.
So there I was at my new boyfriend’s game, watching but trying not to interact too much with the Predator Pigs who were, naturally enough, also in attendance. It was a chippy game and the guy marking my boyfriend had fouled him on enough occasions that his patience was wearing thin. At some point, my boyfriend, who one day would become my life partner, would listen attentively to all my fears and dreams and sorrows, would change our babies’ diapers, read them thousands of Thomas the Tank Engine stories, take them to the playground for hours, daily, turned to his opponent and growled “I’m going to break your ******* leg.”
And from my point of view, it seemed he was going to do it.
At first, I was all “ack! How can I date this terrible person?” but then I remembered what a decent person he had been all the time I’d known him. I also remembered a time I lost my patience on the field. I was playing co-ed soccer and was being marked by a hyper aggressive woman who was not a good soccer player, but was quite physical. Not in a particularly effective way, but in a particularly annoying way. Way too much contact and not all of it that made sense. A lot of hip checking away from the ball or on set plays but not at a moment when I had the ball or the ball was coming my way. I found myself getting more and more annoyed. And then I said something evil to her I’m deeply ashamed of even to this day, that I would never say to anyone, anywhere, or for any reason. I told her she was fat.
I can think of a million moments in which sports have brought out the best in myself, family members, friends, and real athletes; amazing, unforgettable moments. But sport also has the potential to turn us into our worst selves as well. This week, the BBC published an interesting article on Diego Costa who got me so riled a few weeks ago, Diego Costa: Does the Chelsea Striker Have a Softer Side? Believe me, I did not want to read it, because no good can come from having an open mind about such matters. But even though the article made an extended argument of how sport has frequently brought out the worst in Diego Costa, it did identify a very few redeeming qualities as well, such as the soccer school he started in his home town of Lagarto in Brazil that 200 students attend free of charge, expenses paid by Costa himself.
Speaking of our worst selves, Arsenal lost its Champions League game against Olympiacos yesterday, a completely winnable match that Arsenal somehow conspired to lose 2-3. They now sit in last place in their group. To move on into the Round of 16, they almost certainly must beat the toughest team in the group–Bayern Munich–twice, as well as beat both the teams they’ve lost to so far. And may have to depend on a few other results going their way besides. I sure hope we’re up for a crazy challenge!
I also hope we’re up to atoning for that disaster by beating Premier League leaders Manchester United this Sunday. Another home game at a time when home is not suiting us.
My husband and a friend were at the match yesterday in London. Hoping to get a blog post out of him; it sounds like they had a great time, even though the result wasn’t as we’d hoped.
Better times to come, right?