Monday, December 5, 2011

Little Bitty Epiphany

Yesterday, we had a nice time at church, but it seemed to be all downhill from there. (Fair warning: I'm going to talk sports for a while here, but that's not really what this entry is about. Skim if you must, if football really isn't your thing--I promise I'm going somewhere with all this!)

My Cardiac Cats, the Cincinnati Bengals, were playing divisional rival Pittsburgh, and it was a big game--both teams are fighting for a Wildcard spot, and though the boys in stripes lost the first meeting between the two, they only lost by a touchdown and had a lot of opportunities. They're a talented young team, and I thought there was a good chance they could win the rematch in Pittsburgh. I was hoping for a statement game like the one late in the 2005 season when they clinched the division there in Pittsburgh (I was fortunate enough to be at Heinz Field for that one), and I thought there was reason to believe this could be the game.

Lauren needed to work on her computer, so what we'd worked out was that we'd go to BW3's so that I could watch the game and she could use their free Wi-Fi to get work done (I'd have to split my attention between the game and child-care, but that was fine). We arrived just before kick-off, the Bengals held the Steelers to a 3-and-out, and drove down for a touchdown! I got distracted by Thea, then looked up to see that the score had been called back. Grrr. And they missed the third down conversion, so it was field goal time. Okay. They made the field goal, which was a bit of a letdown, but still an early lead. I got distracted again only to look up and see them re-trying the field goal... and having it blocked. Are you kidding me?

Meanwhile, Lauren was discovering that the Free Wi-Fi wasn't working. The laptop couldn't connect, and neither could our iPods. We talked to our server who talked to the manager, but we couldn't get anything fixed. Well, much as I'd like to see the game, we couldn't sit around with Lauren not getting work done! So we headed back to a place we knew closer to home. By the time we got there, the Steelers were up 21-0. ::sigh:: We sat down, ordered some food and beverage... and had similar problems with the WiFi. At least Cincinnati scored a touchdown soon after we got there to cut the lead, then they held Pittsburgh and got the ball back with just a couple minutes left in the first half--great opportunity to pull within 7. Except they couldn't, so they had to punt. Despite an obvious block in the back (I swear the Steelers always get away with ridiculously obvious penalties that anyone else would be called for), the punt-return-for-touchdown stood to make the score 28-7. And, like I said, the Wi-Fi wasn't working.

Oh, and did I mention that every time we walked out of anywhere, it started raining?

Lauren and I were both a bit grumpy, both a bit testy as we went to pick up a few things on our way home. Then we stopped to fill the car up with gas. Now, I have to digress just a bit here. When we drove back from Thanksgiving, I had some trouble getting the fuel door open (apparently because I hadn't turned the car off). I pushed at it, trying to get it to open, and only got it when I thought to turn off the car. Then, the next time I went to fill up the car... it wouldn't open. Period. D'OH! Last night, at the suggestion of someone on an on-line forum, I was able to open it by hooking the release latch up with the driver's seat belt (it's on the floor by the door) and pushing on it at the same time, so I was preparing to do the same thing today to put gas in the car, but when I pulled the latch, it just plain opened, easy as that.

Now, I don't know if it was the unexpected good fortune or the crisp air or what, but it suddenly occurred to me that I was grumpy, that I was letting all this crap drag me down. I mean, really: so "my" football team is losing--so what? I should be too smart and too sophisticated to care that much about any sports, much less professional sports. So our plans didn't workout the way we wanted them too--and our backup plan failed too. So what? What world am I living in if I think that plans always work out just because I make them? Certainly not the real world! I've got a great daughter, a great wife, a great job, a great life. Why, then, should I let myself be brought down by such trivialities?

I got back in the car, surprised Lauren with a kiss, and explained my little bitty epiphany, and the whole shape of our day changed. We both stopped being grumpy and had such a fun car ride home, spontaneously playing with Thea by repeating in chorus every word or sound she made.

"It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts. Every man is tasked to make his life, even in its details, worthy of the contemplation of his most elevated and critical hour." --Henry David Thoreau


  1. Woo-hoo Steelers!!

  2. I definitely appreciate your revelation about trivialities--you're the person who's letting yourself be brought down--but suggesting that you're "too smart and too sophisticated to care that much about sports" implies that people who do care that much about sports aren't as smart or sophisticated as you. That sounds less like a calm, analytical voice and more like your ego talking.

  3. One of the difficulties for men is that involvement in sports is one of the ways to affirm their masculine role, which needs constant re-definition in our society (as opposed to women's role which is defined once and forever as nurterer). The sports thing, then, when your team isn't doing well, gets translated into intense frustration and "put down" feeling. You did a remarkable thing by perceiving that you can stand aside from those negative feelings and choose-or not--to let them control you. That's a real man speaking!

  4. OK, so I can't spell "nurturer"--

  5. Sarah, how do those gender-based (and sport-based) stereotypes apply to the women on my co-ed soccer team?

  6. Re: Shawn's first comment, I can see how it comes across that way. What I said was that I "should be" too smart and too sophisticated, which isn't quite the same thing, even if it has a similar flavor to it. It's not about my superiority, it's about my failure to live up to my own conclusions.

    Don't mistake me: I care about professional sports and devote some of my time and energy to them. Obviously. But if you care so much about how a bunch of millionaires spend their day that it ruins yours, well, I have my doubts that that's either a smart or a sophisticated way to live.

    Now, if someone would like to make me a smart and/or sophisticated argument about why I should devote myself wholly to a professional sports team without reservation for the emotional cost that may entail, I'm all ears (or eyes).

  7. Re: Sarah and Shawn and gender roles.

    I don't want to put words in Sarah's mouth, but my take on it is that over the past century (?), men's and women's roles in our society have been evolving (at a pace that is no doubt alarming to some). Not so long ago, men had a fairly rigidly defined role as "the great provider." He went to work and provided THE income (his wife "didn't work," which meant she probably worked twice as hard as he did, but her sphere was the home, not "at work."). And you can add in all the other things that were presumed to go with that role. Well, now you can pretty much throw that out, not only because both women and men work outside the home, but because everything else has changed too. Women's roles have altered radically too, from having a career to the range of careers available, to a woman's involvement in not only watching but, as Shawn points out, participating in sports as an adult.

    But I think Sarah's point was that women, for better or worse, end up either pushed into or pulled into the role of nurturer. I recognize that there are women who neither feel pulled in that direction nor allow themselves to be pushed that way, but I'm trying to speak to the trend. And the point is that whatever roles and identities women may take on, that role of nurturer amounts to a fixed point. What I made of Sarah's point was that, lacking that fixed point of gender identity, men gravitate toward sports spectatorship as part of forming a male identity (it's not exclusively male, but it is very clearly and legitimately male).

    Anyway, that's my take on Sarah's comment, which I found interesting.