My grandfather loved sports. It didn't matter what he was watching, or which team was playing, Grandpa Jim would be there - cheering, second guessing plays, predicting outcomes. It was said he could even be drawn into a closely matched game of Tiddlywinks. My father, on the other hand, fell far from the family tree. Growing up in East Texas Dad played the requisite games of football, basketball, and little league - but each match held less draw than the last. When he moved from East Texas Dad left behind a locker filled of sports equipment, never to be touched again.
If my father was not engaged in sports, me and my sister were even worse. I was tall so I made the baskteball team, but I played an entire season without ever touching the ball once. As for my sister, she tried to play soccer but found she had no talent for kicking the darn thing. My father never minded. Not one tiny bit. If anything, I think he was relieved.
Then I met James.
James and I met on January 6th - interestingly enough the liturgical day of the Epiphany. We dated for several months and became engaged in September of that same year.
We enjoyed many of the same things - theater, museums, exploring the various neighborhoods of Brooklyn. But for the cursory look at the Sport Section of the Sunday Times, the topic of athletics never came up in conversation. Until, that is, the first cool nip hit the autumn air.
Suddenly James transformed into another person. Saturdays were no longer filled with trips to the farmers market. Instead our schedules had to coincide with which team was playing when. Sunday afternoon strolls became a thing of the past. Kick-off times took precedence. Pro sports, college sports - he loved them all indiscriminately. James was a sports fanatic!
I felt blindsided - how had I not known?!? Then I thought about it: James was not a baseball fan so all summer long I had been lulled into the false sense of non-sports security. He had waited to expose this side of himself to me until it was too late. We were engaged, the invitations were in the mail - there was only one thing left to do.
That Saturday I cancelled my brunch plans. "I'm gonna stay home and watch the game," I reported to my bemused, if not confused, girl friends. And I did. Sitting next to James I began to learn the in's and out's of football, then basketball. I memorized players names and plays, I developed opinions and stopped rooting for the team with the best costumes, erm... I mean uniforms. This was actually kinda fun.
Before our next visit home, I called my Dad to tell him the news. When we arrived there sat my father, ESPN on the television instead of the usual PBS NewsHour. "You hear Kentucky's in the Final Four?" he asked James. James smiled and sat down. Together they drank beer, talked sports, and wielded away the afternoon. Mom and I watched them from the kitchen, eventually joining in ourselves when Kentucky took to the court.
And then there we all were - glued to the game, enthusiastically cheering our team on to victory. I had to laugh. It took thirty plus years to get here, but I knew my grandfather would be proud.