LOVE AND GAMES
Dont ever tell me that love and sports dont mix. Ive got more than nine years of research to prove it does, and how.
If youre looking for true love, find the woman who follows her husband four hours north for Ozzie Smith Day in St. Louis. She sits through a wet, chilly Friday night warm-up game, then finds her two square feet alongside Ozzies biggest fan in the standing-room-only section at Busch Stadium the next day. She listens to 90 minutes of speeches from people she couldnt pick out in a lineup, from a distance that would require a carrier pigeon to deliver a message from her husband to the guest of honor. When the Wizard himself says a few words, and her husbands cheeks get a little wet, she understands the relationship is about more than box scores and bubble-gum cards. The true love part? Her cheeks are wet too.
Find the woman who tags along on a two-family trip to Little Rock to see -- in person -- the great Peyton Manning quarterback the Tennessee Vols one last time. She finds herself in Row MM of War Memorial Stadium on a November night so cold that Hog Nation is adorned more in hunters camouflage than Razorback Red. Huddling against her knees to stay as warm as possible, her three hours are spent staring at the backsides along Row LL, Manning merely a rumored celebrity on the field below. The true love part? Shes still his wife come Sunday morning.
Find the life partner who agrees to a cross-state road trip to Knoxville to see -- what?! -- womens basketball. She listens to the hype about these Lady Vols, hears that we have one chance -- ONE! -- to see the legendary Chamique Holdsclaw do her thing in her quest for four straight national championships. When the opening-tip is an hour earlier than expected and her group gets to see exactly one half of a game the home team wins by 30 points, there is nary a complaint. When her husband insists on seeing the next days game at Vanderbilt, she smiles and sends him on his way. The true love part? Shes six months pregnant.
Find the lady who agrees to another trip to St. Louis for, yes, another Big Day . . . Willie McGee Day this time. The team is not retiring the players number, as they did Ozzies. The player is not on is way to Cooperstown, as was Ozzie. Hes merely the most popular player the team has suited up (including Ozzie) since Stan the Man. So she goes along for the festivities, the speeches, the chilly early-April baseball at Busch. The true love part? She has an infant in her arms the entire weekend.
Find the wife who buys into the newest Memphis hype machine, NBA basketball. She agrees to attend the second home game of the Grizzlies inaugural season, her husbands beloved Dallas Mavericks (huh?!) in town. She tolerates the fans clinging to his seat, griping about missed foul calls, cheering when the rest of the crowd boos . . . knowing full well that the last two minutes of a basketball game are all that matter anyway. The true love part? She finds her own hero in Steve Nash.
Find the mother who follows the father to AutoZone Park for the 14th (15th?) time in a single season, a three-year-old daughter in Cardinal red at her side. This time, shes eight months pregnant. Its Autograph Night at the ballpark, and her husband simply has to introduce little Sofia to the great Stubby Clapp. Camera in hand, the moment arrives. Stubby reaches out to shake the little girls hand . . . and she shies away as if Prince Charming himself were proposing. The mother encourages her daughter until she finally agrees to the photo of a lifetime. The true love part? Moms in the picture too.
True love is understanding the husbands weakened knees when a statue of, yes, Ozzie Smith is dedicated outside Busch Stadium on August 11, 2002. His wifes birthday. Coincidence? Sure. Poetic? Absolutely.
Happy birthday, Sharon. I love you.