How does a woman understand her husband's passion for football? The shoe metaphor.
Part I. by James W. Powell
My wife doesn't understand the pain I'm suffering. I can tell by the way she's looking at me—tilting her head and studying me as if I were an extraterrestrial. I'm lying in bed next to her with the lights on, staring at the ceiling fan, my mind racing with What Ifs and Shoulda Woulda Couldas.
There's comforting concern in her eyes, but there's bafflement in there, too. "I don't understand why you're so upset," she says, reaching out to caress my shoulder.
I take a deep breath and sigh yet again. The wound is too fresh. I'm not sure I can open up to her. And honestly, I'm not sure I'll ever recover. It still hurts to think of that 4th and 26 from three years ago.
God, why did I have to think of that again? Not now. Please, not now. The Green Bay Packers just lost the NFC Championship, so of course all the past disasters and missed opportunities are surfacing again. But how could the Packers lose this one? The championship. At home. To the New York Giants. In overtime.
Oh God, just put me out of my misery. "It's not every year my team gets this far," I finally say, trying to make her understand. "I'll be lucky to see the Packers this deep into the playoffs before I'm 40."She doesn't respond.
"I was just hoping they'd get a chance to win the Super Bowl one last time —especially before Favre retires."
She stares at me. I can tell she still has no idea what I'm talking about. I try again, pushing through the pain.
"You know when you were a kid, and you had a best friend in school?" Again with the blank stare. "Remember being inseparable? You talked everyday, played during recess, went everywhere together. You wouldn't dream of doing anything without each other?"
Stephanie answers me only with her eyes, but I can tell she's intent on learning what it's like to support a team so strongly. How To Manage His Love Of Football
"Well, imagine the two of you have been planning a huge party over the summer. You're looking forward to it so much; it's all you think about. Sometimes you can't even sleep. Then one day out of nowhere she tells you she's leaving for summer camp. One second you're best friends planning the biggest party ever, and the next minute her parents are stealing her away from you and shipping her off to some stupid summer camp. That's what it feels like."
"But you'll see her again, right? It's not like summer camp is forever," Stephanie says.
"Well, yeah. But it's not the same. You don't know if she'll be the same when she comes back. And besides, the party. It was going to be the best ever. And not having your friend or the party—when you were looking forward to it all that time—it breaks your heart. It was all that mattered."
Stephanie rolls onto her back and ponders the ceiling with me.
"I just lost by best friend," I mutter after a minute. At this, she props herself up on her elbows. "You're not going to cry, are you?" she asks.
I close my eyes and don't say a word. I replay the game in slow motion in my head, re-analyzing every play, daydreaming of how, if it had only gone differently, I'd still be cheering and pumping my fists in the air. I'd still have my cake and ice cream.
Part II. by Stephanie Powell
My husband, James, is lying in bed, moping because his beloved Green Bay Packers just lost some football game.
"It's just a game," I venture.
"A championship game," he corrects me. The game, excuse me—the championship game, ended two hours ago, and he's still in a bad mood because of it. Frankly, I don't get it. Football is okay. I'm as happy as the next person to throw back a few beers and down greasy pizza on Sunday afternoon while watching men in tight pants run across a field.
But the fact that James' mood revolves around weekly wins and losses? And that on any given Sunday for five months out of the year, his day can be made or ruined by a scoreboard? It boggles my mind. How To Trick Yourself Into Liking Football
"I don't understand why you're so upset," I say. "How can a game affect you so personally?"
James stares at the ceiling and sighs I'm about to remind him that he's not actually playing on the team he's so distraught over, but the lost puppy dog look he gives me makes me think better of it.
"It's not every year a team gets this far," he finally says. "I'll be lucky to see the Packers this deep into the playoffs before I'm 40." Forty, I think, is actually not that far away. But I decide that this, too, is a fact he'd rather not be reminded of at the moment.
"I was just hoping they'd get a chance to win the Super Bowl one last time—especially before Favre retires."
Now it's my turn to stare at the ceiling and sigh. While James goes into some story about his best friend going to summer camp, I rack my brain trying to think of something that I care about as much as he cares about the Packers.
What I finally come up with are shoes. Like football, shoes certainly have the power to alter your mood. When you pull on a pair of pants that are getting too tight to button, for instance—slipping on a cute wedge can take your focus away from your pinched waist. The right heel can make you stand taller and walk prouder. A new pair of tennis shoes can make you feel like maybe actually playing tennis. And purchasing a sparkly pair of beach sandals can even make bathing suit shopping enjoyable. Or at least somewhat bearable.
Of course, shoes can induce trauma on your psyche, too. Like when a pair of your favorite shoes is forced into early retirement. Now there's tragedy for you. Throwing out a pair of your favorite kicks only means on thing: starting fresh. And you never know if a rookie pair will be as good as the previous one. There's no guarantee that they'll fit as well or last as long or be a true team player, looking as good with jeans as they do with dress pants—like your old pair did.
New shoes have a lot to live up to. I've cried over shoes before—when the strap on a favorite pair of Mary Janes suddenly snapped or a heel busted without warning. Losing a key shoe can wreak havoc on my mood for days. Maybe this is how James feels right now, like his favorite hiking boots up and walked off. Just disappeared.
I rise up to look at James. His eyes are bloodshot. "You're not going to cry are you?" I ask.
He doesn't say a word. But it doesn't matter. I think I finally understand.