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.