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Column: Becoming a sports-in-law

Some people marry into money. My wife married into Buffalo Sports fandom. It means accepting that your better half is half-crazy; that their idea of fun and entertainment is prolonged suffering with the hope of a silver lining.

In fact, Buffalo sports fans have a monopoly on suffering. We own Park Place and Boardwalk in the Suffering Game and we’ve built hotels. Rooting for the Bills and Sabres is like punching a rock every day for decades, hoping that it breaks apart and you find a diamond. The odds are long. I love something that will inevitably let me down.

The only thing more difficult than being a sports fan in Buffalo is being the confused spouse of a sports fan in Buffalo. For my wife, watching me struggle through countless heartbreaking losses and frustrating campaigns must be like watching caribou being hunted by lions on the Nature Channel. She feels bad, but there’s nothing she can really do about it. You have to let nature run its course.

But when you marry someone from Buffalo, there’s a good chance you marry the anchor of distress known as Buffalo Sports. She knew what she was getting into. Our priest included the question, “Do you take Greg’s sports anxiety?” in our wedding vows. Meanwhile my wife likes sports in the same way I like The Spin Doctors. She can take ’em or leave ’em.

She usually finds something else to do during Bills games. I don’t blame her. Bills losses are terrible. It’s usually a week’s worth of build-up, three hours of indigestion and then a week of lament.

On the other hand, the Sabres offer a greater number of more digestible losses spread out over a longer period of time. The Sabres slowly torture you, like a kidney stone. You feel extreme discomfort for awhile (regular season games), then you finally pass the stone (the playoffs, sometimes).

A good Buffalo sports fan has learned to absorb losses without bringing our work home with us. I’m forced to go through three stages of grief on any given Sunday:

  1. Irritation over a loss.
  2. Fear that this will keep happening forever.
  3. Acceptance that it will.

I envy my wife. It would be so wonderful to see sports on television, hold interest in the outcome, and then completely discard the outcome seconds after the game is over. Imagine wanting a team to win a game, experiencing moderate happiness if they do win, but only suffering a few seconds of disappointment if they lose? It’s a wonderful life I’ll never know.

Leisure time should be relaxing and enjoyable. My wife is always happy because she likes happy things like travel, gardening and sunsets. I prefer to enjoy getting let down because a millionaire I’ve never met accidentally threw a leather ball to the wrong millionaire.

It’s not like I didn’t also inherit terrible things in our marriage. I have to eat vegetables. I got joint custody of The Bachelor in the deal. And, an episode of Downton Abbey very well may be as stressful and soul-crushing as a Bills game. Those Granthams will be the death of me.

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