The Packer Game Incident

My wife says I never listen to her. At least I think that’s what she said.

There it was, gleaming at me from the glossy pages of a catalog: the perfect slogan t-shirt, with its cheeky grasp of the truth. I reached for my purse, intending to pull out my Visa. My husband, Pete, and I don’t have a ton of arguments—mostly because he’s so nice—but his lack of listening skills has been the source of many of them.

I got as far as my wallet, then stopped and tossed the catalog in the trash. I knew that even the humorous tone of the t-shirt wouldn’t soften the truth of the statement and any chuckle he got out of it would just be masking a wound. I realized that if I did buy the shirt, I wouldn’t be going for a laugh. I’d be going for a “Gotcha!”

Less than one year into our marriage, we had the mother of all our later non-listening incidents. Pete is a huge Cheesehead and Packer Backer (that’s “Green Bay Packer fan,” for the uninitiated). One Monday evening in November, we sat at the dinner table with the tv on and clearly visible in the living room. The Packers were playing the Bears. At Lambeau Field. If that means nothing to you, well, back then it meant nothing to me either.

As we ate our dinner and Pete looked past me to the flickering image of Brett Favre’s green-clad torso, I began to share the details of yet another horrible day at the office. At first Pete tore his eyes from the television at regular intervals, nodding and mmm-hmmming at the appropriate moments.

But then it was first and goal—both at Lambeau Field and at our dinner table. I’d just gotten to the climax of my story, in which a troublesome coworker had scolded and humiliated me in front of several others. As I dabbed my tears with a napkin, I glanced at Pete. He was mid-nod with his head turned toward me. But his eyes were cast to the side, riveted on the image of an airborne football headed straight for the end zone.

Clenching my jaw, I decided to conduct a little test. Beginning a new sentence, I stopped halfway through to see if he’d notice. Instead, he pumped a fist in the air and roared, “Yyyessss!” To Brett Favre and Sterling Sharpe—not to me.

I rose from my place at the table—oozing grace and dignity—and stomped between Pete and the television to the bedroom. There I flopped, sobbing, onto the bed. And waited. I was sure he’d tear himself from the game and follow me, devastated at the hurt he’d caused his precious young bride.

I kept waiting. I waited at least twenty minutes.

By then, it was halftime at Lambeau Field. In our living room, Pete snapped out of his football-induced fog and noticed something: His wife was gone.

Despite his profuse and sincere apologies, it’s taken 12 years for me to find this story funny. Before I saw the humor, I carried it in my back pocket, whipping it out whenever I needed help winning an argument. Pete would swear I hadn’t told him something—perhaps that I’d invited 12 people for supper. Into my back pocket I’d reach: Oh, really? Who was the likely culprit, considering our history? Clearly, it was more plausible that I had told him, but he hadn’t been listening. Didn’t he recall The Packer Game Incident?

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that intentionally wounding Pete because of his failings does nothing to inspire him to listen to me more, or to fix things between us. Actually, my actions and attitudes regarding the problem have been far more poisonous to our relationship than his, infecting it with a spirit of unforgiveness.

I wish I could say that Pete has learned to listen to me all the time. He hasn’t. But I know he tries, and I know it grieves him when he fails. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to quit being angry and manipulative. I haven’t. Apparently we’re both flawed.

But there are some things we’ve learned: to laugh at the little things; to forgive the big things; and, believe it or not, I’ve learned to love football. Which means I don’t want him talking to me outside commercials and half-time either!

Though I didn’t buy the t-shirt, I did tell Pete about it. He got a good laugh and then thanked me, profusely, for resisting the urge to buy it.

Originally published in Marriage Partnership Magazine/ Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Marriage Partnership magazine.


If You Can’t Beat ‘Em


I grew up in a football-loving household. And I’m not just talking about the men. My mother whooped and hollered right along with my dad–even louder. It was the perfect training ground for my future role as wife to a Cheese-headed Packer Backer.

I have often heard women complain about their husbands’ fascinations with sports, and it’s not that I’m unsympathetic. Pete likes every sport there is, which mean there is always something to watch on ESPN. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but hockey season, basketball season, baseball season, and football season overlap. And every couple of years, they throw the Olympics in there for good measure. I admit I’ve been frustrated at times when Pete’s attention is so thoroughly engulfed by watching grown men fight over some ball (or puck).

But I also admit that I cringe when I hear wives discuss their mates’ interest in sports as if it were a character flaw. I don’t recall ever hearing men stand around and discuss their wives’ love for scrapbooking as if it were something to be concerned about. It’s quite simple: they have fun watching sports. It makes them happy.

Instead of fighting the sports fanaticism, or going off somewhere to pout about it, I jump right in. In fact, I have been known to thoroughly embarrass my daughters when they have friends over on Sunday afternoons. Particularly when one of my fantasy players catches a long pass. Let’s just say I could give my mom a run for her money in the hollering department.

If you just cannot fathom the idea of trying to understand the intricacies of blitzes, screen passes, laterals, turnovers, and the tricky strategics of “going for two,” that’s okay, too. (In fact, some husbands would rather not sit there and explain it to you. Have I told you lately that Pete and I are a perfect match?) If you don’t want to join in, just find something else to do. Scrapbooking comes to mind.

Enjoying sports with my husband has worked for me for fifteen years now. Head over to Rocks in My Dryer to see what works for Shannon!

More Proof

He loves me! He really loves me!

I don’t normally look for proof. Not every day, anyway. But every now and then it pops up and can’t be ignored.

Pete and I are among the throngs of weirdos who play fantasy football. He had been playing for several years, and I joined him a couple of years ago. We’re in the third week of the current season, and both of our teams are struggling. Yesterday, as is the case every Sunday throughout the NFL season, Pete was stationed in his recliner with his laptop, watching games on the tv and monitoring other games on Yahoo. Every few minutes, he’d make an announcement.

“Your kicker just got the point after.”

“The running back you benched is having a horrible game.”

“Your tight end made a touchdown.”

“You picked the right defense this week–Houston’s not doing anything against the Colts.”

After awhile, I asked him, “But what about your team?”

“Oh. I don’t know. I think I’m winning.”

The darling man was expending all his energy tracking my players and giving only cursory glances at his own.

Okay, that’s probably not hitting the romantic nerve in most of you. But trust me: it’s a big deal.

(Note: I lost the game, miserably. I have the lowest score in the league for the week. Grumble. But Pete won his game, so our records are tied. I know you were dying for that information.)

Not Me

On a news program this morning, I heard a defense lawyer proclaiming that Michael Vick will undoubtedly “recover” from his current woes. I don’t recall every word verbatim, but the gist of it was this: “Michael Vick has lots of loyal fans.  Atlanta loves him.  Football fans love him.  They’ll forgive him and he’ll be back on the field by next season.”

Well, I beg to differ.  And, as a Georgia girl (an Atlanta one, specifically) as well as a huge football fan, I think my vote counts.   As a matter of fact, Michael Vick headed up my fantasy football team last year, taking me to a third place finish in my league.  And I happen to care very much about the character of my players.  The guys in the league (I’m the only estrogen-bearing team owner) all laughed at my philosophy the first year: no jerks on my team, thank you.  That rules out Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, and Chad Johnson, to name a few.  To hammer the point home, I named the team the Mama’s Boys.  And the guys quit laughing when I won that first season.

Obviously, I don’t have a say about who the Falcons put on the field at the Georgia Dome.  But he won’t be on the Mama’s Boys’ virtual field, no matter when he returns.