January Blahg

By Lise Marinelli


My husband – back in the day. His favorite number (guess) comes from two Cleveland (Calves and Browns) draft picks in the ‘70’s.

Today I feel like complaining.  You might be wondering how this day is any different and, actually . . . it’s not.  Even my complaint is recycled, but it’s a fan favorite and one that never grows old.  At least for me.

Before I get started, I must preface my grievance with a simple statement that, in fact, I like one of the two subjects I am about to criticize.  You might even go so far as to say I love my husband – he is an extremely affable chap.  The other, *sports, is a horse of a different Cinderella story.  Maybe it’s because I live with three males and grew up as a coach’s daughter, but I find my tolerance level for locker room talk has waned. *The term “sports” includes, but is not limited to: sport’s teams, sporting events, sporting arenas, players of sports, commentators of sports, spectators of sports, TV and radio shows regarding the aforementioned, etc.

When I put sports and my husband, Craig, together, I get a headache a mile long.  We have left weddings early (our own) in order to watch a basketball playoff game.  I labored my third birth in front of a hospital TV watching a baseball game (for kicks, I just asked my husband what game: Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, October 14, 1999 – Sox lost). He has a photographic memory when it comes to stats and for some reason he thinks I am as interested in how many touchdown passes that Peyton Manning threw in a single NFL season as he is.  I’m not. (55 BTW)

His bucket-list is comprised solely of having “his” Cleveland team win some big title, playoff games he wants to attend, players he would like to shoot a round of golf with and historical plays, that if granted the power, he would change.  When I once questioned him about a 1985 boxing match he was re-watching on ESPN Classic, mentioning that he already knew the outcome, he replied proudly, “Even better, I was there.”

When I first met Craig and declared that I didn’t watch much TV, he claimed the same. It wasn’t until our first holiday together when I received a new color TV and cable, that I found this not to be the case. He fessed up and shared that there had been more than one Sunday when his day started at 7:30 am and lasted until midnight watching pre, post and who-gives-a-rat’s foot, ball related programs.

Even though I am not a big fan of any game (though I play a mean game of PIG), I know how much these games mean to my husband.  And now, how much they mean to me – the biggest bonus of having two boys with a fanatic is (say it with me, ladies) my free time. This year’s birthday gift to Craig was a weekend in front of the TV watching football playoffs.  Between lunching with girlfriends, shopping with my daughter and a bedroom TV all to myself, it was his best birthday ever,


My dad, Larry, and step-mom, Janet, in December.

Some say I married my father, a star athlete in high school, college and even the minor leagues, who, at 77, still ref’s high school basketball. There is no sport he is not proficient at and excels at most  – from golf to tennis and everything in between. But more importantly, he set an example of being a good-sport to his children, as well as the many young athletes he picked up and dusted off along the way.

I will admit to enjoying a great ball game every now and then – that kind of excitement invokes the nostalgia from a time long-gone.  As a child, I remember falling asleep to the unmistakable radio voice of the Detroit Tigers, Ernie Harwell, as he called the game. And from my dad, as he coached the Tigers in the dark, from our living room couch.



We Got Us Some Game!


Jay, Craig and the smartest, most talented, atheletically gifted kids in the whole wide world!

I may have mentioned I am not a fan of balls (footballs, baseballs, etc.) but I am a fan of my children.  At least that’s what I tell people.
Because I raised my two older kids as a single parent, I got away with whispering in their ear that team sports were only for the “weird” kids.  And there was no one to tell them otherwise.  Not so this time around.  Max and Sam have kicked and thrown and run their way from the hospital, in which they were born, all the way to this year’s basketball league champions of the Inverness Park District.  All with the overwhelming support of their father.

This is what I get for thinking

I originally thought the basketball thing would be a good idea because the boys would be gone for practices and games.  The added bonus was that as their coach, Craig would too.  Now, if I give you the impression that I don’t care to spend quality sports time with my family, then I have hit the mark.  It’s true.  After 28 years of raising kids and another 11 to go, I value the little privacy I have.  If I can steal an hour or two to catch up on Rock of Love Bus Tour (with Brett Michaels – no less), I unabashedly take it.

Our community is fairly small so most of the kids on our “Turquoise” basketball team were either classmates or friends, and Roger and Jay, the other two coaches, are neighbors.  But, what started out as a friendly instructional league, (think wiping away tears and kissing boo boo’s) turned into an all out gladiator battle complete with a fight to the death.  Worse, I wholeheartedly admit that I became part of the mob scene rooting for the lion to tear the limbs from the nine-year old boys on the opposing “Fuchsia” team.

2-4-6-8 Shout!  Chew ‘em up and spit ‘em out!

This is somewhat surprising as I usually could give a rat’s fig as to who wins any game.  But I think I smelled blood and this stirred some primal instinct, hidden under layers of latte’s and biscotti, that rose to the surface and spurred me on to places I’ve only imagined.
This didn’t happen overnight.  During most of the season, I held court with Sue and Liz in the coveted “coaches wives” section, not paying a whole lot of attention.  We shouted out the obligatory “atta boy” every now but spent most of the time catching up on the latest gossip.  But as the season progressed and the “turquoise” team rose in the ranks, we couldn’t help but be drawn into the web of excitement that surrounded our athletically gifted young boys.

We ran with the exhilaration that our husbands emoted.  During the week, emails flew back and forth between the coaches, twenty, thirty, forty, a day, discussing the various pros and cons of the “picks”  the boys could set (I have since learned that “pick” is a fancy name for a rehearsed “play”) .  To throw off the other team, Jay and Roger cleverly decide to name the picks after animals and more than twice, I would hear Craig saying something like “Let’s do the Capuchin monkey after the Bengal tiger.  I really like the monkey.”  They would meet at the local watering hole to discuss in-depth, the strengths of the various third-graders who could best execute the orangutan or the snow leopard.

You don’t win the silver, you lose the gold!

Their hard work paid off and the boys finished in second place.  But hold on to your hats gang – the best is yet to come.  And that would be the playoffs.  I am usually morally opposed to any playoffs because I hate them, but not this time.  I found myself grilling my exhausted boys at bedtime, pushing them to recite the moluccan cockatoo parrot pick just one more time.

The day of the big game was cold but sunny.  Anxiety hung in the air and I found myself snapping at Craig and the boys for no reason other than the joy I felt at their discomfort.  The nervous energy exuded from my pores and I cleaned the refrigerator in record time while the cookies baked in the oven.  I realized, in my own special way, I was putting on my game face.

I knew we had a good chance at winning the semi-final game, but it was the championship against the dreaded “Taupe” team that had me eating Oreos two at a time.  They were good, but it was their coach that really burned my basket balls.  All the parents disliked the loud obnoxious dad that had the nerve to scout the other teams, which by the way, is clearly against the rules.  When Roger and Craig and Jay went to see teams with none of their sons on them, it was always out of pure love for the game.

Get in there and win, damnit!

The boys easily won their first game due to the fact that the other team’s best player was in the parking lot, vomiting.  Liz, Sue and I expressed our sympathies to our friends from the other team whose sons just couldn’t keep up without their star, but silently and gleefully jumped for joy at the good fortune that had fallen our way.
The championship game was a close one.  The lead went back and forth but at half-time we found ourselves down by eight points – unacceptable by any stretch of the imagination.  Liz and I decided that this wouldn’t be the case if we were coaching and we criticized our husband’s ability to do even the simplest of tasks correctly.  Meanwhile, Roger and Sue were on the sidelines engaged in a heated discussion and when she returned to the stands she commented that there was going to be hell to pay that night.  Things were not going well.

The second half was a nail biter – I literally chewed off two of my acrylics while our boys amazingly made the four baskets needed to tie the game.  The din of the cheering parents grew increasing louder as the tension sky-rocketed and I barely managed to utter a few words of advice to the ref before he looked at me, put his finger to his mouth and pointed to the door.  But we were not to be deterred and I firmly believe that it was our incessant screaming that drove the boys to victory that cold spring day.

Pain is only temporary, but victory is forever

Then there were the parties, the ice cream, the trophies, and the trip to the emergency room for Sue and Roger.  Apparently their son had broken a bone in his foot, but like any gladiator worth his salt – he carried on.  My husband repeated every play of the game to anyone who glanced in his general direction and after hearing it myself four times, I reminded him I was there.
We still cherish the memories but I’m back to generally despising balls and any game in which they are used.  Until next year’s championship.  Then I’m in for the kill.

Can I throw my husband under the bus?

I really don’t hate my husband.   As a matter of fact, he’s my favorite spouse so far.  But, and this is a big but, he’s a sports freak, and a football maniac.  He’s what we in the business call a whack-job. 

Craig and his next wife.

Craig and his next wife. (Apparently, she's a "big" sports fan)

If I would have known this on our first date I may not have gotten so drunk with him.  I might possibly, still, be happily employed in some hell-hole job, miserably trying to balance a corporate checkbook, driving a Saturn and sharing some dumpy apartment with a great guy who I would later find out was gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). 

But, he worked his black magic and instead, I was hoodwinked, tricked, and  bamboozled.  When he noticed that I sported a nineteen incher that didn’t even have basic cable, he offered up that he too, didn’t watch much TV.  Sure, he held a mild interest in his hometown Cleveland Browns, but the real joys in his life were long walks on the beach - pina colada in hand, and marathon late-night chats of damaged old-flames.

Admitting it is the first step

I admit I’m not the sharpest knife in the deck and in time I figured out this was his ploy to get into me into something more comfortable.  But what’s a girl to do when a fella offers to lunch for hours and shop for days at a time?  You can understand my dilemma when I found out that, not only was he a football fan, but he was a fan of any ball or racquet  or club or stick.  He was drawn to ESPN like Michael Phelps was to a bong and I soon discovered just how serious his obsession was.

Sunday morning, during football season, the TV would go on at 9:00 am and four meal deliveries and fifteen hours later, he would finally get up to relieve himself.  I once caught him watching “classic” ESPN (which I totally don’t get – you already know who won) and not only had he seen the game a number of times, he was there…at the game…when it was played in 1976!  He has a pornographic memory for useless trivia and he can recite any sport statistic you’d care to challenge him on from golf to poker to women’s badminton.

Agreeing to disagree

Over the years we have come to an understanding concerning his proclivities.  I enjoy solitary beach walks with my pina coladas and he has agreed to only watch the championship of any sport.  But as many of you are aware, there are championships just about every hour on the hour for any sport you can imagine.  It has since come to my attention that I negotiated a bad deal but I am not the lawyer in the family.  The good news is that, since I have found my higher calling, it doesn’t bother me so much and only when it puts my children’s lives in danger do I even say anything.

Case in point.  Because of some minor issues I have, we enjoy driving the twenty hours from Chicago to Florida for family vacations.  We have never encountered any substantial obstructions before, but this year was different.  Hurricane force winds escorted us out of Florida, torrential rains in Georgia kept us company for most of the eight hour drive through the state, and numerous hail, thunder and snow storms followed us for the rest of the way.  We were fortunate enough to be traveling during the college playoffs for basketball so I thought we could take a break from the excitement of listening to comments about sweaty teenage boys (see previous “Tale of Two Loser’s” blog!) but that was not the case.

Now, before I rip my husband a new alligator hole, I will confess I sometimes drive with one hand and occasionally take my eyes off the road.  Not at the same time, of course, (the only exception was when I did and hit a bale of straw that rolled off the road and started a small brush fire – that’s a blog for another time).  But during that perilous drive through the horrible weather, Craig was continually and frantically searching for any AM radio station that carried the games.  He had leaned over to the center of the mini-van, practically in my lap, and must have been steering by some form of sixth sense because I swear, his eyes were glued to the radio pursuing the holy grail of sports stations.

Who’s the idiot now?

There are a few metropolitan areas between Chicago and Naples that broadcast the games but most of the time all the blurted out from the radio was obnoxious white noise with an occasional whisper of an announcer.  I couldn’t make out one word but Craig swore he heard scores through the blaring garbage spewing from the dashboard and I was too paralyzed with fear at that point to even argue.  As we careened through the mountains during a storm that only Noah could appreciate, my husband was more focused on “his” team making the final four than on making sure I would live to see my tropical drink.

Only once, did I see him revert to the ten-two position on the steering wheel and that was when we were hydro-planing across a small lake that had collected on the highway in Tennessee.  As we fish-tailed about the road, barely missing the cement barriers of the construction zone, he reluctantly pulled his hand off the radio and guided us back to safety.  If I hadn’t been frozen in terror, the scream still caught in my throat, I surely would have burst into tears or at least stuck him with the plastic knife I had hidden in the folds of my jacket.

So ladies, when your special friend leans over and whispers in your ear, not sweet nothings, but the desire to see “his ” team go to the Super Bowl, or he spends hours hitting redial on his cell, hoping for the opportunity to talk to “Mike and Mike” on sports radio, or even just gazes longingly at girl’s beach volleyball, beware!  Red flag alert!  Think twice before you take your hand off your pina colada.