Marriage requires being a good sport


When your fiance has an idea, you listen. When it concerns your wedding, you brace yourself.

We sat across from each other at a neighborhood bar, discussing our upcoming nuptials several months before the big day. It wouldn't be your typical wedding, we said, because we refused to do things in typical fashion. Our cocktails clinked.

That's when a glowing light bulb illuminated above my fiance's head with such burning brilliance it nearly gave me tan lines. He just thought of something truly original for our grand entrance, he proclaimed. Uh-huh, I cautiously replied. It involved a famous athlete, he bravely continued. Of course it did, I nervously sighed.

Anyone who knows my now-husband knows his reputation for investing all of himself into a sport, athlete or team. It didn't start at his Big Ten college or with grade school organized sports, either.

He moved to this country from Paraguay at the age of 3. His first heartbreaking sports memory dates back to the age of 5. In just two toddler years, while living in Syracuse, N.Y., he became enamored of college basketball and the promising hometown hopefuls. The day his family left New York to settle in a suburb near Detroit was the day Syracuse University faced Indiana University in the NCAA championship game in 1987. He remembers the dumping snow in an unfamiliar city, the buzzer-beating shot and the pillow covered in tiny tears the next morning.

The first one's always the hardest.

Unless you rooted for the Buffalo Bills in the early '90s, in which case the fourth one was probably the hardest. The fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss, that is. My husband lived in upstate New York only a couple of years, but that's where he became a North American, evidenced by his love of "the other football."

As a Michigander, he genuflected to a man named Barry Sanders, but when the famous running back couldn't carry the Detroit Lions past the playoffs each year, my husband put his Monopoly money on the Bills. And, that put more tears on his pillow.

It might come as a surprise to hear these stories really never get old for me. Having a husband who plans your February birthday around Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo's schedule can be a drag, yes. But, knowing he was born with this condition somehow makes it forgivable, endearing even.

Just the other day we saw a commercial advertising a documentary about the Olympic Dream Team. I think even our dog Penny knew what was coming. He'll be boycotting that one, my husband announced in disgust. The rest of his language was Crayola-colorful. Twenty years after his hero, Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, was denied a position on the Olympic basketball team, my husband still holds a nasty grudge.

The common denominator found in his devotion for these teams, coaches and athletes is geography. His allegiance lies where he lies, or once lay. That all changed about three years ago with a controversial NBA player whose talent broke through my husband's traditional territorialism.

At the onset of it, I couldn't believe we'd have one more team to follow. It felt like an animal hoarder reasoning that, "It's just one more litter of kittens." To be fair, it's not a litter, just one kitten. My husband makes clear that he's not wholeheartedly a Miami Heat fan, rather a fervent LeBron James fan.

But in being a fan of LeBron James, he takes a lot of heat. The MVP's televised decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers in his native Ohio to play in Miami Beach enraged the public. Consequently, my husband regularly defends his fanship on Facebook, Twitter and at the metaphorical office watercooler. He'd need a ladder to look LeBron in the eyes, but he protects him like no other. He champions the man who's not yet a champion.

That's why, he explained to me that night at the bar, he wanted to enter our wedding reception the same way LeBron enters a basketball game. I thought of all the weddings I'd been to and all the grand entrances I'd yawned through.

When our DJ announced us as the newly married couple and we walked to the center of the dance floor, we knew most our guests wouldn't get it. We knew picking up the containers of baby powder and tap, tap, tapping their contents into our hands would furrow some brows. We knew tossing the powder into the air and finishing with a cloudy clap would have some folks scratching their heads. But we also knew they wouldn't forget it.

I'm writing this column the day after the Boston Celtics tied the Eastern semifinals series against the Miami Heat, 2-2. By the time you read this, LeBron James could or could not be done tossing powder in the air for the season. My husband may or may not be sleeping on a wet pillow. Either way, he'll keep rooting for LeBron and defending him all the same.

Knowing this, I greenlit the grand entrance idea. If anyone can appreciate a man with that kind of loyalty, it's the woman about to marry him.

Contact columnist Xazmin Garza at xgarza@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.

 

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