I don’t have enough energy in my life to be a sports fan.
I have energy, but it’s being used in other ways. It’s all caught up in books and lipsticks and tracking members of the royal family. I don’t have any left for sports.
And sports, as I’m discovering, take massive amounts of energy.
All those men out there who pretend they don’t have any passion, that they are just dull and emotionless and there’s nothing you can do to change it, well, it’s all lies.
If they’re a sports fan, it’s all lies.
This was my first NFL playoff game dating a Patriots fan and I wasn’t prepared.
I have, of course, seen Rob during football before. I’ve watched his anxiety, how his hands get sweaty, how it calms him down if I ask him dumb sports facts. I’ve even watched him jump off my couch and punch his fist in the air in front of my family.
I like people of enthusiasm.
But I wasn’t prepared for the first Patriots playoff game.
Rob came over early for the pregame show wearing his New England gear. He hadn’t slept in days. His whole body was clammy and he muttered phrases like “Solder has looked shaky all season,” and “They don’t call him Joe Cool for nothing.” He obsessed over the weather.
“Calm down,” I said, “It’s just a little rain.”
The power went out.
“It’s OK!” I said. “We’ll just go watch the game somewhere! It will be fun!” It was five minutes to kickoff and we were at least 10 minutes from the closest restaurant. “Nothing happens in the first five minutes, anyway!” I said.
“The entire game can be determined in the first five minutes,” he said, as I started my car in the downpour. “I hate watching in front of other people.”
We got down my street and stopped at the gate. We waited. And waited.
The power was out. We were trapped inside.
Rob was beside himself. He began to whisper things like “nightmare,” “can’t be real,” “knew this would happen,” and then finally “%$#@ it all! &^%$ #$%@ @#$%!!!”
I tried to smile, “Well, we’ve given it a go!”
Rob didn’t respond.
A moment later, a neighbor pulled up and soon Rob and Neighbor Man were out in the storm, cranking the gate by hand.
We were down the mountain!
Soaked, we burst into Cafe Habana, “Put us by the football,” I said, breathless. Rob still wasn’t speaking at this point. He walked straight to the bar and took a seat.
The Patriots were already losing by a touchdown. The fate of the game, was, in fact, affected by the first five minutes.
I tried to cheer him up, “What’s your dad saying?” I asked. He and his dad live text every Patriots game. “Did you tell him the power went out and we’re at a bar?”
“No I didn’t tell him,” he scoffed. “He would have been disappointed in me.”
“Disappointed?” I asked.
“He’ll say I should have seen this coming and planned better,” he said, as though this all made perfect sense.
I rubbed his shoulder, “It’ll be okay,” I said.
“Not in public,” he barked.
Another touchdown later and we were headed back to my place where the power was back on. The Patriots were down by 14 points, a crushing deficit.
“They’ll show those Ravens,” I said, halfheartedly. Rob fumbled with the radio, trying to get coverage of the game through the storm.
There was no coverage to be found.
The rest of the afternoon proceeded much the same. In some sort of miracle, the Patriots came back and scored two touchdowns, one of them for the record books.
Rob leapt from his spot next to the TV, a full 20 feet, and landed on top of me, “I LOVE YOU!” he said. “I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. LET’S RUN AWAY!”
He let me take a joyful selfie with him. We were on top of the world!
A minute later he was back to pacing.
He swore. He texted his equally intense friends. He curled up in a ball. He did wild swings of his arms.
Patriots fans, I tell you.
New England managed to get down another 14 points. “I’m going home,” he said.
I started to ask inane sports questions.
And round and round we went.
The power went out once more.
“I can’t go through a game like this again,” he said, “My heart can’t take it.”
“Nachos?” I suggested.
“You act as though I could eat right now!” he said.
Somehow the Patriots made history, caught up, and in the last five minutes of the game miraculously pulled ahead by four points. “They won!” I shouted, as they took the lead.
Rob shot me a harsh look, “Shh!”
You see, there is a juju thing with sports, one I was not aware of.
I didn’t know that the game is not determined by Tom Brady or Julian Edelman or any of the men on that field. The game is actually determined by Robert, in my home in Malibu. It’s determined by fans like you and me. What we say. How hard we pray. The distances and bars and storms we’re willing to face, it’s all part of the juju.
“Think what good juju we have now that we cranked open a gate, went to a bar in the pouring rain and came back,” I said.
“It’s you,” he said. “You’re the reason they’re behind. You’re mocking the whole process of football. You don’t believe in it.”
I gave him a look.
It was a semi-serious laugh.
Sometime in the day, when his childhood hero Tom Brady threw a costly interception, he would say, “Hold me,” in the saddest, most childlike voice I had ever heard him use.
I wasn’t prepared, you see.
The game, fittingly, came down to the final 14 seconds. Rob stood, inches from the TV, his glasses practically touching the screen, his body tense.
When the football was swatted away and the Patriots, indeed, won, instead of the long jumps or leaps or fist pumps, Rob quietly took a seat next to me on the couch and fell asleep.
When he awoke I had a cup of tea waiting for him.
It had been a rough day.