I didn’t grow up in a family that cared much for athletics. We didn’t identify with any particular team or sport. If held at gunpoint, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the teams playing in the Super Bowl or the World Series or the NBA Playoffs. March Madness could’ve meant any number of things to me, like spring allergies or some kind of Easter clearance sale. It just wasn’t a part of our everyday lives.
One of the only sports-related memories I have from grade school was the time my cousin was sitting on the floor watching a Kentucky Wildcats basketball game on TV while holding our poodle Rusty in his lap. Somebody on the basketball court did something my cousin didn’t like so he squeezed Rusty too hard and our dog peed all over my cousin. Yep. That’s all I’ve got for the sports highlight reel.
Then I met my husband…
Brent was born in Knoxville to a family of devoted UT Vols fans. His parents graduated from the University of Tennessee, along with his sister and her husband. Brent was raised on Neyland Stadium Saturdays watching the “Pride of the Southland” Marching Band and the players running victoriously through the “T” even before the game had begun.
When we started dating I couldn’t understand my mild-mannered boyfriend’s mood swings that were determined wholly by the outcome of a college football game. Did he have money riding on it? Was the quarterback his brother? Was there some sort of James Bond-type plot to blow up the stadium unless a sizable ransom was paid and the Vols won? (I might not have watched much sports but I did watch lot of TV.)
Fatherhood has mellowed quite a bit of the intensity he once brought to a UT football game. He still cares but he isn’t going to let a Vols loss ruin his evening as it once did. But even with the mellowing (and the lack of recent championship titles), Brent still bleeds orange and here’s how I know: I listen to what he tells our son Knox, the heir apparent to the Vols fan dynasty and the boy who never had a chance to support a different college team.
Brent and Knox discuss the names and hometowns of these 20-something year old players as if they are close personal friends. Son and father read the sports page of the newspaper every day. They swap statistics and devise theories for possible plays and recruiting achievements.
The best part is Knox’s face when he listens to Brent talk about the UT football games of the 1990’s: going to the Sugar Bowl with his parents and watching the 1998 championship title and the excitement of all that was Peyton Manning. Brent tells Knox what he missed by being born a decade too late. But he also tells him that it’s normal for teams to win and lose. They can have successful streaks and then lose five games in a row. Then Brent explains about loyalty, loyalty to your team in the good and the bad times. He says, “You don’t switch teams just because your team isn’t winning and a different team is better.”
So this is how a non-sporty girl came to like football. I can get behind this idea of loyalty to a team, even when they’re faltering. I like to know this is possible and I see this applied to his other commitments. Brent shows this type of loyalty to his job and to his family. He shows me that type of loyalty, too, for which I am grateful. I have good times and bad times and I need to know that he’s always going to be on my team…no matter what.