FAST Blast: Musings on sports and marriage, Part 3

• Musings on sports and marriage: Part 1Part 2

PARENTS INTRODUCE THEIR CHILDREN TO LIFE, and then introduce their children to the concept of marriage.

All spouses and parents bring both upside and downside to their marriages and child-rearing. There’s one simple reason for this: Every human being is comprised of upside and downside. As far as I can tell, this is as evident as the New England Patriots’ 5-5 record in the Super Bowl.

This isn’t an excuse for not doing all you can to prevent your downside from damaging others. But no one I know of has been able to consistently elude this paradoxical reality of human nature.

Yes, we’re better off when we grow out of bad habits and into good habits. And certainly, we all possess gifts and skills. Yet since none of us is exactly perfect, it appears that one of the habits we all need to cultivate — on an ongoing basis — is forgiveness.

Easy? No. But as difficult as forgiveness is, the relationship gurus typically agree: Forgiveness unlocks the gates that bar our own hearts while serving as the foundation for strong marriages and families.

From the amazing story of Nelson Mandela’s courageous work to end apartheid in South Africa, to NBA title-winning coach Rudy Tomjanovich in the aftermath of The Punch, to the dying cry of an itinerant first-century rabbi on a Roman cross — “Father, forgive them” — there are countless examples of the wisdom and power of forgiveness.

Some Jackson Browne lyrics resonate:

Don’t you want to be there?
Don’t you want to cry when you see how far
You’ve got to go
To be where forgiveness rules instead of where you are?
Don’t you want to be there?
Don’t you want to know
Where the grace and simple truth of childhood go?
Don’t you want to be there when the trumpets blow?
— from “Don’t You Want To Be There”

But I digress … let’s return to this: Parents introduce children to life and then to the concept of marriage, whether by their presence or absence — or both. In intact families, parents who are present daily in their children’s lives can sometimes be absent or hurtful emotionally and otherwise. Cue the need for the difficult task of forgiveness.

At other times these same parents can be caring and constructive. Cue the need to be thankful.

Again, we need to make every effort to care, yet despite our best efforts we fall short. It has been said that every family is a broken family. This rings true, given the upside-and-downside reality of the human condition.

Of course, some families are more broken than others. I experienced the conventional definition of a broken family: My parents divorced when I was in eighth grade.

+++

MY DAD WAS A BIG-TIME SPORTS FAN. New Jersey born and bred, he watched the Yankees win multiple championships as he moved from adolescence into adulthood. He witnessed the wreckage of the Mets’ early years and their first World Series title in 1969 — the so-called Miracle Mets.

Meanwhile, he shipwrecked his marriage: an anti-miracle.

Despite his tragic choices, my Dad showed that parents who are absent from the home can be present in their children’s lives.

My Mom didn’t follow pro sports but was a big-time fan of me and my brother as we played sports — as was my Dad. She was also a fan of my Dad, extending allegiance even after he betrayed her via an affair … but after she forgave him and took him back, he broke his vows again.

Sports betrayals surely occur. A beloved player becomes a free agent and high-tails it out of town. A freak twist of fate costs a squad a title. A team leaves a city for greener financial pastures.

One example: The NFL’s Browns unexpectedly left Cleveland after the 1995 season. Per Cleveland.com: “The love affair between the Browns and their fans generated a strong bond … all of the other disappointments associated with Cleveland sports combined could not reach the magnitude of betrayal and heartache suffered [by Browns fans after the team’s departure].”

Clearly, the betrayal my Mom suffered was far worse.

As an adult, occasionally I think about my Dad celebrating the Mets’ 1969 championship in the same month when he caused my Mom and my family heart-wrenching grief — such a painful and incongruous circumstance — and I wonder why I don’t hate sports.

I know, this isn’t exactly a fair association: Sports didn’t cause my Dad to leave us, though I can see in the experience of my heart how we human beings are capable of making knee-jerk connections that aren’t always accurate or fair.

Once more, cue the need for forgiveness.

Yes, my Dad caused me and my family tremendous pain. Yet my Dad also gave me tremendous encouragement about my sports and academics. Over the years, teachers and friends and professors encouraged me to keep writing — yet my Dad stands out most in that arena.

Influenced by my Dad, I did grow up a sports fan — I’ve also witnessed numerous World Series titles by the Yankees, and one by the Mets. I wound up serving as an editor at ESPN.com for 15-plus years. But ironically, by the time I reached ESPN I had stopped following pro sports religiously in favor of cheering for my son’s and daughter’s teams and investing in their success as student-athletes.

My Dad once instigated a literal investment for my brother’s basketball team: Believing the squad’s uniforms at the cash-strapped Christian school had become too ratty, my Dad handed a hat around at a home game to raise money for new duds.

Antics like that — along with his propensity for attempting to persuade certain referees of their incompetence — almost got him banned from the home gym. But my brother’s coach appreciated the support and returned it by taking this stand: He said his team wouldn’t take the court if Mr. Deckert was banned.

+++

THE MARRIAGE GURUS TELL US that love is a decision. The first person I heard utter this phrase? My Mom.

Author and social activist Shane Claiborne puts it this way: “The most radical thing that anyone can do is to choose to love those around them — again, and again, and again.”

For couples, true love is able to deepen when they keep choosing to love each other and keep investing in their marriages. As author Fawn Weaver says: “Happily ever after is not a fairy tale — it’s a choice.” Choosing the alternative keeps love from growing as surely as covering a garden with a tarp.

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers” — so said Ruth Bell Graham. While forgiveness is hard, it is exquisite fertilizer in the garden of marriage and friendship.

My Mom attributed her ability to forgive my Dad to the God of the universe. She didn’t cave to bitterness. Until the day she died of cancer — my Dad had died years before — she maintained faith in the itinerant rabbi mentioned above, counting on Jesus of Nazareth as the crucified-and-risen One whose forgiveness models and informs and empowers our forgiveness of others.

My Mom said that when my Dad first betrayed her in the fall of 1969, he told her, “I never loved you.”

Years later, when I reflected on that sad comment, I concluded that my Dad was really saying this: He didn’t know what love is … he didn’t know what true love is. At the time, he thought he knew. Toward the end of his life, he expressed remorse over his misjudgment.

Cue the need for forgiveness.

This is the third in a series of blog posts that consider the relationship between marriage and sports.

— Bruce William Deckert © 2019

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2 Responses to “FAST Blast: Musings on sports and marriage, Part 3”

  1. Marge Stickel Says:

    See comment below.

    Like

    • bwdeckert Says:

      Aunt Marge, all I see in your comment is this: “See comment below.”

      Thanks for the comment … but it appears the actual comment is missing!

      Like

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