Sports Obsession Drags Love Through Extra Innings

From Susan Parker
Tuesday June 01, 2004

Baseball season is in full swing and my friend Laurie is once again worried about her relationship with her boyfriend, Mark. He has satellite hook-up and a television or radio in every room of his house so that he can listen to and watch games after work and all through the weekend. When he gardens and barbecues in his backyard he carries a transistor radio with him, and he wears a walkman while he jogs. On his drive to work he listens to KNBR in his car, and on his desk in his cubicle he has a small radio that he keeps tuned to KFRC. CBS Sportsline is bookmarked on his computer so that he gets up-to-the-minute scores on games not broadcasted locally.  

On their first date Mark told Laurie about his sports obsession. “I’ll be unavailable during the baseball playoffs, the World Series, March Madness and anytime UCLA plays Cal,” he explained to her. “And I’m never available during Monday night football games.” 

“Maybe you’re just too unavailable,” she said. “Maybe we should forget this whole thing.” 

“That’s not necessary,” he told her, “because I don’t like hockey or golf except when Tiger plays, or tennis except when Serena and Venus are on the court. And I never watch wrestling or soccer. For instance, I’ll be free during the World Cup and all of the Olympics.” 

But those statements turned out to be false because Mark becomes distracted by anything that resembles a competition. Although he said he didn’t follow hockey, he lied. When the Sharks recently made the playoffs he suddenly began calling them, “HIS Sharkies.” He was inconsolable after their defeat by Calgary, but bounced back after victories by the Giants and As.  

Their dating schedule follows a pattern dictated by the NBA, NFL, PGA and the National and American Baseball leagues. To a lesser extent it is governed by the Women’s Pro Tennis Circuit and anything that has to do with the Pac Ten. When nothing else is available, he watches “Survivor.” 

If Tiger’s swing is off, if Shaq gets injured, or Barry Bonds goes into a slump, well then, their love life is in trouble too. This business with Kobe Bryant has been especially distressing. It affects him not just physically, but mentally as well. He claims that his concentration will be off “…until that mess in Colorado is straightened out.” 

“But that could take years,” she protested. 

“I know,” was his sad response.  

When the last ball is served and the final match point made, he will surf the channels, frantically looking for a new event. When desperate, he is known to watch drag racing, figure skaters, and SUV commercials. He has a special fondness for cheerleaders and female wrestlers. She once caught him, on an especially dreary February afternoon, intently viewing the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.  

So now Laurie is steeling herself for baseball season, as she has every year since meeting Mark. She is aware of what might happen if the As and Giants continue to do well on the field. It will mean missed important social engagements, and fights about when they will see each other. And it’s not just the home teams she’s concerned about. She needs to know Dusty Baker’s schedule as well as that of the Yankees. 

“Dusty Baker?” I ask when I see her for lunch on a day when both the As and Giants are playing afternoon games. “Who’s Dusty Baker?” 

“He coaches Chicago,” she says sadly. “but he used to manage the Giants.” 

I nod as if I know what she’s talking about. “And the Yankees?” I say. “I thought Mark hated the Yankees.” 

“He does,” confirms Laurie. “But that just means he has to root for whoever goes against them.” She has a far-off look in her eyes and I wonder if she is going to cry.  

I reach across the table and hold her hand. “It’s okay,” I reassure her. “I know you can get through this.” 

“Yes,” sighs Laurie. “I suppose I can.”