Sports Go Better With Family

Trey Burke hits the shot
Yes, this shot went in. It’s not even from the game I wrote about. I just wanted an excuse to post it. Go blue!

I spend a lot of my free time watching sports.

I mean, like, a lot.

Good thing for me, I married well. Veronica and I met in a sports bar during the NCAA Tournament. The fact that she loves sports as much as I do has saved me approximately 6,857 arguments since we met.

Our kids? They had no choice. They were born into this — it would be a shocking upset if they didn’t turn into sports fans. The time we spend together at hockey games is among the most treasured hours in my memory bank, something I have written about many times on this blog.

Veronica took the kids to visit her sister (Aunt Mary from the comments) this week, leaving me alone in the house for a few days. I missed them terribly. I found myself even missing the typical chaos of our household and unable to enjoy the quiet. I didn’t sleep well.

I never felt more alone than Sunday afternoon. My beloved Michigan Wolverines played Florida for a berth in the Final Four, and I watched the game by myself, on my couch in the living room — it being a little tough to scare up a few buddies to go out on Easter Sunday. Truth be told, I have never been one for watching big games in sports bars. If I can’t be at the game, I far prefer the comforts of home.

I wasn’t completely alone. I had my twitter feed, which allowed me to engage in a running conversation with friends from my student days at Michigan as well as co-workers. Veronica and I were texting back-and-forth throughout.

But it just wasn’t the same.

I wanted Veronica there to discuss the game with me. I wanted Ryan and Riley to run past the TV so I could try to convince them to watch. I missed them making fun of me when I yelled at the screen. And after every big Michigan shot, I looked to the other couch, which was empty. Normally, Ryan sits there, playing some sort of hockey game on his iPad, headphones on. Whenever something good happens for my team, I jump out of my seat and run to him for a high-five.

Watching sports together is such a social experience, more so than almost any other form of entertainment. Think about it. If you watch a movie together, you don’t keep up a running dialog as the plot unfolds. Or, if you have to explain the storyline, say to a confused child, it tends to take away from the experience. Sports isn’t like that. It’s better with company, with conversation, with shared emotions as the game runs its gamut of highs and lows.

That social aspect is the reason I am so particularly happy that Ryan has developed his love of hockey. (Aside: Lately, Ryan is showing signs of branching into other sports. Football may not have been just a replacement for the NHL lockout. This week he declared himself a baseball fan, selected the Washington Nationals as his favorite team, and immediately began studying their schedule on MLB.com.)

Watching a game together on TV or attending one as a family provides a solid three-hour block of togetherness. Ryan does everything at an accelerated pace. Getting him to slow down long enough to spend that much time engaged in a single, shared activity is a rare treat. We have spent more time together, truly engaged, over sports than anything else.

In my post-college years, I traveled to attend many Michigan games with one good college friend. Marriage, careers, and kids have made that more difficult and so I relish the opportunity to use a big game as an excuse to reconnect with friends for a weekend.

But as my children have developed into sports fans, I find that the joy of taking in a game together is more special than I could ever imagine. Not having family around to share a big game drew that into stark contrast. Sure, I celebrated Michigan’s win and walked into work on Monday with a bounce in my step and a smile on my face. But the hours I spent watching the game weren’t nearly as satisfying as they would have been had I had my preferred game-watching companions nearby.

I’m sure Veronica will print this post and hand me a copy the next time I start plotting a road trip to a game. I’ll hand it right back to her and suggest that we all go — together.

I can’t think of three other people I’d rather watch a game with.

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