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Rooting Under the Influence of a Spouse

Before it slips my mind, I should mention a recent posting at College Football Resource regarding the progeny of college football webloggers.  Reportedly, Dawg Sports, like Burnt Orange Nation and The Blue-Gray Sky, traces its lineage to the Darley Arabian, MGoBlog.  In the absence of any Biblical "begats," I'm not entirely convinced the lines of descent are quite as clear in the blogosphere as they are in horse racing, but it's an interesting analogy and an entertaining read.  

The foregoing was just a little horsing around before we get down to business.

I now turn to the matter at hand.  Recently, in response to a posting at Bruins Nation, I explained why I am a Georgia fan.  Included among the responses to this posting was the suggestion from the proprietor of the new Southern California weblog Cardinal and Gold, Paragon SC, that I address the roles our spouses play in how we root for our respective teams.  

As you know, I believe college football webloggers owe it to their readers to disclose their fan loyalties, be they Darley Arabians, Godolphin Arabians, or Byerly Turks, so I am only too happy to discuss my quirks and peculiarities as a fan of my alma mater in response to Paragon SC's reasonable request.  

I have already noted the important role my wife, Susan, plays in such matters as whether Georgia beats Auburn, whether the Bulldogs win the national championship, whether I skip a wedding to attend a football game, whether my children will be named after Georgia players and coaches, and whether my single-minded fixation on University of Georgia athletics is shared only within my household or is distributed more widely using modern means for mass communication.  How, though, does she affect how I root for my team?  

Yes, she loves you.  Yes, she married you.  No, she will not condone this type of behavior.

I should note from the outset that Susan and I are both graduates of the University of Georgia.  We met, and were married on, the campus of the institution we both attended and neither of us has any conflicting loyalties.  I spent two years at Clayton State College (before it became Clayton State University) and Susan spent two semesters at the University of Oxford, but neither of those institutions has a football team.  (Yes, I know, there are places in the world where soccer is called "football," but I'm not from any of those places, so I will leave all discussion of such matters to our SportsBlogs Nation sister site, Global Futbol.)  

Any observations I might have to offer about how my wife affects the way I root for my team, therefore, would be applicable only to situations in which both spouses share the same athletic affiliation.  There are friends and close family members of mine whose spouses support schools other than their own and, while I wish them well, I cannot speak to the peculiar circumstances surrounding relationships in which the participants pull for opposing teams.  

If this is your situation, there's nothing I know to tell you that'll help, but go in peace.

I suppose I should begin my response to Paragon SC's question with an excerpt from the posting appearing at Kyle on Football following last December's S.E.C. championship game, in which I noted the important role Susan's and my son, Thomas, played in determining the outcome of the game:  

While we were sitting on the couch, Thomas spotted something on top of the entertainment center.  

What Thomas spotted was a bowl I received from my Aunt Deborah as a Christmas present in 2002.  The bowl is in the shape of a bulldog, which she painted red, black, and white to denote its University of Georgia pedigree.  Before she was able to wrap it, her son, Jackson, pointed out that you can't just give someone an empty bowl; you have to put something in it.  Since Georgia was bound for the Sugar Bowl that year, Deborah filled the bowl with Dixie Crystals sugar packets.  

That bowl has been sitting atop the entertainment center literally every day of Thomas's life, but it was not until this evening that he happened to notice it.  He wanted to climb up and see what was in it, so I picked him up and let him look into the bowl.  

Thomas wanted a sugar packet.  I gave it to him.  

Susan, being in maternal mode, protested the idea of giving a toddler a packet of pure sugar an hour before it was time to start getting his bath ready and preparing him for bed.  

I, being in Southeastern Conference championship mode, was not about to deny my mojo-sensitive son his request to be given a packet of sugar from a bulldog-shaped bowl during a game in which the Bulldogs were playing fro a Sugar Bowl berth.  You don't have to have read The Sound and the Fury as many times as I have to get the symbolism of that request.  

I handed Thomas the sugar packet and set him down on the floor.  He asked me to help him open it.  I took it, opened it, and handed it back to him.  As I did so, the Bulldogs ran a play.  The play resulted in a 45-yard touchdown pass from D.J. Shockley to Sean Bailey.  

Thomas made a request involving the words "bulldog," "sugar," and "bowl."  As soon as his request was granted, the rout was on and a Bulldog bid to the Sugar Bowl was a done deal.

I suppose that vignette illustrates the role my wife plays in influencing my behavior as a fan:  Susan must strike the delicate balance between indulging the superstitious quirkiness that accompanies devoted fandom and reining in my more extreme expressions of support for my team.  

Susan obliges my insistence upon proper game day attire for the whole family, regardless of who is going to the game and who is staying at home.  She put Thomas in a black Georgia jersey for the 2004 South Carolina game, in which the Gamecocks made a point of wearing black uniforms.  I tried not to say anything, but, when the Palmetto State Poultry took a 16-0 lead on the Classic City Canines, I insisted that my son's attire be changed.  Susan went along with my demand and, as soon as she had the boy outfitted correctly, the 'Dawgs stormed back to win, 20-16.  

It wouldn't have been nearly as exciting a game if my wife had dressed our son properly in the first place.  (Photograph courtesy Sports Illustrated.)

However, this does not mean that my wife automatically accedes to my most outlandish demands in the service of my fandom.  In 1995, Susan's younger sister, Joy, was a freshman at the University of Mississippi and my then-girlfriend wanted to pay a visit to her sibling in Oxford.  I arranged for us to make the trek to the Magnolia State on the weekend that Georgia would be playing Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.  

Susan and I traveled to Mississippi, visited Joy, and went to the game together.  It never occurred to me that the Bulldogs might lose, but the Rebels won and I was in a funk for the rest of the weekend.  (It should be noted that Joy had never been to a college football game before and Susan had attended her first college football game one week earlier, so neither of them was fully prepared for the extent to which the outcome of a game could affect a person's mood.)  Susan let it be known that she was not pleased that her visit to see her sister had been adversely affected by my dejection following Georgia's loss.  

Generally speaking, therefore, I would say that Susan's influence has mellowed the worst aspects of my behavior as a fan, even as her own intensity about the fortunes of our alma mater's football team has increased over the years.  I don't know that I'm a kinder, gentler Georgia fan because of my wife, but Susan has given me a sense of perspective on such matters, for which I am most grateful.  

Since Paragon SC asked the question, I can only assume that other Dawg Sports readers have similar stories to tell regarding the influence of their wives and girlfriends on their conduct as football fans.  Feel free to share your stories in the comments below or in the diaries to the side.  

Go 'Dawgs!