I grew up with three sisters, so sports to us was sprinting to the mall for the latest sale, racing out of the kitchen before my mother could catch us for dish washing duty and the slam dunk—who got to the bathroom first in the morning?
When I started dating my husband I knew he was an avid sports fan, but I had no idea how much that would factor into our lives together. He grew up in Cleveland, a Midwestern football town. Clevelanders live and breathe football, baseball and basketball, in that order. Everything else is secondary. I do have to say that the Cleveland Orthodox Jewish community is a bit more spiritual about their sports habit. G-d and Shabbos definitely come first in the lineup, but come Sunday and much of the talk turns to all sports all the time.
But still, I was a little surprised when I suggested a Sunday in September for our wedding (The Jewish holidays were late that year) and my husband and said “No way! It’s football season!” I don’t think I truly believed him. We finally decided on August, which again, I had to negotiate for, because of baseball season. He checked the schedule and we were cleared.
At first, I tried to be a good wife by being a devoted fan. My husband explained the strategies of the games and the great plays that his sports heroes had made. I tried to concentrate without my eyes glazing over.
My Kallah teacher had taught me to try to respect my husband’s interests and hobbies. I went even further, I watched the games with my husband, rooted for our guys out on the field and wore the team colors on Cleveland spirit day. I sat shivering at Jacob’s field at a World Series game in ’97. I got all psyched up for the win only to have them lose again and again. Is this what being a sports fan was all about? I didn’t have the stomach for it. I was never one for rollercoasters. It was too much aggravation. I just didn’t have what it took to be a Cleveland fan.
Then we started having kids. I had given up, but my husband had not. My husband and our kids spent much time together discussing the Browns, Indians and the Cavaliers. The latest trades, the scores, the schedules the stats of the newest quarterbacks. I do have to say here though, that when my son asked if he should daven for the Browns during a particularly difficult game, my husband put his foot down. “We love sports in this family, but we know deep down it’s not what’s important. Don’t waste your davening on a sports team!”
It was soon after this that LeBron James came to Cleveland and started playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He brought excitement and hope to Cleveland and then before we could finally win a championship LeBron left. I thought my family’s fascination with sports would be over. I didn’t think they would sustain that loss. I was wrong. They were sad but it seemed to be just a blip on their radar screen. They just kept on cheering.
That year when the Browns started their yearly downward spiral, I started to think whether or not this was fair to my children. How could I have let them become Cleveland sports fans? It didn’t seem right to pass this legacy to innocent children. I didn’t want them to be destined to a life of a disappointment.
Then I started to read about modern kids- about how they are lacking resilience. They have trouble weathering the storms of life, coping with everyday challenges. They buckle under the slightest pressure. They cannot bounce back from disappointment and adversity. They do not know the meaning of loyalty.
I started viewing being a Cleveland fan differently. Hey, my kids were lucky! Being a fan of a losing team builds resilience. Being a fan of 3 losing teams really builds resilience. My kids are getting many lessons in being resilient. Cleveland kids learn to manage disappointment and get right back up again. They learn that life goes on. They learned that being loyal doesn’t always bring immediate rewards but it does build integrity.
I now look at my husband with awe. After 20 years of marriage, I know that the same loyalty and resiliency he brings to being a Cleveland sports fan, he has used to keep our family strong and happy. I know his parents taught him that but I also think it was the Browns, the Indians and the Cavs that helped drive that lesson home.
But now LeBron James is back in town and Cleveland is competing towards a championship. Do I dare hope for a win? Perhaps even insert a small prayer while I daven? I would only do it for the right reasons. I know it would make my husband and kids so happy. That was another thing my kallah teacher taught me, shalom bayit and happiness in the home should be a person’s ultimate goal.
The fact is that I am not worried, even if they lose, because I know my husband and kids will keep up their loyal devotion and carry that into all the relationships they have, with G-d, with their families and their community. So LeBron, no pressure the Browns, Indians and Cavs, can keep on losing, it really isn’t so bad after all.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.