Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clear and Present Danger

This week, Clint and I will be forced to deal with one of the biggest obstacles a marriage can face. I'm not speaking of disagreements over money, inlaws, or changing the toilet paper roll...I'm talking about the clash of college football rivalry. Alma mater vs. alma mater. Things get dicey. Or, as I said to Clint earlier in the week, "Your team had better not beat mine. I will make things terrible for you around here." Because I can be a delight like that.

Back in October of 2000, when we were just a bright-eyed, lovesick, newly engaged couple, Clint and his Yellow Jacket friends came to Clemson for the Tigers to take on Tech. I arranged a very diplomatic tailgate, divided straight down the middle. Half Clemson Tigers (yay! gorgeous!) and half Georgia Tech (boo! hiss!). The tablecloth, napkins and cups, even the centerpiece were all evenly split so that both teams were equally represented. Kumbaya, everyone was welcome. (It's easy to be a good sport when you anticipate a solid victory).

However, after all my very best hostess efforts, Georgia Tech scored in the last seconds of the game to upset Clemson. Dream season--once again--over. My Clemson friends and I left the stadium and headed back to the tailgate spot with heavy hearts, our heads hung in bitter disappointment. Meanwhile, Clint and company whooped and cheered and danced and celebrated. These fans, who stood shoulder to shoulder at my most gracious of tailgates and broke bread with us, came into our stadium and unapologetically dashed our hopes of championship greatness. And so, I did what any reasonable fan would do; I locked myself in the car and refused to come out until the revelry and the crowd had died down to a dull roar. That was my first indoctrination to marrying the opposing team.

Possibly the worst thing about this rivalry is the fact that, no matter what the rankings or predictions or circumstances, games between my Tigers and his Jackets are notoriously a toss-up. Twelve of the last 18 games have been decided by five points or less, which makes for a tense time at the Stancil house until the clock finally runs out--and many times, even more tense after that fact.

We have learned the hard way that we do not attend these games in person (see above incident, marked 2000 Defeat Disaster). They are watched from the hushed confines of our den, where we are each dressed in our team's colors and seated on opposite ends of the couch. A house divided. Even the dog is afraid to take sides in this face-off, although I will remark how his paws look uncannily like the Clemson tiger paw logo, and Clint will swear he wags his tail every time Tech scores. (I shudder to think what will happen if and when we bring children into this equation. )

Each of us says something to the other about how we are certain our team is going to lose this year (lies, all lies) and that it is, after all, only a football game (and only the most nail-biting, heart-pounding, soul-deflating encounter we face each year as Mr. and Mrs.). We cheer silently and pretend to be only half-interested in the game. My nerves typically get the better of me, as I am known for being the hot-tempered, passionate one who is the teensiest bit fanatical about her school, and I turn to Facebook for moral support. I chat online with friends who also have Yellow Jacket spouses, all the while glaring over the laptop at what is unfolding on TV.

Depending on how things are progressing, I have been known to leave the room and watch from the bedroom instead--somehow, I feel more comfortable distancing myself from my "enemy" for the evening until I know the outcome. Arguments will arise and I will say things such as, "no, I am not mad at you about the football game. I'm mad because *insert fabricated reason here* and you should know that. How insensitive can you possible be?!" The man dressed in the old gold jersey will roll his eyes and shake his head.

When it's all over and the dust has settled, one of us has emerged the victor. This person has earned bragging rights for the next year. And in this house, bragging rights means that the winner keeps their head down and their mouth shut. They walk into another room and very quietly do their victory dance in secret. Over the course of the year, when said game is mentioned, the winner may ever-so-slightly meet the glance of the loser and say--with their eyes only--I WON. It must never, ever, be spoken aloud under penalty of cold shoulder and indefinite banishment to sleeping on the couch.

This year, Clint will be out of town on business when our teams take the field (pure coincidence? I'm not so sure). Which means we will get a slight reprieve from all the discomfort of watching this showdown together. However, at some point he will return home, and so all the same rules still apply. And now you know the survival basics of making it through this very clear and present danger. May the best team win--especially if that team is mine. GO TIGERS!

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