I love sports. I love to play and I love to watch. I have my favorites (basketball, baseball) but I can get pulled into almost anything(Once spent an evening watching some contest where a guy cuts a field with a sickle, rolls up all the grass, and then they weigh his against others to see who won. I was fascinated!). My favorite show as a child was ABC’s Wide World of Sports. I begged my parents to stay up until half-time of the Monday Night Football game just so I could listen to Howard Cosell run through the highlights package. Let me say it again, I love sports.
But, I am not watching the World Cup. This has nothing to do with my feelings about soccer (or futbol). It is not that I am unpatriotic (I can root for almost anything in the Olympics). I am not watching the World Cup for on simple reason: I don’t have the channel the games are on. It is probably surprising that someone who loves sports as much as I do would not have ESPN. So let me explain.
When I first got married my wife and I had a cable subscription. Because that is what you do. I loved it. 100 percent because of sports. If the only channel that was on our cable package was ESPN I would have been satisfied. We got married in March, so very quickly after returning from our honeymoon, the baseball season began. So every night there was a Ranger’s game on. Or if there wasn’t, I watched Baseball Tonight. Or I watched both.
This was great. At least I thought so. My wife…not so much. So we talked about it. For me, it seemed pointless to have all this access to live sports and not watch. In fact, it was a waste of money. Like going to a buffet and only eating one plate worth of food. You should fill up. Same with sports.
Of course my love of sports clouded my ability to see the other side of the argument. It wouldn’t be a waste of money, if we didn’t have cable at all. Whoa.
After much talking and thinking, I decided that the best economic maneuver, and the best thing for my marriage, was to distance myself from nightly sports by getting rid of cable.
That was seventeen years ago this summer. We haven’t had cable (or satellite) since. I have rarely made a better decision.
Now, this post isn’t about me bashing those with cable, or all the stuff about people watching too much television. Nor is this about the economics (although by my estimate this move has saved us over ten thousand dollars). It is not about how media corrupts the mind. Or how Americans care too much about sports.
It is simply this: I gave up ESPN and I don’t miss it. Because what I got instead is so much better.
Now, I still love sports. On several occasions I have gone to a friend’s or relative’s house to “borrow” a channel so I could watch a particularly desirous sporting event. Hey, I go to Buffalo Wild Wings on the first day of the NCAA basketball tournament to watch 8 games in 4 hours.
But not having access to all these sports channels has kept me from constantly watching whatever is on. Instead, well, after seventeen years there is no telling what all I have done with all that time.
But more of that non-sports-watching time has been spent on one person than any other thing. Melody. My wife. We have spent hours solving all the world’s problems and coming up with some amazing and ridiculous inventions. We have planned for the arrival of seven children. We have shared our broken places and loved each other toward healing. She has become my best friend, my confidant, my true companion.
Now, I am not saying that none of this would have happened if we still had cable. But…
Over the years I have worked with a lot of married and almost married couples. All of them want their relationships to work, to grow, to thrive. They are all in love. If you asked them, they would all say they are willing to do anything for each other. But the question I like to ask is “what would you be willing to not do?” “What are you willing to give up?”
Life is about making choices. By choosing to spend time doing one thing, it means that time cannot be spent doing something else. It seems obvious. But so often we are fooled into believing that we can do anything and everything. We can work long hours, have lots of friends, enjoy expensive hobbies and have a close-knit family and amazing marriage. But the truth is that we can’t have it all. And the choices we make, even small ones, shape and mold us in ways we cannot possibly imagine in the moment.
Fairly often someone will ask myself or my wife, “How do you do it? How do you get it all done with seven kids? How do you have time for everything?” The honest answer is: we don’t. We can’t do everything. Not everything we want. Sometimes not everything we need. No one can. So choose wisely.