Twelve steps in the end zone

Self-help for sports junkies (or the spouses who can't stand it).

Topics: Football, Baseball, Peyton Manning,

According to Kevin Quirk, recovered sportsaholic and the author of the self-help paperback “Not Now, Honey, I’m Watching the Game,” my husband is addicted to baseball. I, in turn, am addicted to my husband. This means that five or six times a year I accompany him to the ballpark, though I care nothing about the San Francisco Giants and understand few subtleties of the game. I would love it if my husband were addicted to me rather than to Dusty Baker and his merry spitting men, and so I turned to Quirk’s book for help. More accurately, I suppose, I turned to Quirk’s book to make Ed feel bad about his passion for baseball, for I am a jealous and needy person. No doubt I suffer from some as-yet-unnamed personality syndrome that someone will one day write a book about, which Ed can then buy and use to make me feel bad, too.

The first thing I learned from Quirk’s book is that as sports addicts go, Ed is hopelessly minor league. He qualifies by dint of a checklist on Page 59, which is like one of those depression checklists psychologists dream up, where if you answer yes to three or more questions, like, “Have you ever sighed audibly?” they tell you that you may want to seek professional help. Even though Ed answered yes to five of the 20 questions, qualifying him as an addict “to some degree,” he is nothing like the men Quirk describes.

Ed doesn’t collect pennants and programs and display them in a sports memorabilia room. He didn’t name his kids after players and dress them in tiny Giants uniforms when they were too young to protest. He doesn’t paint his face in team colors or fax advice to the dugout. These are actual behaviors sports addicts admitted to in a survey conducted by Quirk. He was, for a time, as extreme as any of them. He once had a heated argument with his wife over his sports habit, all the while sneaking glances out the kitchen window and in through the living room window to keep up with the game. They divorced soon after.

The extreme sports fan strays from ordinary devotion to deeply irrational, compulsive behavior. In Troy, N.Y., there lives a man who will not eat during Dallas Cowboys football games, because one day during a game, he got up to fix a snack and when he returned, the Cowboys had fallen behind and proceeded to lose. He blamed himself, as though the act of eating a sandwich could affect the actions and decisions of a group of men in tight pants and helmets 2,000 miles away.



Quirk says that although the majority of sports addicts are men, women are by no means immune to the condition. Quirk describes a pregnant woman who decided to go to the game though her contractions were only 10 minutes apart. Another woman had the Cubs game on in the delivery room both times when her children were born. “They say it helps to simulate your home environment in the delivery room,” was the rationale she gave Quirk.

Quirk’s book presents many theories as to why people become obsessed with sports. He thinks boys get involved with sports as a way to bond with fathers who are otherwise hard to bond with. He said some men use their relationship with their team to fill their need for intimacy. “They don’t feel as deeply about the people and events in their lives as they do about their Cleveland Indians,” he told me. “When you think about it, the team is with them from the time they’re kids to the time they’re grandparents. It’s the longest-term relationship in most of these guys’ lives.”

Quirk also believes that men use sports as an escape, a way of shutting out worries or making up for what’s missing in their lives. “Maybe their job isn’t everything they want it to be or their relationship isn’t everything they want it to be. For a lot of sports addicts, there’s some degree of emptiness, something they’re hungering for. And the sports world is never empty. There’s always something going on.”

I presented Ed with these theories last Saturday afternoon, while the Diamondbacks were eviscerating the Giants. Oddly, Ed wasn’t watching the game. He was making banana bread. This wasn’t what I’d had in mind. I had wanted to ask him these things while he was absorbed in the game, thereby forcing him to, in the language of the Sportsaholism Checklist, “get annoyed or angry when someone interrupts you while watching a game.” This would have provided me with lively, ironic material for the article. What I got instead was some really good banana bread. (As it turned out, the Giants lost. The outcome of the game probably had nothing to do with my eating banana bread, but you never know.)

Ed didn’t buy Quirk’s explanations for why he spends so much time watching baseball. He said his father didn’t care about baseball. He said that the Giants did not fulfill his need for intimacy, although he could not rule out the possibility that J.T. Snow could make him happy and could at least be counted on not to confront him with quizzes from self-help psychology books. Ed said he loved the game because it has poetry. He said he likes the way the field is a perfect square, and how it’s the only game where the defense has the ball, and then he stopped. “I am so not a baseball addict.”

The defense had the ball. I took a couple more swings and then I let him win, because maybe he was right. Maybe he just loves the game, and I just don’t. There’s no point going into extra innings over that.

Former Salon columnist Mary Roach is the author most recently of "Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal." Her previous books include "Stiff," "Spook" and "Packing for Mars."

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>