Friday, June 17, 2011

Maybe Next Year

Recently, the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title. (That’s basketball, for those of you who are sports impaired.) The Mavericks started playing basketball in the 1980-1981 season. They’ve been playing and trying for 30 years, and they have finally won their first championship. I’m happy for their fans. (The jerks!)

A few days later, the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the award given to the NHL champion. (That’s hockey.) The last time the Bruins won the Stanley Cup was after the 1971-1972 season. Die hard Bruin fans have waited 39 years for a championship. I’m happy for their fans. (The cretins!)

I can understand what those Bruins fans have gone through (except for the winning part.) It was sometime around 1971 or 1972 that I truly became a sports fan. That’s when I got a favorite team of my very own. (Because my brother made me.)

My brother is four years older than me. He knew everything about sports, and his favorite team was the Green Bay Packers. So, of course, my favorite team was the Green Bay Packers. Until my brother told me to get my own team. I was five and he was nine, and he was tired of me copying everything he did. So, I had to get a new team. A team of my own.

At the time, I had a shirt that was a non-descript sports jersey. It was a white shirt with the number “88” in red on the front and back. Apparently I liked the shirt, because when my brother told me I had to get a new team, I asked him, “Who is someone who wears the number 88?” My brother responded, “Alan Page.” I asked, “Who does he play for?” “The Minnesota Vikings.” So, I declared, “Well, then, that’s my favorite team.” And I’ve been stuck with them ever since.

(Looking back, I realize it could have been worse. My brother could have answered the “88” question with Charlie Sanders, and I would have been stuck with the Detroit Lions for all these years!)

It hasn’t been easy being a Vikings fan for the past four decades. They’ve almost always been good, but they’ve never been good enough. Every year starts with the promise that maybe this is the year they’ll finally win the championship. And every year ends with disappointment, and sometimes even heartache.

It was especially difficult being a Vikings fan as a kid in the 1970s. They were a great team, but they just couldn’t win it all. In a four year stretch they went to three Super Bowls. They lost all three. (Badly.) I learned at a young age how to accept losing. (A good skill to have, growing up as a nerd and a loser.)

The Vikings only made me cry twice. The first came in the 1973 season. The Vikings had started the season with nine straight wins, and they were playing on Monday Night Football. They were unbeaten, so I thought they were unbeatable. They lost to the Atlanta Falcons. (Really? The Falcons?) I was seven years old, and I cried. The second time I cried, I was eight years old and the Vikings lost the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers. I thought they would win. They didn’t. The Vikings have lost a lot of heartbreaking games since then, but I haven’t cried. (I’ve yelled, cursed, thrown things, and told their coach to do things that are anatomically impossible, but I haven’t shed any tears.)

So, as a Vikings fan I’ve had almost 40 years of futility watching the NFL. But, hey, there’s always basketball, right? Nope. I’m also a Utah Jazz fan. The Jazz are very similar to the Vikings: always good, but never quite good enough. (Plus they both wear hideous purple uniforms.)

Although they moved to Utah from New Orleans in 1979, it wasn’t until they surprised everyone with a division title in the 1983-84 season that the Jazz endeared themselves to the locals. Since then they’ve only had two losing seasons, if you define “losing season” as losing more games than they won. However, if you define “losing season” as not winning the championship, they’ve had nothing but.

Between the Vikings and Jazz, I’ve accumulated over 65 seasons of championship futility as a fan. (I don’t care enough about hockey to have a favorite team. And, I don’t follow baseball as closely as the NFL and NBA, but my favorite team is the Seattle Mariners.) (The Mariners are similar to the Vikings and Jazz, but without as much purple in their uniforms.)

So, every season, as the playoffs approach, once my team is eliminated (and they always are), I find myself rooting for the other teams that have had long championship droughts. I cheered for the Red Sox in 2004 and the White Sox the year after. I was happy for the Saints a couple of years ago, even though they beat my Vikings on the way to their championship. And I was happy for the Mavericks and the Bruins this year.

I feel genuine happiness for the fans of these franchises, because I know what it’s like to wait for years for a title. But then, I also feel a little disdain. Jealousy rears its ugly head, and I think, “why is it never my team?”

In the end, all I’m left with is “maybe next year.” That’s why I still watch. Now that I have an actual life, with a wife and kids and everything, I don’t have as much time to watch the games as I used to when I was single. But, I’ve got to keep watching. I’ve invested so many hours, so much heartbreak and disappointment, that I’ve got to be there to feel the joy and triumph when one of my teams actually, finally, inevitably wins it all. (It is inevitable, isn’t it?)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Ballad of the 40 Year-Old Virgin

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (and really, who hasn’t?) you may have noticed the title “40 Year Old Virgin, Father of Two.” And you may have thought, “Well, he’s talked about being a father, but what’s all this about the virgin thing?” Well, here you go:

You may be asking yourself, “How exactly does someone become a 40 year-old virgin?” Well, it’s pretty simple: don’t have sex until you are 40 years old.

I’m sure some of you are thinking: that’s not quite as easy as it sounds. Some of you couldn’t make it past age 13. Some of you ducked under the bleachers or climbed into the back seat. Some of you got a hotel room for after the prom. Some of you experimented in college. (A lot of you experimented in college.) Some of you got drunk and didn’t know what happened. Some of you wanted to save yourself for marriage, but didn’t quite make it. Some of you wanted to save yourself for marriage, but then got so horny you ended up marrying someone who wasn’t right for you, just so you could have sex. And some of you saved yourself for marriage and actually married the right person. But, there is no way most of you could have made it to forty.

But for the 0.000001% of us that made it to forty, it probably wasn’t that difficult. I can’t speak for all of the 40 year-old virgins, but I know in my experience there were several factors working in my favor. (That’s “working in favor” of me maintaining my virginity. Or, “working against” me ever being able to have sex. Whichever way you want to look at it.) Here are some of those virgin factors:

1) I'm shy. If I’m in a large group of people, my preference would be to just blend in with the wall. My philosophy being if I don’t say anything in front of a bunch of people, then I won’t say anything stupid or embarrassing in front of a bunch of people. The bad part of this philosophy is that it’s hard to get noticed by women if you never do anything noticeable.

2) I'm not particularly attractive. If you are good looking enough, women will be attracted to you no matter what you do or say. (Or even what you don't do or say.) I am not that good looking. (I’m not particularly ugly, either. My thought is that if you were to gather 50 men at random, I would not be one of the ten most attractive, nor would I be one of the ten least attractive. I would be one of those 30 non-descript guys in the middle.)

C) I'm a nerd. How much of a nerd? Well, I have a large comic book collection, and I’ve been to more than one Star Trek convention. (You can go to one Star Trek convention and say you are just there to make fun of the nerds, but if you go to more than one convention, you’re not fooling anyone.) And, did I mention that I didn’t have sex until I was 40? (‘Nuff said.)

4) I'm socially inept. Over the years there were times when, despite the overwhelming odds against it, women were actually attracted to me. Only I was too dense (stupid) to notice until days, months, or even years later. (Once, in high school, a girl I kinda liked actually asked me out. I couldn’t go with her because of a scheduling conflict with a family vacation. But, it wasn’t until years later that it dawned on me that she probably liked me, and the smart thing for me to do when I got back from the family trip would be to ask her out. I didn’t. I’m an idiot.)

5) I'm a Mormon. Mormons are taught, at a very young age, that having sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage is one of the absolute worst sins you can commit. (Just behind murder for seriousness.) Add that to all the other virgin factors listed above, and I was figuratively scared to death of girls. (Not literally, or I would actually be dead.)

6) I'm from a small town. I’m from rural Southeast Idaho. (As opposed to metropolitan, urban Southeast Idaho.) The town I’m from, Arimo, has a population of about 300 people. There was literally one girl my age in the whole town. (Yes, literally.) They had to bus five towns together to get enough kids to make up a high school. At least 80% of the high school population was also Mormon, so all those girls were taught the same “pre-marital sex is sin” lessons that I was. So, many of them were as afraid of me as I was of them. (The “sex as sin” lessons didn’t scare everyone, though. Teenage pregnancies still existed in rural, Mormon, Southeast Idaho, even before it was glorified by MTV.)

[Note: On the serious side, even though it seems I’m making light of it, I do strongly believe that there shouldn’t be sex outside of marriage. A lot of the world’s problems would be solved if everyone followed that simple rule, such as teen pregnancies, abortion, marital infidelity, and high taxes. (I’m not sure how the high taxes would be helped, but I’m going to go with it, anyway.)]

7) I'm a child of divorce. While we’re on a bit of a serious topic, here’s this one. My parents got divorced when I was 19 years old. They had been married for 26 years. They raised their three kids, and as soon as they had them out the door, they decided they had had enough. The three months I was home after my freshman year in college, as my parents’ marriage was in its death throes, were the worst months of my life. The fighting and the yelling was constant and horrible. And I decided then and there that I would rather be single than ever have a relationship like that.

8) I'm indecisive (I think.) When I asked my wife and her sister what they thought some of my virgin factors were, they said one of them was that I am indecisive. I thought about adding that to the list, then decided against it. But then I changed my mind and thought maybe it does belong on the list. I’m just not sure.

9) I'm overly cautious. I don’t like to get hurt. I don’t want to get hurt. So, I avoid situations where I might get hurt. Was I slower learning how to ride a bike than everyone else? Yes. Did I learn how to swim at an early age? No. (I still don’t know how to swim. One of the benefits of being 6’ 2” is that I can handle being in a pool up to the six-foot depth.) Skydiving? Umm, no. So, where dating was concerned, I was so afraid of getting dumped by a girl that I never put myself in a position where I could get dumped.

10) At a certain age, it's hard to meet women. Once you get past 25 or 27 or so, it’s hard to meet single, available women. And so, most of my dates after that age came about via blind dates. If you’ve ever been on a blind date, you know just how scary that prospect can be. (Although, to be honest, on most of the blind dates I went out on, I was the scary one, based on virgin factors 1-9 listed above.)

So, there you have it, my top ten Virgin Factors. (I’m sure there are more reasons, but I’m going to leave it at these ten for right now.) Looking at this list, you can see just how easy it was for me to stay a virgin until I was 40. I had no prospects and no hope for a relationship. I had settled into what I thought my lifetime role was as the weird, hermit uncle. It is nothing short of miraculous that I ever found a woman willing to actually be with me, despite all my shortcomings and idiosyncrasies. Yes, my wife, Amber is a miracle to me. If we were Catholic, her finding and putting up with me would be a miracle worthy of nominating her for sainthood. Luckily, as Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), she already is a saint. I’m a lucky man. (Maybe even the luckiest!)