Everyone knows the basics: I became a Gator fan through my wife. (Get the background here.) The Gators are her team (or "HER team," when she says it aloud to people who assume that she adopted my favorite team), and -- at the most shallow level -- it was the first thing about her that I fell in love with, right there, on our first date:
That was the initial attraction to this woman across the table from me on our first date. I have heard stories of people on dates with successful professionals and fantasizing themselves as spouses of a doctor or hedge-fund manager; I sat across from my date and imagined how happy I would be married to a fan of a great sports team.I fell in love with her. I fell in love with her team. It is a bit hazy to conclude which came first.
I related a snippet of it in a Valentine's Day post about love on Free Darko a couple years back, titled "He's Just Not That Into U-donis":
I'm not quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I WOULD marry my wife, but I'm quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I COULD:To discover your spouse/mother of your kids AND to recognize your die-hard fan allegiance are each fundamentally pivotal moments in a person's life, certainly a sports fan's life.
The year: 2001
The setting: Our first date.
The place: West Village Italian restaurant
The context: 1.2 bottles of wine into dinner.
The topic on the table: The preeminent value of offensive rebounds in relation to (1) a basketball team's chances of success and (2) a basketball forward's worth as a player.
Let me clarify: My wife (then, the random woman I was on a first date with) was making that argument. I was pretending to engage in the discussion. I was nodding. I may have even been responding.
All I know is that her voice was drowned out by the one in the back of my head:
Li'l Danny: "Are you listening to this? Are you listening?!"
Me: "Pipe down. She's trying to make a point about the pro potential of Udonis Haslem."
Li'l Danny: "The fat Florida center? He'll never make it!"
Li'l Danny: "But here is a woman who not only loves basketball, but appreciates it for its subtle pleasures!"
Me: "Which *I'm* trying to appreciate, save for your yammering!"
Li'l Danny: "I think I'm in love. Go on: Say something smart that will make her respect you for your basketball knowledge!"
Me: "OK...wait: I'm blanking! I'm blanking!! It's all too much pressure! I'm smitten!"
Li'l Danny: "Plus-minus! Plus-minus!"
Me: "What the hell is 'plus-minus?'" (Remember: It was 2001.)
Li'l Danny: "Nooooo! Damn your ignorance! You better switch topics to something more your speed... like pop culture."
Me: "So, uh, how about those...um...'Sex and the City' women?" (D'oh!)
Fast-forward nearly six years, one marriage and one kid later: Her enthusiastic argument on behalf of offensive rebounds remains THE most -- if not only -- vivid detail of our entire first date.
And as we sit in our NYC apartment today watching her favorite NBA player -- David Lee (yeah, she's a Gators fan) -- she's still talking about offensive rebounds. And knowing Lee's NBA-best offensive-rebounding numbers, I couldn't love her more for it.
Uniquely, to have it happen in the exact same moment is something I will appreciate for the rest of my life -- and something for which I can't thank my wife enough for letting me be a part of it: Her life AND her fandom.