The Sports Fan
There’s a man whom I love more than anybody on earth. He occupies a very special, fretful, unique place in my life and he always has. I worry about him in ways that I don’t about other people. I worry that he drives too fast and that he will somehow die before me and I will have to get acquainted with the notion that he is not around.
He is one of the very few people I know whom I don’t have to be guarded in what I say because his mindset is so close to mine that it runs practically on the same track. And there’s probably a reason for that, because we lived in the same house for a number of years share a bunch of DNA.
The sports fan is my baby brother.
He contacted me earlier this week to tell me that he had left his wife. He had got an apartment and moved out. To say the news is shocking is to only begin to understate the case. The sports fan chose a good, good woman to marry and have a family with. She is kind and considerate and easy going. Together, the sports fan and his wife presented a united front of placid, affectionate good humor. I used to say that if they were any more laid back they’d be lying down.
The fact that they couldn’t hold a marriage together is practically impossible for me to grasp. If the sports fan and his wife can’t do it, then we should all give up and go home and make some steady inroads into a bottle of gin.
The news has carpet-bombed our family. Two divorces, one year. My mother is so shattered that all she can say is how shattered she is. She doesn’t know what to do, she says, and she says that a lot too. The sports fan cried when he told her the news, she said. The sports fan never cries.
“Just make sure he eats and call him every day,” I said, dialing up the advice that served me best. “Just make sure he knows he’s not alone.”
So it’s back to the fun stuff—the pain and the sadness and the regret and the fear. But not for me this time. For my beloved brother, who’s in hell because his children refuse to speak to him. He hates how he’s hurt them. I can only imagine the levels of agony that he is plumbing. Throw a couple of sweet teenaged boys into this story and it becomes something else entirely. We’ve just bolted on another circle of hell.
I know the sports fan. I know the decision to leave cannot have been easy. He thought about it a lot. He would never hurt anybody intentionally. He’s just not capable of it.
And yet here we stand. A family in ruins.
The sports fan has been almost constantly on my mind this week. I’ve been thinking about the times we spent together. Once, he came to live with me when I was in London. He was a slender, beautiful 21 year old with dirty blonde curls. My female friends were all extremely appreciative of the fact that he could often be found lolling around my flat looking all adorable.
He got a job working on a building site by lying about being qualified. He was not qualified. He thought his cover was blown when the site foreman took him to one side for a quiet chat. But the foreman only wanted to tell him to slow down a bit. He was working so hard that he was making everybody else look bad.
He was in love with his future wife then, so he was anxious to go back to where he lived and be with her. I remember wishing he could have stayed longer. When I left home for college he was ten, so I hadn’t spent much time with him as an adult. And naturally, as the oldest sister, I had wasted years I could have spent getting to know him when we lived in the same house by thinking him an irritating little monster who always got his own way.
I remember teaching him to ride a bike. I remember his first day of school and his cheeky swagger as he posed for the camera, one hip thrust out, his satchel slung over his shoulder. He was such a beautiful boy, with all those blonde curls, that he could bend the universe to his will, a fact that he grasped from an early age.
When he married I read a sonnet in the church. William Shakespeare. Love is not love that alters when it alteration find. I did not think their love would alter. I bet nobody in that church did.
They had a plan, those two. The sports fan was beginning his career then. He had decided that he wanted to have a business and rack up a respectable amount of cash. I always thought he should have been a sports writer, because he loves games a lot. And he’s a good writer. But he wanted something else.
He achieved his aim. He worked hard and built a big business and added all the accessories of a financially stable life—the boat, the second house, the foreign vacations, boarding school for the teenagers.
And now that life is going to be halved. Picked and teased apart in every possible way. And two dear young boys, who remind me so much of their father, are going to learn, far, far too early how ghastly life can be.