For John and I, the arrival of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship felt like Christmas in the summer. Ever since we returned from our vacation, we’ve bounded out of bed each morning with the excitement of children desperate to unwrap their holiday presents, and flicked on the TV to enjoy yet another soccer match. Half the fun, though, is watching the matches with my husband, who still remains a veritable walking Wikipedia of all things football after all his years of playing the game and enjoying it as a fan. It’s as if my love for John has translated into a love for the beautiful game he enjoys so much.
But it didn’t start out that way, as John reminded me of recently.
Eight years ago, Euro Cup 2004 was on, which meant yet another round of soccer matches every single day — or in China’s case, every night. After all, with the time difference, CCTV would broadcast the games well after midnight, with some games as late as 2:45am.
Back then, I didn’t even know that the Euro Cup existed. I wasn’t mentioning it weeks before it started, like this one, or pointing it out every time I saw a commercial or a reference to it at a bar on the street. Euro Cup had nothing to do with me in 2004 — at least, not until John started watching.
Now summer in Shanghai, if you’ve never experienced it, is the closest you’ll get to living inside a sauna around the clock. On top of this, the way China sets Beijing time means that, in the summer, the sun rises at an ungodly hour (often close to 4:30am). Back then in 2004, I either cranked on the stuffy air conditioning at night or simply sweated it out in little more than my underwear — and sometimes would wear a sleeping mask because the curtains still didn’t really block the sun’s rays in the morning. Not exactly your ideal destination for the ultimate summer rest.
It never took much to rouse me out of sleep during summers in Shanghai. In the case of that June 2004, deep in the Euro Cup, I suddenly awoke in the middle of the night to the hum of soccer fans and just audible play-by-play commentary for the match, as well as the light from a television opposite our bed. There sat John propped up against a pillow, as absorbed in the match as I should have been in dreams. I don’t really remember what I said to John, my soon-to-be husband (who I never realized would sacrifice his sleep for a good game), but I’m sure it involved a little profanity and also a reminder that I had to get up very early for work the next morning.
As I recall, he did this only one more time during that tournament before his guilt kicked in — the realization that I was the breadwinner for our household and deserved a little sleep, and that he could watch the matches on rebroadcast during the day.
I didn’t really learn to love soccer until we returned to the US — and the far-more relationship friendly viewing times for soccer matches, times that never fell into the midnight hours. Maybe the fact that we could watch together, without wrecking our sleep, made the game all the more beautiful for me. In fact, during the 2010 World Cup, I often woke him up for the matches and cheered even louder than him, especially when I watched Spain — a favorite country of mine — take the title.
John always likes to say soccer fans in China are really xīnkǔ (辛苦, have it hard) because of the time differences between soccer matches. Only the most tiěgǎn (铁杆, diehard) fans dare to awaken in the middle of the night to catch a live match during the World Cup or Euro Cup, like John. But now he even calls me a tiěgǎn soccer fan, so I can’t help but wonder — after we move to China, will I be the one waking him up over a late night match? 😉
How has your spouse’s love for a sport affected you and your relationship? Did you learn to love that sport more because of them?