Wednesday, December 12, 2007

For Love Or The Game

is a feature in ESPN the Magazine. In it, they take some athlete, and his wife/girlfriend (pronouns used advisedly, although maybe once a year they switch it up by having the chick be the athlete) and a teammate or competitor, and then they ask the athlete questions and have the girlfriend and teammate try to guess what the answers are.

It's a front of the book kind of thing, designed to be stupid and funny; it is not as funny, in my opinion, as the semi-regular feature "Right Name, Wrong Number" in which they call people with the same name as famous sports figures and ask them the interview questions that you would ask the actual athlete, and the person answering gives straight ahead responses. That makes me laugh a huge amount. Also the "If Larry King Wrote For Us" feature, because that is also pretty goddamn funny.

Anyway, this "For Love Or The Game" thing is supposed to be light-hearted and they always ask the question "Who wears the pants?" to which the girlfriend or wife is apparently contractually obliged to answer either "I do" or "He'll say he does."

I have been reading ESPN the Magazine for about three years now. It comes out every two weeks; I think this feature is in at least every other issue.

Never once in that time has the non-spouse or girlfriend won. Not once.

I'm starting to feel like the whole thing is rigged. I have been reading this feature and the girlfriend's missed like three pretty easy questions in a row and I think we're heading for an upset and then she pulls it out.

It's not, I suppose, totally implausible that dating someone gives you an insight into their character that nobody else can match. But I guess it strikes me as equally plausible that ESPN the Magazine operates on the reasonable assumption that we would don't want to hear that Mike Modano's wife does not actually know him as well as his teammate Darryl Sydor does.

But it's this funny ritualized enactment of what relationships are supposed to be like. The girlfriend says at least one drastically wrong thing, the buddy cracks some jokes, the girlfriend demonstrates her strength by refusing to fall in with any idea that the guy wears the pants, but accepts the concept wholesale, and at the end the power of true love as a basis for knowledge, faulty as it may be, is reaffirmed.

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