To most it would be any random Wednesday in August. Not for my husband, Jeff.
This particular Wednesday in August was his annual visit to Cowboys training camp in Oxnard, Calif. It's similar, I suppose, to sending your child to summer camp for the first time. I made sure he had gas, knew the itinerary, where he was going to have lunch and what time to expect him home safely (with a new Dallas Cowboys hat in hand, no doubt).
When Jeff and I first started dating he mentioned his deep love for sports. I remember him asking if I followed sports. I told him I'd been a "Junior 49er" for a few seasons when I was in junior high school. That's all I could think of in the moment.
"I love sports," he said. "If you cut me I will bleed blue and silver." Those are the Cowboys' colors, in case you don't recognize "America's team."
He even reached down to pull up his pant leg and show me the blue Dallas Cowboys star inked onto his ankle. I learned rather quickly that he comes from an entire sports-loving family with a strong devotion to the team of Staubach and Aikman.
Two weeks after "camp" this year I got a text reading simply "SMH" with a link to a tweet that Tony Romo, the Cowboys oft-injured starting quarterback, had broke yet another bone and could be gone for the season. I knew it meant a rough start to our NFL season at home.
It always irked Jeff when someone would question his love and knowledge of sports after he came out as gay. Before coming out his sports-fandom was never in question. Afterward it played out as if it were some ploy to take people off the scent of his being gay.
I can assure you, Jeff is the real deal.
Many times over the course of our relationship I've come home to find ESPN playing on one TV in the house... and ESPN2 on the other. I can't count how many times Jeff has commented on a game or player only to have the broadcaster on the screen iterate Jeff's thoughts live, sometimes using the same words.
People ask me what's it's like to be married to a "GSL" (Gay Sports Lover) like it's an exciting novelty. It's funny, because I didn't think that the stereotype that most gay men don't know a thing about sports still existed. Apparently it does. It certainly still exists from the outside looking in. Many times when we can't make a social event because our excuse - "the game is on" - is greeted with a quizzical, if not somewhat challenging, response.
"Are you serious?"
Yes. As serious as anyone can be about something they truly are passionate about.
That's what it boils down to. Passion. I admit, at first, I thought that my lack of passion for sports would eventual bore Jeff and my "stereotypical" passion for theatre might actually turn him off. But what's resulted after a 15-plus year relationship is finding that our differences have become our understanding and not our expectations. I've learned to love going to a game with Jeff and, yes, after taking Jeff to his first musical we can't leave New York without seeing at least one show together.
We've come a long way. With fitness, athleticism, gay sports leagues and more and more athletes coming out, that wall of stereotyping and homophobia is starting to crack. It's crumbling from the inside-out, in addition to the outside-in. This isn't simply a result of brave professionals like Jason Collins and others who have come out and become outspoken LGBT advocates, but also due to the exposure of who we truly are through everyday people's stories.
We are more seen and understood now more than ever, and yet we still have such a long way to go.
So even though Romo may not be playing till mid-season or at all this season (we just gave up two tickets to the Niners v. Cowboys game because of it) I know that the NFL Sunday Ticket will be on every weekend and Jeff will pace around the couch, arguing with the television and wondering why he never became a sportscaster. I will sit on the stairs and watch him, encourage him to stay calm, and love him for being true to who he is and letting me in on this part of his world.