Somewhere around the time I was 24, me and my father started to go out together and watch Monday Night Football at a sports bar. At the time, I was just getting back into football after a long exile, and it seemed as good as a place as any to continue this return to a sport which I used to love (and have come to love again).
We moved from bar to bar, year after year. We drank plenty of beer, ate plenty of wings. We watched a lot of football...and yes, it was good.
The football, however, was secondary. What ended up happening more than anything else was that I got to know my father as a person. Before the football nights, he had been just "Dad"...someone I loved, for sure, but not someone I really knew. This was really no one's fault...he was in the military for ages, and he did work a lot, but I was a moody, uncommunicative kid (how much has changed...(?)) who really didn't bond with too many people, and that sure didn't help. I got my mother because I spent a lot of time with her, but my father remained a little bit of a mystery.
Monday Night Football changed all that. We got to just talk. I found out that at work, when I was pizza manager guy, I operated just like he did, disciplined just like he did. I got to hear stories of his youth and compare them with my own. I heard Vietnam stories...clearly not all of them, but probably more than anyone else in my family has heard. I discovered that I liked him as a person, not just a father. We became friends.
When I moved up here to Ohio, one of the hardest things was watching that first Monday Night Football game by myself...
I never found anyone else to watch football with on a normal basis. My first roomate, the year before he moved in, used to come over on occasion, but when he moved in, he was never around, especially, it seemed, on Monday nights. A friend of mine used to live downstairs, but he'd only come up once a month. When we were dating, my wife would watch with me, and we would talk...and this was one of the places where I really got to know her and fall in "true love" with her...but she really doesn't enjoy football as a sport, and now that we live together and have other times to talk, she usually goes elsewhere. So football is, unfortunately, sadly, a solitary activity for me.
I've tried to find other activities to fill the void. One of the things I decided when I came up here and started studying Popular Culture was (sensibly, I think) that I needed to experience more Popular Culture. One of the things I did to this end was start watching the various Star Treks.
But I also started watching wrestling, at first as a "I need to figure out what the hell is going on here" activity...but then I found some fellow grad students who watched, so I would hang out with them. When they moved away, I found another student, one from my department, and I started going to the bars to watch the pay-per-view events with him. Eventually, I started going to his house to watch the weekly broadcasts, and I've been doing this at least since 2002.
Last night, me and a few of the regular wrestling watchers went to a TNA Wrestling event up in Detroit. While the show was, itself, very entertaining, a few things happened that made me really reflect on the nature of viewing, conversation, and friendship.
One of my friends, the one at whom's we watch wrestling, is moving away. He moves out this weekend. Although there have been rumors, I found this out for sure last night. I found out because another one of my friends asked him. And, after hearing this, I wonder if I would've known if someone would've asked.
I had loved watching wrestling with my friends...at first, just because I love my friends. I did grow to love the entertainment, but it has always been secondary for me. We were doing more than watching a stupid televised version of a fictional athletic competition...we were building community.
Or so I used to think.
After my friend's revelation, I started to wonder about the state of friendship altogether. Is it even possible to have friendships centered around one activity? Does that just lead to situational friendships? How well would I relate to many of them outside of the situation of wrestling viewing? And is the fact that I rarely can get them to do things other than wrestling a sign that they have these kind of thoughts as well?
None of these thoughts diminished how much I like this guy. I guess that what I hope for when I enter one of these hang-out situations is that the friendships I develop can expand beyond the actual event, that they can spread, that we can do other things, and that the event will quickly become secondary to everyone. But I don't seem to be able to get these situational friends to do anything else, for the most part. Is this, I wonder, due to the way that other people view their activities and the situational friends associated with them? Or is the fault somewhere within me?
Even though I've always been a quiet, shy kind of guy in many ways, I've also always had a thirst for friends, and I want more close friends. Right now, however, there's probably only three people in town with whom I can hang out regardless of the situation or event and just talk, hold a good conversation, and have that be the center of whatever we're doing, not the event or place where we're meeting...and I love these people dearly...but one of them has a family, and another one is busily dissertating, so that can limit contact. I wish I could pull them all to a quiet bar just to talk on a regular basis...and it's a shame that our schedules often limit this. I enjoy these people, but most of all, I need them at some deep level.
And I do have plenty of friends who live outside of Bowling Green, people whom I love and feel tremendously close to, but the distances can work against us there. I try to maintain contact, but I always get caught up in my work, and I never can do enough to be as close to these people as I would like. I've done an okay job with some, not so good with others, and others still have fallen off the face of the earth for me...much to my sadness. I try, but I never seem to have the time to put into overcoming the distances.
So, last night, I was thinking these thoughts when I got home. I should've been elated from the very good wrestling show and the fine conversation that did result, but instead, frankly, I was feeling a bit morose.
I got ready for bed and brushed my teeth. I tried to quietly crawl into bed, but my wife moved...I thought I had woken her up, but she assured me that she just went to bed herself. I told her I had a good night.
Then, my wife, my lover, my friend, held me...and that made everything go away, made everything disappear, save my wife's touch.
Sometimes, if you're lucky, you don't need an event or a reason...and you don't even need the conversation...