Too much of a good thing

Sunday, February 5, 2006

Women of Southeast Missouri, do you know where your husband will be this evening?

Probably in the same place thousands of men have been for the past 24 Sundays -- slouched in front of the television watching 200-plus-pound guys run a ball up and down 100-yards' worth of grass.

Left: Fans in the student section at the Pittsburgh college basketball game against Syracuse held up a "terrible towel," one of the symbols of the Pittsburgh Steelers the day after the Steelers won the AFC Championship to secure a trip to the Super Bowl. Right: Color coordination, an early sign of Super Bowl Fever.

Sunday widows. That's how some women Charlie Harrison works with refer to themselves.

Harrison -- a clinical therapist at the Family Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau -- says she sees many couples who struggle with the question of how much sports is too much.

Harrison the answer to that is also a question: To what degree does it cause impairment in day-to-day functioning?

"That's the big question from a clinical standpoint," said Harrison.

Harrison said the issue surfaced again when she attended a recent college basketball game.

"Everyone was screaming their heads off, and that was OK," said Harrison. "Sports is the one place where we can let go of our emotions and get away with it. That's why I think it holds a very important place in our lives."

Not only that, sports can serve as an escape mechanism.

If a man is having a problem with his wife, he can close her out of his mind and deal with his emotions while watching a game, explained Harrison.

However, sports can be very positive for families.

"If you participate as a family, it can be one of the best things in the world," said Harrison. "But if we start excluding family, of course it becomes problematic. Like anything else, you can go overboard with it."

Harrison said she definitely sees an upswing in the number of complaints about husbands watching too much TV during football season.

Outside of the actual time spent watching, there are residual effects as well.

"I'm from Dallas and when the Cowboys lost, it was huge. On Monday, people were down. They were depressed," said Harrison. "Guys really identify with a team. They almost become the team."

Harrison said the key to mixing sports and a happy marriage comes down to the art of negotiation.

"It's a matter of talking about it with each other and planning for it," she said. "Tell your wife, the big game is coming on tomorrow and ask what you can do for her as an alternative, that way you don't pay for it during the entire game."

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