God bless this glorious Wild Card Weekend

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grazianoI was working on some important stuff Wednesday night—lying on the couch in my living room and searching for an episode of “Law and Order: SVU” that I hadn’t yet seen[1].

Then my wife came in and assumed her designated “SVU”-viewing seat on the couch across from me[2]. “Remember, we’re having dinner at my sister’s house on Saturday night,” she said, apropos of absolutely nothing.

My heart skipped a beat as a wave of panic washed over me. “What?” I asked, incredulous and stumbling in a search for words. “This Saturday? This weekend? What about my football games?”

“I didn’t realize you played for the Patriots,” she said.

“The Patriots are not in the goddamn playoffs!” I snapped. “But it’s Wild Card weekend, Liz. There are two games on Saturday.”

I tried to slow my breathing, struggling to recall the techniques that my wife—a yoga instructor—taught me to use in states of intense anxiety. For a football fan and a sports gambler, Wild Card Weekend is a religious observance, and with a quick spit of discourse, suddenly, my grandiose romantic plans came crashing to earth.

“Settle down,” my wife said, rolling her eyes. “My sister has a television. You won’t miss your precious games.”

What she didn’t understand was that I had made mental plans for this long weekend, an unambiguous orgy of NFL games and cheap beer and high-cholesterol foods.

In my own small brain, I had envisioned a scenario where I would be immersed in a Valhalla-type ritual that would include deluges of light beer and deep-fried meat, and me bouncing buoyantly between the bar and my couch as every bet I had placed[3] squarely hit while the ghostly sound of a cash register rung in the distance clouds.

But now my dreams were being curb-stomped because my lovely bride made dinner plans without the courtesy of consulting an NFL schedule that was released last spring.

Let’s be honest here. January and February are miserable months, particularly living in New England. They’re white-knuckle months, trying to survive the winter. So we invent things to make them tolerable.

For my fellow football fans—and gamblers—the drama of the post-season is enough incentive to look forward[4] to the next week; to look forward to beef nachos and spicy buffalo wings on the grill; to look forward to those last-second field goals or garbage points that cover a spread; to look forward to two games on a Saturday, three games on Sunday and one on Monday night while knowing that next week the stakes will be higher in the Divisional Rounds, and knowing that time will move inexorably forward to that one Sunday in February when even the non-seculars will celebrate.

When my wife next informed me that we would be taking our daughter back to college in Boston this weekend as well, I circumvented the boss and pleaded with my daughter.

“Paige, I’ll Venmo you $50 if you’ll let me off of this assignment,” I said to her. “I love you.”

“Don’t worry about it, Dad,” she said. “Given your betting history, you’re going to need that money.”

At least I raised her right.

_____________

[1] My “SVU” obsession has been well-documented in this column. Yet with 527 episodes to sift through, there are still some that I haven’t seen, and when I stumble upon these unicorns, it generally makes my day.

[2] We can singularly thank Capt. Olivia Benson for keeping our marriage together for two decades.

[3] I’ve already placed multiple bets for Wild Card Weekend.

[4] Most people won’t read these footnotes, but I completely understand the moral objections to watching the sport. I played football, experienced head injuries and acknowledge there severity. I am in no way trivializing them.

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About this Author

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Born on Good Friday was published by Roadside Press in 2023. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com