May 02, 2014

NFL by the Numbers: 79

Seventy-nine is the cost in cents of the horseshoe magnet and bar pictured above. I will cut to the chase and tell you now that this unexceptional tchotchke is – save for my engagement ring and wedding band – the greatest physical reminder I have in my possession that a marriage can thrive against all odds if the two people involved are committed to it.

I received this magnet and bar at the first NFL Retired Players Convention I attended with Scott back in 2005. This post actually serves as a follow-up to my initial post on that convention, which you can read here.) 

The long and short of it is this: Although I received a Tiffany & Co. trinket box at a seminar the conference hosted for the players’ wives and girlfriends (while the players spent the day teeing it up on the links), that gift was not the most valuable gift I received during that convention.

Quite emphatically, this $.79-cent horseshoe bar and magnet was.

But first, some background: Marriage can be hard work. But this isn’t a newsflash, of course. And marriages involving NFL athletes are certainly no different – if anything, they’re infused with an extra helping of doom: excess – or lack thereof after the well runs dry, inflated egos, and a myriad of additional external pressures I won’t bother to mention here can conspire to be the nail in the proverbial coffin for happily ever after.

So it only stands to reason that a relationship expert would serve as a guest speaker at this financial seminar I attended. Ironically, Scott and I weren’t even married yet – we were serious, yes, but still dating nonetheless – and my marital status (or lack thereof) certainly made me feel as though I stuck out like a sore thumb: It is daunting enough to attend a seminar solo, but then add to the mix being surrounded by the wives of NFL players, which, on the onset, I had perceived to be a tough bunch. There I sat, trying to keep up appearances by feigning interest in the pamphlets on the table while at the same time trying in vain not to down my mimosa too fast. You could say I was slightly intimidated. But I soon discovered that I had no reason to be.

A woman named Tina (who shall remain last nameless), whose husband spent nearly 10 years playing for the Baltimore Ravens, sat down next to me. There was something about Tina. She exuded an air of wisdom that said I’ve been here before. She was several years older than me, yes, but her age had little to do with my perception of her. She was part “girl’s girl” and part tough cookie. I liked her immediately.

Tina and I got to talking and, eventually, began trading stories about life, love, you name it.

“You got him at the best time,” Tina said.

I was perplexed. “What do you mean?” I asked.

“Scott’s retired now. You missed the playing days – the traveling, the juggling schedules…the temptation,” she lowered her gaze and stared dead into my eyes for emphasis. “I don’t miss that one bit. Plus, they change after they leave the game. Retirement humbles them. Think about it: No one really knows when they’ll be cut, and when they are cut, chances are, it’s not up to them. They take it hard,” Tina explained. “Trust me, this is the best time.”

I could have picked Tina’s brain for hours, but our chat was cut short when the relationship expert took the stage and began her lecture by holding up the tiny horseshoe and bar and asking us what we saw.

“A toy,” said one woman.

“A magnet,” said another.

“Not even close,” said the expert. “This is symbolic of what you and your partner have to be.” She took the pieces apart and held the bar in one hand and the horseshoe in the other. “This is you…and this is your partner. When you make a commitment to stick together, you will. Unless you let stuff – money, challenges, life, anything – come between you. The choice is yours.”

I still have my horseshoe and bar.

For the longest time, I carried it in my purse; now it has found an even better home: In the kids’ diaper bag. It’s not like this little horseshoe and bar have superpowers – they don’t. And I know this.

But they are a symbol that the power to hold things together resides in me. In us.

The photos of Scott and me above were taken at the 2005 NFL Retired Players Convention. The photo on the left was at a Miami high school’s football field where Scott volunteered to coach youth; the one on the right was at the welcome party on the first night of the convention. On a side note: I’ve kept in touch with Tina, and we send each other our family’s Christmas cards every year. She still remains happily married, although I have no idea if she still has her horseshoe magnet. 

I should ask her…

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  1. I love symbol-y stuff too! I was going to ask you if you and Tina kept in touch but it was like you read my mind and you answered that question! I would be curious if Tina still has her horseshoe too! You must investigate!

    1. Good Morning, Susie! I'm actually going to ask her -- I didn't really think to until just before I pressed "publish" on this post, which I can't believe because I had been meaning to write this post for a while...

      I swear, I look at this horseshoe and bar often, and am always checking to make sure it is still in the inside pocket of the diaper bag.

      Thank you for commenting, Susie!

  2. Love the symbolism. It's nice to find folks talking candidly about marriage... so often I find people have the expectation that it's supposed to be easy - or even when it's tough, it's still "easy." As a product of two divorces, I had no idea what "rough going" meant... and had any one tried to tell me, I'm not sure I would have believed them!

    1. Hi, Dakota! And I'm right there with you regarding the symbolism...

      Frankly, I thought people would think I was nuts for writing so candidly about the reality of marriage. It's strange -- despite the divorce rate...and despite the fact that virtually everyone, particularly those who have experience with marriage, know that it is REAL work -- it seems taboo to speak about marriage in any way other than life is all dancing through a field of daisies. I mean, I dance through the field, don't get me wrong.

      But speaking frankly about marriage isn't a bad thing! Nothing in life is perfect -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing, either.

      Okay. Climbing down off my soap box now. lol

      Thank you for commenting.

  3. It would be awesome if Tina still had hers and I think what she told you is true. You did get him at the best time. I was once close to marrying a pro football player but it is so hard. Trust is such a huge issue and I was too young and selfish at the time to deal with all of that!

    1. I know, I have to ask Tina! I will...

      You know, I don't want to paint all current football players with a broad brush and say that none of them are ready for marriage and that they all succumb to the temptation of women throwing themselves at them. I do believe that some are indeed mature enough to handle it...

      Perhaps Scott and I would have been just fine if we had met earlier. Who knows? But, truth be told, I wasn't my best self in my 20s, either, and I was far from the woman I am today.

      But I do wholeheartedly agree with Tina (and you) when you say I got Scott at the best time because this is the only experience I know about for certain -- and it works. Do you know what I mean? I mean, I go on all day with the "what if"...and still not know anything for sure!

      I always love reading your comments, Ida. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. <3

  4. This is really're a great writer Courtney!

    1. Cookie, you are so kind. I really appreciate that. Thank you so, SO much!


    2. Yes you sure are Courtney! I love when you share about your NFL life- very interesting. Enjoy your weekend girl!

    3. Thank you, Louida. You always know how to make me smile.

      I hope you're enjoying your weekend as well. :-)

  5. Beautifully written. I have a rock that sits on a shelf that is a symbol of our marriage. I'm sure it was less than .79. Lol! This is really a beautiful story and I wish you many more years of success!

    1. THANK YOU, April. And likewise!! (Aren't cheap-yet-invaluable items the best?)

      Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  6. What a precious little reminder for you to carry with your through the years! Marriage in all situations and lifestyles requires the stick-to-it-ive-ness that magnets seems to have!

    1. Hi, Rachel!

      "Stick-to-it-ive-ness." Yes, that is the key phrase here. I dislike, though, that some people seem to think that because we admit to marriage not being all roses and unicorns that, somehow, that's a bad thing.

      I, on the other hand, simply call it "keeping it real." And it certainly doesn't mean that I like the institution of marriage any less.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. :-)

  7. I seriously love your NFL posts. It's so awesome to get a look at the side of things no one really gets to see. That lady sounds extremely savvy and I love the horseshoe symbolism. Choosing to love and choosing to be committed is day to day work, but it's so worth it. Also, if you're free in June, you should totally come to BlogU. The other ladies would love you and did I mention there's cupcakes and booze?!...:)

    1. Well, Paige, you had me at cupcakes, and the booze part just put me completely over the edge...

      Thank you so, SO much for your kind words about my NFL posts. I concede that they are not the most groundbreaking of posts, but they are real, and I write them in hopes that somebody -- somewhere -- will find them at least mildly amusing. I appreciate your words much more than you know.

      So about this BlogU. I have so many questions. The first being, how are you managing to escape from Husband and The Kids? With my kids being the ages that they are, they are attached at the hip and the breast -- which may present a slight problem at, say, a conference.

      I'm going to e-mail you...

  8. I LOVE the content on this one. I love the fun posts you do and it makes it even more potent when you hit home with a heart issue like this. My husband is a former prof. basketball players, playing overseas until he tore his achilles and that was that. I never had to deal with any of the "issues" because it all happened before I met him. However, I feel like I would have died with all the things I would have had to face if I knew him when he was in it. The temptation part? I don't even want to know what I would be like...
    So mostly, I salute you, but also, I love that you care enough to write about this bit of it. *Virtual Hug*

    1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Your. Comments. Are. The. Best.

      I'm hugging you back, girlfriend. Thank you for bringing a smile to my face...

  9. This is really special, thank you for sharing!

    1. You're welcome, Dina! Thank YOU for reading. (And commenting...)