We relish a little raging infidelity in sports. We pretend not to, of course, regurgitating Nancy Grace-ish hostility and disappointment about whatever athlete or coach happens to be sleeping with someone who isn’t his wife at any given moment.
We are just as sincere as Grace, a sanctimonious, whiny blowhard, which is to say not at all.
Claiming moral superiority is physically impossible to do while scouring every salacious text message, giggling at revealed sexual peccadillos of random third basemen, Google-stalking the latest 24-year-old to discover their type just happens to be wealthy, famous dudes providing a chance to be a stepmom and then reveling in the smoldering remains of the firebombed marriage.
We watch every second as if this were a Game 7. Just a couple of days ago, NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders live-tweeted his estranged wife, Pilar, allegedly breaking into his home and assaulting him. “Pray for my kids” he tweeted before posting a pic of them filing out a police report as a family.
Pray for them, indeed.
In fairness, Pilar Sanders alleges Deion assaulted her and filed a police report of her own, downgrading this divorce from ugly fight to celebrity cage match.
I am not judging. Drop me in the grease, too, for being an infidelity voyeur. We all slow down for Kobe and his concierge, Tiger and his Perkins waitress, a pig crashing his hog while joyriding with his latest Arkansas football hire, tsh-tshing and gawking all the while.
Shaq, Tiki Barber, Tony Parker, Rick Pitino, A-Rod, Steve Phillips — the list goes on and on of athletes who have been taken down by road beef. Being a girl, I am almost always asked what I think of this. I usually do not. And when I do think about it, I think: “Why the hell do these guys get married?”
Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and Prime Time and “Why marry?” were all fresh in my mind when shortstop Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees arrived in Texas for a series with the Rangers.
He’s been playing fabulously lately, smacking the ball around like he did in his youth and just generally defying his age. Listening to Jeter afterward, how he had New York media laughing as he deftly and somewhat reluctantly talked about himself, what struck me was how Jeter is regarded by most as a good, classy dude.
Playing in arguably the toughest market on definitely the most scrutinized team, he has mostly stayed unscathed. Even liked. Even Yankee haters make an exception for him.
And he is single.
I am not talking boring single. I am talking sunning with Minka, partying with Mariah, doing Dr. Ruth only knows what with Jessica Biel, Vanessa Minnillo, Jessica Alba, Jordana Brewster, Scarlett Johansson single. Nobody is Tiger mad at him. Just about every guy I know and most women kind of tip their cap and say, “Well played, sir. Well played.” About the only person I can imagine being judgmental is Rick Santorum, and even he has to have a grudging respect for Jeter’s range and longevity.
And just like basketball had The Jordan Rules, sports needs The Jeter Rules for navigating love and dating, sports and fame in a way that allows them to have fun while not becoming a cliche. They need to be taped up in every locker room and clubhouse, every college campus and possibly a few high school ones.
Rule 1: Just say I don’t. No, seriously, do not get married, not if you have even an iota of talent and even a tiny chance of going big-time. You are going to want that dating freedom. I say this as a girl and thereby genetically predisposed to wanting to get married. I am married. I enjoy the institution. I cannot say with 100 percent certainty I’d feel the same way if I were in a position that, say, Ryan Gosling were available to me as a potential “Hey, let’s go watch Bruins-Capitals Game 7” option. Marriage would probably be a little stifling then, which is how an Arkansas coach ends with his skin and already horrid reputation on the pavement in Fayetteville and eventually unemployed.
Rule 2: Technically, being married does not prevent dating. Petrino, Tiger, et al have demonstrated this truism. But this route definitely limits your options for whom to date. I am guessing Minka Kelly does not slink, does not do church parking lots, does not do, “Hey, call me when your wife leaves.” Being single has allowed Jeter to date many famous and beautiful and funny and accomplished women while Tiger had a bunch of “you cheated on Elin with that?” And most of them sold his details to whichever bidder bid anything.
Rule 3: Yes, marriage has pre-nup protection that dating does not. Cheating is extra, though. The worst thing that has been said about Jeter is his alleged sleepover party favors were a little cheesy — a signed ball in a gift bag. Even the gift-bag story felt like fake outrage. I mean, really, what were you expecting — a promise ring? A lifetime commitment? You are what you are, say thank you for the gift bag and be on your way. And that gift bag looks pretty cost effective when compared with $20,000 for a car and a job that Petrino had to pay, or Tiger’s hush money, or spousal support.
Rule 4: Nothing is wrong with waiting to marry even if you are sure this is the one. Let’s say you are dating your high-school sweetheart, the girl who stayed by you in college, your best friend and you are sure and they are sure, then neither of y’all will mind waiting, Y’all can date and travel, break up and make up, mature and see if this is really who you want to be with instead of figuring that out as you go.
Rule 5: OK, you absolutely want to get married right now. You want a wife and kids. You want that to be a part of your image. Then this last rule is simple. Zip. It. Up. Do this even though she will get older while the girls pursuing you get younger. Do this even though it is hard. Do this unless you were forced into an arranged marriage at gunpoint. Then and only then do you get a pass.
Everybody else, you chose. You said until death do us part. And that is not what you say when you want to have sex with lots and lots of women, if you want to hang with porn stars or drive students around on your hog, if you want variety.
If that is what you want, be honest. Be like Jeter.
Say I don’t until you are ready to stop saying I do to every willing participant.