By Aaron Earls
When Jesus was speaking about a “house divided,” He probably didn’t have college football in mind. But fandoms can cause issues for couples when they cheer for rival teams.
Since they’ve been married, Chris and Katie Orr have only faced three Saturdays when the Florida Gators and Auburn Tigers have lined up against each other.
Following his dad, Chris has been a Florida fan since he was a kid. When he met Katie, she had just finished at Auburn. “That was actually one of the first things I knew about her,” he said, “that she was an Auburn fan.”
Despite their divergent football allegiances, they have a shared faith, which is more important to them. But that’s not the case for every American.
A study commissioned by sports poster company Fathead found many would rather their significant other share the same team than the same religion. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, men were more likely to say the team trumped faith.
Fifty-nine percent of men say having the same religious views is more important, while 41 percent say their team is no. 1. For women, 75 percent ay the religious views are more important with 25 percent saying the sports team.
Fewer Americans say sharing a sports team is more important than sharing political views. Seventy-nine percent of women and 70 percent of men say having the same thoughts on politics is more important than having the same sports fandom.
Still 21 percent of women and 31 percent of men say having a partner who is a fan of the same team is more important than sharing political views.
Men are also more likely than women to say they wish their partner cared more about sports—31 percent to 13 percent. Women are more likely to say the opposite. Almost a quarter of women (22 percent) say they wish their significant other cared less about sports. Only 8 percent of men say the same.
For Orr, pastor of Grand Island Baptist Church, his faith helps him keep sports in the right place.
“It is fun to get really into the games while they are being played, but at the end of the day those kids are 18- to 21-year-olds playing a game that is meant to be fun,” he said. “When I think about the idea that God has called me to participate in His plans for reaching the world for Christ, that puts everything in perspective.”
Orr gives four pieces of advice to other mixed-team marriages.
“If you treat sports like an idol, don’t be surprised when your kids don’t take faith as seriously as you would like them to.”Have the right foundation to your relationship. “If your sports connection is more important than your spiritual connection, you’ve built your marriage on the wrong foundation,” he said. “If your marriage is built on the right foundation, does it really matter who your spouse cheers for?”
Make it fun for the family. Chris said Katie does a good job of making games fun for their kids as she teaches them the traditions and pageantry. “The one thing you don’t want is for your children to dread college football because of who their parents turn into on game day,” he said.
Make sure the kids understand sports’ place. “If you treat sports like an idol, don’t be surprised when your kids don’t take faith as seriously as you would like them to,” he said.
If you place the priority on sports, Orr said you can subtly teach your children that there are other things more important than their relationship with God.
Cheer for your spouse’s team—when they aren’t playing your own. This might be Orr’s most controversial bit of advice, but he said it has worked out for him.
“The night I asked Katie to marry me, I gave her several presents. One was a fitted Auburn hat for me,” Orr said. “I told her that what was important to her was important to me. That didn’t mean I planned on converting my allegiance, but it paid dividends.”
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.