Free Agents of Love

I have always contended that being in a relationship is akin to being a Restricted Free Agent.  The problem with this argument is 1) Most women don’t know what the hell a RFA is, and 2) Even most people who understand the NFL’s CBA can’t quite grasp the concept of someone in a committed relationship being a “free agent.”  So, for the sake of both women who don’t understand free agency and men who don’t understand relationships, here is the definitive comparison of relationships to the world of professional sports contract negotiations.

#1) When you’re single, you’re an Unrestricted Free Agent (duh).  This is the most obvious analogy.  When you’re single you’re free to pursue any team (i.e. piece of tail) you want to fall in the sack with.  Whether that team is interested in you is a different matter.  Occasionally a truly coveted asset will find themselves a UFA (at the end of a long contract, or due to a parting of ways with your old team), but usually if you’re an Unrestricted Free Agent it’s because nobody thinks you’re worth a whole helluva lot.

#2) When you enter into a relationship you become a Restricted Free Agent.  Although you are technically with someone, you are free to explore other options, you just can’t act upon them without giving fair warning to your partner.  In other words, the person you are dating has “right of first refusal.”  Although you are not locked into anything (you can be free as a bird with one simple break up conversation), societal norms and common decency demand that you inform your current partner of any outside offers and give them the chance to match that offer.

“Matching” an offer can take many different forms.  Maybe your partner isn’t fulfilling your needs– mentally, emotionally or sexually.  Maybe you have a chance with someone so ridiculously hot and out of your league that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Or maybe you’ve been offered a chance at a threesome.  These are all perfectly legitimate reasons to consider signing up with another team.  But remember, you have to give your current team a chance to match the offer.  And who knows, maybe your girlfriend will surprise you and match your threesome just to keep you under contract!

#3) Sometimes, after a lengthy courtship and months or even years of dating, there comes a point where you have to make a drastic decision on the course of your future.  It’s put up or shut up time.  You either have to walk away from the relationship or move to the next level.  That next level, of course, is getting engaged.  This is the equivalent of the Franchise Tag.  In football, teams can slap the Franchise Tag on a player and lock them up for one more year, during which time the player gets paid very handsomely (the average of the top 5 players at his position), and they are unable to look elsewhere or even talk to another team for that year.

The only difference between getting engaged and the Franchise Tag is that both parties have a say in getting engaged.  One person proposes, the other either accepts or denies.  With the Franchise Tag a team applies it to a player and there’s nothing they can do about it for one year.  But other than that they’re identical.  When you’re Franchised or engaged, there’s really no way out.  Breaking an engagement can be done, but it’s a long and painful process.  It will require alienating not just your partner but all of his/her family, all your mutual friends, everyone that bought you an engagement gift, etc. etc.  In other words, the “fans.”  For all intents and purposes you’re locked in for about a year.

If you’re happy with this arrangement, great.  This is just the first step to a long term deal.  If you prove your worth to your mate, then you’re ready for the next step…

#4) Marriage is the proverbial Long Term Contract.  Unless you’re a celebrity or you were drunk in Vegas, there’s no quick and easy way out of marriage.  Even if everything goes to total shit within two weeks of getting hitched, you can count on a couple years of pain and suffering before you can finally break out of that multi-year deal.  Basically, you’re stuck.

Now, I don’t want to make it sound too terrible.  Most marriages, like most Long Term Contracts, are mutually beneficial to both sides, make both parties extremely happy, and bring years of joy to not just both parties involved but their “fans” too.  But the fact remains that you’re locked in.  Don’t even think about looking to greener pastures.  To do so will only harm your relationship irrevocably and damage what should be the best years of your playing career.

#5) The Long Term Contract is important for another reason too.  Most all athletes will at some point suffer a serious injury that threatens their career.  A long term deal gives you security that you won’t be left without a team, alone and penniless.

In the Game of Life, pregnancy is that serious injury.  It’s a season-ending and possibly career-threatening injury.  How’s that, you ask?  Simple.  For women it’s fairly obvious: pregnancy ravages your body for at least 9 months, and some women just never recover their looks period.  On top of that, emotionally it makes you a wreck.  And lastly, having a kid is like tying a ball and chain round your ankle; any man who isn’t the father is going to view that excess baggage with a wary eye before jumping into any sort of Long Term Contract.  Not saying it can’t happen, but the deck is stacked against you.

For men, the damage to your body isn’t as severe (although who doesn’t know a man that let his workouts go to shit as soon as he was a daddy?), but the emotional component and the baggage of being a single dad are just as prevalent for a man as a woman.

So there you have it.  Everything in sports is a life analogy.  Or, more precisely, everything in life is a sports analogy.  Now get out there and find your Long Term Contract!

Edit: It’s been brought to my attention that the final line of my post (the “get out there and find your LTC.”) could be construed as gushy, sappy and I-want-to-fall-in-love-ish.  That was not my intent at all.  Remember, this is the guy who’s been single for over 98% of his life.  I’m not good at relationships, and what’s more, I do not believe AT ALL in trying to force one.  When it happens it happens.  That last line was just my normal, typical smart ass sense of humor.  I apologize if I made anyone feel like I was pimping for Hallmark.