Fame was a lit match in a pool of gasoline

As I have written before, my ex-husband is a nationally known NFL sports writer. For years he has mingled with famous coaches, players and hangers-on all over the country. His opinion is sought after by radio shows and TV hosts. He has access to games, locker rooms and players’ personal lives. He has the best seats on Sundays. He has interviewed all the big name players current and past, including all the famous players of this year’s Super Bowl match up.

This has given him a certain amount of unearned credibility in a lot of areas, but for starters, as some sort of an athlete. However, he never played the sport, or any other sport growing up. He never coached the sport and never held a job related to the sport except as a reporter watching the game. And as a reporter, this is OK because he is not hired to catch touchdown passes or call plays. He is simply hired to write about what he sees.

However, over the years, there have been a number of players, coaches, and NFL administrators who have no respect for my ex because they wonder how this out of shape old guy thinks he has something to say about what they do for a living. For a while, I saw it as part of the deal and as a working journalist myself, I felt that it was OK. My ex was a good reporter, aggressive and willing to dig. That means something in the journalism world.

There were times when my ex-husband’s job was difficult to live with, though. He traveled a lot and when he was home, he worked a lot. He rarely took a day off, even when we went on vacation. His arrogance got him trouble at work from time to time, too, and he was nearly fired several times. Once, a player angry with what he had written about him, slammed him up against the wall in the locker room. That was a weird day. He became the story that day as reporters from all over the country called him for quotes about how he felt about a player crossing the line. Of course, it was horribly ironic and hard to digest that when he was treated the way that he had been treating me… well, it didn’t feel good. No one said to my ex “Well, you must have deserved it because you are such an ass.”… No, his boss, the NFL and the team demanded that the player apologize, which he did and my ex accepted, mostly.

There were a number of situations that came up through the years. Once my ex ticked off a radio host, I have no idea what about, and the host said on the air that my ex-husband shouldn’t have fathered our two-year-old son. I didn’t find out about it for several months because my ex didn’t tell me. But when I did, I call that radio host and told him to leave my child out of their ridiculous sports talk banter. He said he was sorry and he said he would never do it again. My ex thought I was overreacting.

He nearly lost his job one year when he ticked off an owner for his unprofessional blustering one night in a hotel bar and the owner called him out during a press conference. Owners, coaches and players call out reporters all the time for things they write, but this time it was about my husband’s behavior and I worried about the outcome for him with his boss. I also worried that my children might have to answer to it at school.

And just days after the birth of my second child, my ex and I both got in trouble because he refused to do a story called in to him at 10 at night. When it was clear that he was expected to do the story, he blamed me to his boss, my boss, and worked to keep his job. I was hurt, but went along with it because we needed that paycheck.

In the beginning of our marriage, my ex-husband used to tell me that he would not stay in the job for much longer because it wouldn’t work as we built our family. Covering the NFL included a lot of travel, long hours and little time for a home life. I agreed and believed that he meant what he said.

But when we started having children, my ex-husband changed his mind. He was no longer willing to give it up. Despite the few bumps in the road, my ex loved the limelight and the credibility that he otherwise would not have had. Like many men, he was becoming the job and the benefits of that were too hard to give up. For a while, I pushed for him to fulfill his promise of a less demanding job. I wanted a husband who would be there for Thanksgiving and Christmas, birthdays and important events in our lives. But after a while, I stopped asking and accepted that this was what made him happy.

But it didn’t just make him happy. It helped cover his insecurities. He gave him a sense of belonging and it gave him a sense that he was smarter, stronger, famous, different than most people and above it all. From the day I met him, he was always arrogant, but there was something more. In the mind of an abuser, this is a toxic mix. Abusers, I’ve since learned, believe they are “better” than everyone else and don’t have to follow the same rules as everyone else. Abuser believe that when they hit, it was deserved and that they are not the same as all the other abusers. My ex was getting nearly daily reinforcement that he was “special” because of his job. And to use an old phrase from my journalism days… He started to believe his own press.

The more fame he aquired, the less he cared about what he was doing to me. The more he believed that he was the victim to put up with such a witch for a wife and he was the one who was abused. He became more willing to physically hurt me because how dare I tell him anything or stand in his way to do anything he wants.

I really don’t know what would have happened if he had worked a more normal job. Maybe he still would have hit me. Certainly the first time he did hit me, he was just starting out and not that well known. But I believe that the dozens and dozens of people who stopped him in the store, or church, or anywhere we went to get his comments on his latest article, and his proximity to superstars and their lifestyle, led him to believe he was entitled to whatever he wanted and when I was in the way of that, well… I had no business getting in his way. I was wrong, in his eyes.

I have since learned a lot about domestic violence and the mind of an abuser and really, its likely that he would have hit me whether he was a sports writer or a truck driver, because the traits of the abuser are the same, but having a level of fame was just a flame to a pool of gasoline in our lives.

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