Life and Love Lessons from The Outback Bowl. Image of the 2016 Outback Bowl football field.

Living All-In (Life and Love Lessons from The Outback Bowl)

For  more than 16 weeks each year, I am a football widow. 

Not because my husband is an avid fan, but because he is an excellent collegiate football official. You can learn some interesting stuff hanging around football officials. Believe it or not, I’m not just talking the technical definition of targeting and was-that-offensive-pass-interference-or-wasn’t-it? You can actually learn some life and love lessons from these guys (and their wives).

When individual officials have exceptional seasons, they are often assigned post-season games. That’s how I met Gary and Jeanie—at the 2016 Outback Bowl.

We can all learn a thing or two from Gary and Jeanie. Because Gary and Jeanie are all-in. All-in love, all-in fitness, all-in work.

Gary and Jeanie are all-in when it comes to love.

My eyes widened when I learned they’ve been married 44 years. They seemed five years older than Tony Bear and me, not 15! Over the course of a week, I recognized how they managed to stay married so long.

Holding hands, finding one another across a crowd of tens of thousands, giggling: “I chased her and caught her when we were in college.”

“That’s not how it was. I caught him. How lucky I am!”

Gary and Jeanie are all-in when it comes to staying active.

On the field, Gary was the trimmest guy on the crew. “An hour a day he works out,” Jeanie told me as we watched the warm-up. “Often an hour and a half. Look at him. Does he seem a day over thirty?”

Jeanie never said what her fitness routine was, but she mentioned playing softball and ladies’ flag football. And modeling. I could see that. With her height, slender figure, and swingy blonde hair, she was lovely.

Tony Bear and Gary are all-in for officiating football.

All the way down and back to Clearwater for Beach Day, the guys talked football—rules, mechanics, statistics.

I know how many hours a week my husband studies the college football rulebook, ponders plays over the phone with other officials, and watches game film. I have no doubt Gary does the same. At this level, the officials are extremely committed to professional excellence.

Jeanie loves her job as well. She writes, practices, and performs in musical productions with two different groups of women.

She proudly described a 2015 show in a high-security women’s prison. “It was the most appreciative audience we ever had.” Jeanie is all-in for her job.

 Being all-in produces passion.

And passion is attractive. The thing about being all-in is it makes you feel alive, young, no matter how old you are. Who doesn’t want to feel young and alive? Or be around someone who does?

The thing about being all-in is it makes anything possible.

All-in people don’t ask, why. They ask, why not? Or, why not me? And, what will it take to get what I want: a better marriage, better health, my dream job?

What questions will you ask yourself in 2018?

Whatever you choose to pursue this coming year, know I’m rooting for you.

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