As faith fades, it’s the couple that cheers together that stays together

Religion News Service | 9/25/2018 | Staff
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(RNS) — Amy Defibaugh was raised as a Presbyterian, as was her longtime partner, Jeremy Gillam.

But it wasn’t religion that helped cement their initial bond: It was hockey.

Washington - DC - Defibaugh - Candidate - Religion

Having grown up just outside of Washington, D.C., Defibaugh, now a doctoral candidate in religion at Temple University, is a staunch Capitals fan. Gillam, a native of suburban Philadelphia, is the life skills and healthy living coach for the Philadelphia nonprofit Snider Hockey. He is also a committed Flyers booster.

Though avid fans, they don’t let it come between them.

Tense - Playoff - Time - Teams - Running

It might get a little “tense” around playoff time, if their two teams are in the running, said Defibaugh. But the nerves are never directed at their partner, she said.

These days, neither is currently affiliated with a religious institution. Gillam described himself as “spiritual” and said he tries to find ways to integrate the principles of Eastern religions such as Buddhism as well as Christianity into his daily life. Defibaugh said her personal practice is focused now on home rituals.

Fandom - Lot - Community - Belonging - Defibaugh

“For me, it (fandom) has a lot to do with community and belonging, whether it’s imagined or not,” said Defibaugh.

In their passionate attachment to their sports “families,” Gillam and Defibaugh are by no means unique. As religious attachments have waned as a determinant of whom Americans choose to pair with, team loyalty has persisted.

Number - Americans - Partner - Sports - Religion

For a sizable number of Americans, agreeing with their partner about sports is more important than agreeing about religion, according to an online survey about relationships conducted last spring for Fathead, a company that sells oversized wall decorations of sports stars and other pop culture.

The survey found that approximately 25 percent of women and 41 percent of men said it was more important to have a partner who rooted for the same team than one who shared the same religious perspective.

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