Check me out. I know I'm arm candy, a trophy husband, a pretty boy whose primary purpose is to look dynamite at court-side. And I've known it from the first week of my marriage to professional basketball player Rebecca Lobo, when I began receiving mail addressed, in all seriousness, to Steve Lobo. I've known it since my best friend in Minneapolis first called my wife and me "Dos Lobos." I knew it the minute my little brother in Chicago asked me, "So what are you, like, a WNBA ho?"
What I am is a WNBA husband, which is sometimes like being a baseball wife, but with fewer hair-care products. We are the unsung Schuman in Stacey Dales-Schuman, the anonymous Taylor in Charlotte Smith-Taylor. Except that I didn't get my name on the back of a Connecticut Sun uniform. As my unhyphenated wife, who uses her maiden name for basketball, explained, "My teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin took the only dash that the embroiderers allocated to the Sun."
She didn't say it to me, of course. I had to read that quote in the Denver Post because my wife is always on the road, which I imagine, in my worst moments, to be an endless minefield of himbos and hoochie papas.
And their house pets. A man recently approached Rebecca in a parking lot and said his cat was a big fan. Then he produced a photograph, taken eight years ago, of his little Whiskers, standing on his hind legs in front of the television set, as my wife's face filled the screen. That photo is now on our fridge. And you wonder why I worry?
Still, I persevere. I am Tommy Wynette singing Stand By Your Woman. And so I arrive with my wife two hours before every home game at the Mohegan Sun arena. More than once this season, to kill the time, I have repaired to the adjacent hotel spa and had my noggin trimmed with number 1 clippers while the rest of the building bustled with middle-aged women in curlers—cucumbers on eyes, dryers on heads, mud packs on face, cotton balls between toes, O magazines on laps. By late in the season I found myself dishing the dirt with the best of them.
Make no mistake: I do wear the pants in the family. But those pants are WNBA-logoed Houston Comets shorts tailored for a woman's body. (I jog in them.) Last week, while cleaning the basement, I found my wife's 1996 Olympic jerseys in a gym bag. After pulling down the shades, I tried one on, checking out my reflection in a chrome toaster. By contrast, my father—less secure in his manhood—has yet to wear the XXL New York Liberty shirt we gave him two years ago, perhaps because the back of it reads, A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE GARDEN.
Last year, the day after my wife was traded from the Liberty to Houston, we were eating lunch in New York when Regis Philbin stopped by the table and said, "Lobo! We're gonna miss you in New York, kiddo!" As she and Reege chatted, I sat there silently, as I always do, wearing a Harry Potter-style cloak of invisibility.
I'm not complaining. When my wife discussed antiinflammatories with Jason Sehorn one night, I idly swapped spouse-talk with Angie Harmon. When my wife played against Tim McGraw in a celebrity basketball game last spring, I sat on the sidelines with Faith Hill. Sublimating my own identity has seldom been so much fun.
Last season I followed Rebecca to Houston, and this season I followed her to Connecticut—where my wife is best known, and where I have happily settled in as Steve Lobo. Last month, when we were T-boned in a traffic accident, the other driver emerged from his truck and said, upon seeing the missus, "Wow, this is exciting."
Now I know how the other half lives. During the WNBA season the majority of men's rooms are converted to ladies' rooms in many arenas. "What I enjoy most are the three-quarter-mile walks to the bathroom," said my friend Bill Sullivan, husband of Cleveland Rockers guard Jen Rizzotti, speaking by cellphone on Saturday. At that moment Sully was in his car, choking on exhaust, following the Rockers' team bus from Cleveland to Detroit for Game 2 of his wife's playoff series. "This is who I am," sighed Sully, echoing the league's advertising tagline.