The Trouble With Sports

Boston-StrongNeither of my parents were sports fans.  I’m not sure why, but they just never really got interested in them.  My brother and I both played sports in middle school and high school, and they would come out and cheer for us.  My dad did his best to coach my brother and me in our brief stints in little league.  He even tried to pretend he knew what he was doing while attempting to play softball in the church league.  That was humorous and just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

But I didn’t inherit a love of sports.  By all rights, I should have been a Brooklyn fan, after all, that’s where I was born.  So, by right, I should have been a Dodgers or Yankees fan.  I learned that my father had gone to some Dodgers games at Ebbets Field when he was a boy living in Brooklyn, but we never went to a baseball game together.  Mom didn’t really have a sport that she followed either.  So, everything that my brother and I learned about sports came from somewhere else.  All of our love (or lack thereof) of sports was outsourced to someone else.

Somewhere along the way, my brother and I became sports fans, not huge sports fans, but sports fans nonetheless.  I started out as a Yankees fan in baseball and was a Dallas Cowboys fan for football.  When you’re young, you will base your love of sports on anything, friends, distant relatives, a coach who was in the news, anything.  Those were the teams that I started out with, and I never watched any games…..well, maybe a Yankees game once in a while, enough to remember listening to Phil Rizzuto announcing the games.

Watching sports was always secondary to me.  Since it wasn’t instilled in me, it never became a priority…….until I discovered the Boston Red Sox.

I have to blame it on my brother.  One day, I just heard my brother talking about Dwight Evans, Jerry Remy, and a handful of other players that played for this team in Boston.  I looked up to my older brother, so naturally, I wanted to like what he liked.  The funny thing is, I don’t think he was really that serious about it, it didn’t really stick for him….but it did for me.

For years, I would listen to Red Sox games on the radio.  I would stay up late at night wondering if this could be the year.  I wondered that for a long time.  I subjected myself to the torment of thinking that somehow, they could win something.  I wondered and I wished, I wished and I wondered.  I asked myself how I could subject myself to such torment and torture…..but I kept going back.

I guess it was like a drug or some other addiction.  It’s kind of like the game of golf, all it takes is one good shot out of the 80 or 90 or 100 plus shots one hits in an 18 hole game to keep you coming back for more.  All it would take was one good game to get my imagination soaring.  But I was always left wanting.

I so vividly remember 2003.  My wife and I had been married for 2 years and we had been to a few games at Fenway during that time.  Tickets were kind of cheap as they hadn’t done anything significant (like win a World Series) in quite some time (86 years for a championship?).

They made it to the ALCS (American League Championship Series) only to face the hated Yankees.  It all came down to Game 7.  If you’re a baseball fan, you know how it played out.  Every Red Sox fan sure does.  8th inning, Pedro Martinez is still on the mound.  Grady Little (the Red Sox manager) comes out to talk to him and Martinez assures him that he’s still got something left (he didn’t).  It went down fast and the Yankees tied the ball game.  In extra innings, it was Aaron……….Boone who did the damage against Tim Wakefield.  Yes.  Aaron.  Boone.  Of course, Red Sox fans gave him an identical nickname that they had given to Bucky Dent so many years earlier.  The Yankees won in walkoff fashion, driving yet one more stake through the hearts of Red Sox fans everywhere.

The next year was different and there were high hopes.  Somewhere in there, I think it was a fight between A-Rod and Jason Varitek, the season turned around.  Something magical began to happen.  And finally, after 86 years, the curse was broken and the Boston Red Sox brought home a championship.  Like a true Red Sox fan, I doubted up until the last pitch.  Surely it couldn’t really happen, could it?  Could they possibly win it?  Could they possibly make amends for all of the turmoil that they had put their fans through.  I left the bathroom door open 20 feet from the TV in case I decided that dinner wouldn’t stay down in my stomach.

But…….they………WON!

That was enough.  As if I wasn’t hooked already.  It made me a believer.  I watched and followed them through another championship three years later.  I watched them do admirably.  I watched their historic collapse in 2012.  I watched the uncle of my high school friends drive them into the ground and lose an epic 93 games.  I hoped for next year.

So, here I sit.  This year was not supposed to be a year where they were contenders.  This was to be a rebuilding year.  But they kept winning.  They kept bonding.  They kept growing their beards.  And they won the American League East.  They earned the best record in baseball.

But what would become of them…….

This is the problem with sports, you always bank on some chance.  That chance doesn’t need to have Vegas odds either.  In fact, the kind of chance that sports fans bank on is probably more akin to the one in a million chance that Lloyd Christmas had with Mary Swanson in “Dumb and Dumber.”  Any chance will make you come back for more.

And that’s just what I’ve done, come back for more.  My heart rate speeds up.  My mood swings.  My appetite wanes.  It’s like the greatest emotional roller coaster that anyone could find themselves on, and yet, we keep coming back for more.

There have been times where I’ve just had to walk away.  My heart couldn’t take it, literally.  My family couldn’t take it.  I couldn’t take it.  It’s a cardiovascular workout without the heavy machinery or the fancy workout clothing.  And I keep coming back for more.

Nope, my parents weren’t sports fans.  Do I think that they missed something?  Maybe, but I can tell you that the heartaches that they endured in life weren’t over a dumb sports team.  That’s been my lot in life, and I wonder if I will pass it on to my kids…..

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