A Love Affair With Sports

When did your love affair with sports begin? What was the moment you started to pay attention? When you began to alter your daily schedule according to the television schedule? When the sports section of the newspaper took on a dog-eared appearance every day? Did you experience a courtship? Or did one single moment change everything?

For me 1972 comes to mind. I was seven.

Being the youngest of six children and having two older brothers, sports played a part in my daily life. We grew up in the minor league haven known as Rochester. I attended my first Rochester Red Wings game at the age of three. I have zero recollection of that game’s events, but I still have the batting helmet from the night’s giveaway. In 1970 Bobby Orr led the Bruins to the Cup. Two years later they repeated. These images swirl in my mind but never really take hold. I could sense at that young age the thrill of sports.

A few months after Johnny Bucyck hoisted the Cup, the 1972 Munich Olympics took place. Mark Spitz won seven gold medals. David Wottle donned a golf cap and won the 800 metre run. And terrorists stormed the Olympic village. Those images stick in my craw.

I remember wanting to be the next David Wottle. I remember trying to simulate swimming workouts in our backyard, circular pool. I remember staring at the images of hooded men holding guns.

Suddenly, regular television didn’t matter any more. I was hooked on sports. I still watched Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle and Rocky, but the box scores were now on my lap for perusal during the commercials. Mel Allen and This Week In Baseball became a staple in my routine. I found an old radio laying around the house and put it on the night stand, so I could go to sleep at night listening to whatever sporting event was broadcast.

The following year, 1973, Jim Fuller with his mutton chops (thank heavens that look vanished before I could grow facial hair) slugged 39 round-trippers for the Red Wings. The Mets brought ‘Say Hey’ back to New York (I loved the ’73 Mets). O.J. (two decades before the white Bronco) rushed for 2,003. The Rochester Lancers played in the NASL. And I couldn’t get enough of sports.

22 Responses to "A Love Affair With Sports"

  1. DG   April 22, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    I have no recollection of a single time, a single day, or even a single year in which I fell in love with sports. Maybe it was the fact that growing up as a kid my father was always watching sports or always reading about sports and talking to me about sports.

    But there are many vivid moments that stick in my mind as to what has continued my love affair.

    Growing up as a child of the 80’s and 90’s was there a better time for the NBA. Magic, Larry, Michael, Zeek, Ewing, Barkley. I might as well name the entire Dream Team. On a side note that was the only Dream Team and will be the only Dream Team in my mind. The showtime Lakers come on, Magic runnin the point watchin them get up and down the floor nothing better. Or the classic Lakers vs. Celtics battles with Larry and Magic squaring off, on the parque of the Boston Garden. I am getting the chills just talking about this stuff.

    Or how about the countless Cubs games that my dad and I watched and hearing some of the most classic commentating by the most exciting color commentator in baseball history. Mind you I did not say the best I said the most exciting. For example Cubs are in the field guy on first and second with one out. A hot shot line drive is hit to Mark Grace at first base. This is how Harry called it “Woah, Woah Woah Woah and that ends the inning. Or the time where there was a shallow fly ball in to right field and Mark Grace catches it for an out. Fly ball Grace back, way back and he’s got it. Thank god I was watching at this point because if I was listening to the call I would have thought that Mark Grace sprinted from first base to the outfield wall and pulled a home run back.

    Or what about March madness the most exciting month in sports. This may make a few people mad but the Laettner shot against Kentucky. I was at my friend Robby’s house my sister was babysitting us and I remember pacing the floor saying that I couldn’t believe the game was over. Ball is inbounded and Laettner catches it one dribble fake spine to the left turns right shot up. IT’s GOOD. In the words of Abbey Gotham, Laettner count it. I remember sprinting around my friends house in sheer joy and excitement screaming at the top of my lungs.

    I am sure there are so many more stories that I could share about sports, but even the ones I named at the top still don’t top the one thing I still can remeber growing up as a kid. I remember going to Silver stadium with my family walking down the brick streets to get there. Racing up the ramp to get to the General admission seats and racing down them to get out of the stadium after the game was over. Or the smell of popcorn and pizza and the dogs as you were about a block away from the stadium. Stomping our feet on the metal bleachers to make noise. Or the outfield wall with all the advertising on them. Going to playoff games and staying till the end even though I had school the next day, but it didn’t matter because the Wings might make it to the Governor’s Cup or better yet win the Governor’s Cup.

    On a last note please bring Bob Ucher and Bob Costas back to do the World Series there was no one better.

  2. Dave Scheer   April 22, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    My love affair with baseball started when I was 4 and dad let me use his bat to try and hit his underhand softball pitches. My dad is from Brooklyn and was a Dodger fan not a Yankee fan. So a few years later in 1958 when I was 9, the Yanks were playing the Braves in the Series when I saw the name of a Brave batter flash up on the TV screen. His name began with double A and I thought that looked so cool, so I started rooting for Hamerin’ Hank and the Braves and hated the NYY. Little did I know at the time how great that “double A” player would be!

  3. Casey   April 22, 2007 at 2:35 pm

    DG – thanks for the memories. Please come back often and contribute to the discussions. I have some concrete memories of the General Admission section of Silver Stadium; ask me to show you sometime. Actually, remind on May 19th during the cookout.

    Bird and Magic – great stuff. Nothing like NBA hoops in the 1980’s.

    Any time you feel like discussing Laettner’s shot, let me know. I am all ears.

    Peace

  4. Casey   April 22, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    Dave Scheer,

    Great narration. We are truly spanning the generations here. Hammerin’ Hank – the man!

  5. Aaron   April 22, 2007 at 9:48 pm

    My love affair with sports and when did it start? Wow, what a question. While I am like DG, I can’t pinpoint a specific event, but a flood memories just come up that I am not sure I can write them all down.

    I should probably start with the man who wanted to hold off rushing my pregant Mother to the hospital because Joe Namath was on.. Hmm, now that I think about it – maybe that was the moment…

    But Dad was the reason. He was the one whoe took me to my first Red Wing games ( I think then I was part of the Knothole Gang and got in for really cheap), my first Buffalo Bills game, Buffalo Sabres game and the list goes on..

    I remember the family trip to Toronto one April that coincided with a Blue Jays game against the Brewers. Yes, Robin Yount, Cecil Cooper, Paul Molitor, but I remember being fascinated Rollie Fingers. A couple of years later on our way up to a soccer tournament in Canada, we went early enough to catch a Blue Jays/Royal games. It rained most of the game. Most people would have gone home, but we stuck it out And to this day I remember 5 feet of fence being between me and a HR ball hit by George Brett.

    But there was trips to Silver to see Cal Ripken Jr. play because you knew he was going to be special. A trip to Shea to see Strawberry, Gooden and Co… Trips to Cooperstown and Babe Ruth’s house.

    I remember trips to see the Sabres play and especially against the Edmonton Oilers..It was a school night, but we went because how many chances do you get to see The Great One.. Then we stayed AFTER the game and hung outside the Oilers locker room to get autographs. Remembering how polite Mark Messier was to me, still sticks in my mind about how athletes should be to kids.

    I rememeber playing baseball 1 on 1 in the street with my brother. We both picked teams and went through the lineup.. If the guy up with a lefty, you hit lefty, if he was a righty…well you get the point. I should mention that this originated down in my grandparents’ Flower City basement. A certain uncle and I would throw the ball as hard as we could and try to hit it.. And the mound was a lot closer. That is probably why I wasn’t phased the first time I saw a 90 mile pitch. I had them coming at me in the basement alot earlier. And once in awhile, unintentional or not, there were a few HBPs. Left a mark for sure.

    I remember sitting in the living room at Clay Ave. watching a Duke knock off an undefeated UNLV. I also got to see an uncle take off out of the house yelling.. A year later, my friends in college taped the Duke/Kentucky game because I was in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. How good of friends’ were they? Not only did they not tell me the score or talk about the game, but they hid the paper so I wouldn’t see it, threatened all of the neighbors about talking about it, and WATCHED the game with me.. But a weekend later they were against me, root against Duke.

    I remember watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice.. I remember listening to Al Michael’s famous call and wanted to be sportscaster after that. I practiced on Cub games and any other for that matter. But I realized I wasn’t very good and gave the dream up.

    So many memories come up…Trips to Fenway before I moved to Boston.. A weekend at Wrigley…As far as I am concerned, I have had the fortune of going to the top 4 existing in the major leagues – Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Wrigley and Dodger Stadium.. I have been to 3 ALDS games and the Sox are 3-0..including a Big Papi’s walkoff in the 10th against the Yankees. I have been to a couple of Yankees/Red Sox games and I am not sure you witness a game until you get to witness that rivalry. I have been at Silver Stadium when the Red Wings were down 9-0 or was it 11-1? I don’t remember.. Point is, most people wanted to go, my uncle and I didn’t.. And we were rewarded with a come from behind win..

    I have had the fortune of playing my own games in Holleder Stadium and Silver Stadium.. I remember having goosebumps when we were able to go on the field. Furhermore, during BP, I went over and stood on the left side of the infield. When it was commented that I didn’t play 3rd or SS (being a lefty – can’t), I just told them I wanted to stand on the ground that Ripken Jr. once stood on. They told me I was crazy, but it meant that much more to me. I remember walking up to plate and hearing my name over the PA gave me goosebumps and I almost jumped out of my shoes at the first pitch. Fortunately, I let it go and settle for next pitch… Lined to RF for a base hit. Later on I flew out to the base of the wall and realized how special it was for players to hit one of there.

    So many memories, but I have to attribute the start to my father….. and my mother. While for awhile she made sure there was a balance, in the end, she has become a fan too..

    Great topic Casey!!

  6. Casey   April 22, 2007 at 10:55 pm

    Aaron,
    I still have the ticket stub from that Red Wings comeback. Ricky Gutierrez hit the bases-clearing triple that won the game.

  7. Casey   April 23, 2007 at 1:39 pm

    My sports light bulb turned on in a big way in 1970 at age 6. Attended my first pro baseball game … a night game at the old Comiskey Park. Driving north on the Dan Ryan Expressway after passing the overpass at 63rd street you could see the mammoth set of lights on and that in itself was impressive. Got off the highway at 35th street, parked, and walked up to this brilliant white cathedral and the bright lights made it even more awe-inspiring. WOW! Could it be even better inside??? YEEEESSSSSS!

    Vividly remember walking up the ramp from below the grandstands to see the field for the first time. Double WOW!!! The natural green outfield grass contrasted nicely with the clay infield dirt and of course the fake green of the artificial infield. Yes, at that time, the WhiteSox had artifial turf on the infield, but they left all the basepaths and where the infielders roamed to be the regular clay as in most natural fields. Truly unique. And so well groomed as to be truly “major league”.

    The smell of beer, brats, cigarette and cigar smoke permeated the air. That is the smell of true baseball stadiums and one of the things I will always remember fondly about the old Comiskey Park. And the old exploding scoreboard was magnificent!!! Comiskey also had these unique “windows” without glass cut out around the entire stadium … they looked like huge cannon turrets and were also unqiue.

    The WhiteSox wore white home uni’s with red pinstripes, red stirrups and red shoes. Who else wore red baseball shoes at that time??? Those were totally cool.

    And then there was Dick Allen … recently brought over from the Phillies to play first base. Clearly the coolest dude on the field and he was my baseball idol for the next couple of years. He was about 6’4″ and although svelte, he was very powerful yet graceful in everything he did. Plus he wore a batting helmet (without ear covers) in the field and always wore cool shades … even for night games. He reportedly swung the heaviest bat in baseball at that time and the way he wagged the bat waiting for the pitcher to get set was somthing I emulated for the next several years. AND HE WAS REALLY GOOD. He hit a HR that night, which of course set off the exploding scoreboard. Boom. Boo-Boo-Boom! Boo-Boo-Boom. Fireworks at night in what is still my favorite baseball cathedral due to a HR by the coolest dude in baseball.

    From that day on, I knew I wanted to be a ballplayer.

    Wally

  8. Casey   April 23, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Similar to Casey, the early 70’s were really special … the first kiss, if you will, with this thing I really love (sports). The first “real” football game I attended, other than local high school, was a pilgrimmage to Notre Dame in early November of ’73 when I was just short of 10. Until then, ND football was in our household either on the radio or on those Sunday morning replays, so it left alot to the imagination. With Ara Perseghian at the helm in those days, ND football seemed bigger than the NFL to me and they were “my team”. Dad was a big fan, I think mainly due to his brother having gone there, but ND was so popular where I grew up that I thought they were a Chicago pro team … only better. The helmets were, well, just gold … no emblem … and I thought that was pretty cool, too. Having just come off a huge Cotton Bowl upset of Texas to win the national championship, the Irish were college football in my small world. I did wonder for awhile if everyone on the team had to meet the requirements of at least having some Irish ancestry. Ross Browner didn’t “look Irish” though 🙂

    It was a rainy cold day. My uncle Jim drove me and my grandpa to the game. Remember seeing the Golden Dome for first time and thinking “That’s nice, now where’s the stadium?” Navy was the opponent that day and I didn’t yet have the appreciation that ND should walk all over them, but I guess it wasn’t too far removed from the Roger Staubach-led upset from a few years earlier.

    I remember sitting in seats on about the 40 yard line and we were shielded from the rain due to being just under the press box. (My first indication that my uncle knew important people on campus). Impressions from the game were that it was alot faster and more violent than I thought. The ND team looked awesome in the navy blue and gold uniforms.

    Little did I know at that time that a student named Daniel “Rudy” Reuttiger would play there in a “famous game” in a few years or that this was the first of literally dozens of games that I would witness at ND stadium. I believe the NCAA investigated and my visit was counted as a recruiting violation and my uncle was sanctioned 🙂

    Thanks, Paul, for waking up the echoes …

    Wally

  9. Casey   April 23, 2007 at 6:19 pm

    No Wally, thank you. There is no doubt you were born to write. If I haven’t already said this, thanks for taking me to a game at the old Comiskey – a true cathedral. The ChiSox played the Royals that night. I still have my ticket stub. Bo Jackson roamed left for KC, and he made an amazing throw to third from the base of the wall.

  10. BG   April 23, 2007 at 7:03 pm

    Hmm…Do Aaron & Paul remember their mother & sister bringing them to the Red Wings’ Opening Day? How about fishing on Sandy Creek, untangling fishing lines or better yet, fishing for skateboards in Maplewood?

    For me…helping my dad build the hockey rink in our backyard, wearing boys’ hockey skates just because I was told they were better, saving my money for girls’ figure skates just because I knew they were what I wanted…

    NOT playing softball in Maplewood!

    Falling asleep listening to the Montreal Canadiens’ game broadcast on my hand-me-down radio…

    Riding a bike to the Rose Garden or Dewey Avenue Library when none of my friends would be caught dead riding anywhere…

  11. Casey   April 23, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    Great memory, Paul. An all-time classic uniform: the Royals’ away game powder blues with white script … made famous by George “Pine Tar” Brett, Freddie “Is he really that short?” Patek, Frank White, Al Cowens and Big John Mayberry. Could it be possible that the Royals were a dynasty without really being a dynasty back then??? I think of them as the precursor to the Atlanta Braves of today … great pitching, a winning tradition, won a World Series, seemed to always lose in the AL playoffs … when it was only the East vs the West division. They assumed control in the West for about 10-12 years after the A’s dynasty disappeared. I should know … my WhiteSox were always finishing 2nd to them or the A’s. Now KC is just a struggling “small-market” wannabe. My, how times have changed for them and Pittsburgh and ….

    Wally

  12. Casey   April 23, 2007 at 9:19 pm

    BG – I remember the opening day at Silver. Dallas Williams played center and led off the season with a shot just inside the right field pole. It was 1981.

  13. Muels   April 23, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Thanks Paul- finally made it in! My memories of sports as a kid are more about PLAYING, not so much watching. First point of note is the changing of my mind at age 8 to sign up for summer soccer instead of little league baseball. Lost our first game 1-0 with me in goal… cried like a a a a, well, an 8 year old when they scored on me. That was the LAST time that happened. My summer days growing up found me being the organizer and scheduler of the daily neighberhood game, be it soccer, baseball, football, tag, etc, etc. If I didn’t schedule something then we didn’t play. As far as watching games, my first memory is Pudge Fisk with the extreme body language coaxing that ’75 World Series game 6 winning homer. The consistant theme of dispair would soon follow with game 7. But I am not here to whine… Thanks for the vine, Van Smack!

    Muels

  14. Aaron   April 24, 2007 at 10:17 am

    Funny, I barely remember that game, but it explains the program I have tucked away..

  15. Casey   April 24, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    Muels,

    Welcome aboard!!! When you say last time to happen, do you mean losing or crying?

    Pickup games at the park – wonderful memories. Might lead me into another full participation for later.

    ’75 WS – 12th inning? YOu made it that far? Good Lord I tuckered out soon after Carbo’s blast.

  16. Monty   April 24, 2007 at 8:07 pm

    I think my “love” of sports can be traced to a specific day; December 28, 1958. I was 7 years old. We had a TV on a table that swiveled between the dining room and the parlor. On that day, while the rest of the family stayed in the dining room to finish dinner and talk, I swung the swivel stand to the parlor and watched the end of the NFL championship game. The game went overtime, and when Alan Ameche scored that final TD, I cried. My NY Football Giants had lost. It was bitter, but it made me realize how important sports were in my life. The memory is still so vivid, aided greatly by the replays I have seen over the years. All of my love of sports and of football in particular trace to that evening.

  17. Casey   April 24, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    Monty,
    Thanks for adding that memory to banquet table. Ah yes, this is becoming quite the selection.
    Keep ’em coming!

  18. Monty Jr.   April 26, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    It should come as no surprise that the inaugural moment in my sports love affair involves Notre Dame football.

    It was definitely my father that taught me that it was perfectly natural to have a love affair with sports. For starters, we couldn’t answer the phone during a Notre Dame football game, due to a past incident between my father and my grandfather that, believe it or not, directly cost Notre Dame a victory. So, the rule was set; nobody answered the phone, or made a call, during a Notre Dame football game. (That rule is still strictly adhered to today in our family.)

    But, my favorite memory of my father and Notre Dame football also happens to be the defining moment in my sports love affair.

    New Year’s Day. 1991. The Orange Bowl. Notre Dame vs. Colorado.

    I’ll forever carry the memory of my dad jumping off the couch, and with nothing else to do to express his excitement, he flopped down on the living room floor and began pounding his fists and kicking his feet, as he cheered on The Rocket, returning a punt for a touchdown with one minute left in the game to give the Irish a victory in the Orange Bowl.

    The fists of pounding excitement quickly turned to fists of pounding rage. The return was called back, for what Irish faithful refer to as “the phantom clipping” call. Watch for yourself, do you see the clipping anywhere?
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=sqC_Br3cDJg
    Watch it again. It never happened.

    But it was that night, after the game, that I remember first feeling the pull of sports and the obsession and the love. I guess it takes a broken heart to know you’re in love. I couldn’t sleep that night. I laid in bed, one month shy of 10 years old, just trying my hardest to fall asleep. And all i could think was that when i woke up in the morning, i would go downstairs and the newspaper would have a headline reading “Clipping Call Reviewed: Irish Win”. I just wanted to wake up and hear that the call had been reversed and that the Irish had won. I think it was that thought that helped me fall asleep that night, because i knew the sooner i fell asleep, the sooner i could wake up and maybe, just maybe, i wouldn’t have to deal with the heartache of the Irish loss.

  19. Casey   April 26, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Monty Jr.,

    Bravo! Bravo! I am on image overload. I am picturing the fists and feet pounding as I am typing. Great stuff. I vividly remember that game and trying to stay quiet because of the sleeping babies. You are right: there is no clip!

    Paul

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  21. Evan P   February 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    I was sober with my idiot college friend downtown at a bar when Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinals started.

    I went home with the same friend (now drunk and even stupid-er) and could not believe the game was still going on.

    I have no memory of what happened that night other than those 2 events; Checking the score in period 1 and thinking it must be over at 2 in the morning ( or whatever time 21 year olds come home on a Saturday night). It was not.

    “Unbelievable!” we cried as we passed out (I hope).

    My love for sports started way before then. I always think that of story when I see , “I was” and ‘when” together on the sports blog.

  22. Casey   February 28, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Cleef,

    I did not make it out that night. Cardinal Points had the end-of the-year gathering. I told everyone as the party was breaking up, I’ll see you downtown when the Isles finish this game in OT. I fell asleep between the third and fourth OTperiods. I woke the next morning at about seven on my friend’s couch (pile of empty cans next to me) and realized I didn’t know who won. This was before CNN. And ESPN was yet a on all cable providers. Made the phone call home – dad knew the score.

    Casey

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