Sports Fandom: How I Became a Fan Series
Every few years, we like to look back on the history of the teams that we support (in some cases, become fanatics of, which I am not personally), the circuitous route that is sometimes taken to becoming a fan of certain teams. Everyone’s story is different, which makes this fun. Feel free to share your story. Here is mine.
1985, even though it was a “down” season for Lawrence Taylor in retrospect, his play jumped off the screen to me, as I was just 6 years old. No, I didn’t become a fan because of the hit that ended Theismann’s career. Again, my relative dislike (and even that is a strong word) for the arrogant Theismann didn’t develop until he began doing Sunday Night Football games on ESPN, where he was a know-it-all. 1986 solidified my support for the Giants, although I continued to have favorite players on other teams until my teen years, when rivalries became the centerpiece (excluding Deion Sanders when he went to San Francisco and Dallas).
Patrick Ewing. You had to have been around, either as a kid or someone older, of age, to understand how much gravity Ewing had on basketball in the early-mid 80s. All you heard was Georgetown was Ewing this, Ewing that, and Bernard King (who my dad constantly talked about, but I only got to watch play a handful of games with the Knicks with my own eyes live). Once the Knicks drafted Ewing, it was a wrap. I remembered King’s injury a few months before that draft, but I didn’t become a fan until Ewing was drafted that summer in 1985. Yes, I was always a Jordan supporter, and wanted him to do well as long as the Knicks won. Sometimes that happened, but more often than not — especially in playoffs — it did not.
I was not a day one Yankee fan. I grew up breaking my neck to see every Darryl Strawberry at bat that I could, and tried to catch every Dwight Gooden start that I could, and that occurred from 1985 when I began watching baseball (my grandmother used to play the tickets and even had me run them for the lady who would come to pay up when my grandmother’s tickets hit) during the 1985 playoffs when my sister and I were living with my grandmother that fall. I only became a Yankee fan (during their worst years) because Deion Sanders went there in 1989. Not sure that I would have become a fan otherwise. Probably would have become a Pirates fan if Deion had not come to the Bronx, as the Pirates had several players who I liked… Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke and a couple others.
Hockey has pissed me off over the years with their numerous lockouts. I’ve been watching hockey since about 1988, and remember when Ron Greschner and others left the team. I watched copious amounts of hockey in the 90s, as I was home sick for most of my high school years with my illness (was in bed sick as ever in June 1994, otherwise I might have missed the Stanley Cup title, while getting sicker watching NBC preempt a Knicks Game 5 with that OJ trash). But a series of lockouts in the past 15 years nearly caused me to stop watching altogether. After about 2001, I watched a couple of years, and then after the 2005 lockout, I stopped watching altogether until 2010, when I began watching religiously again.
Same as the Yankees, I was not day one with UConn. Not many are. Jim Calhoun is one of the greatest recruiters and coaches of all time, though. My original team (and I still support them) is North Carolina. I still have a beanie from 1982 that I got at the state fair. I became a UConn fan in 1994 when Donyell Marshall owned the Big East (my favorite conference, and the one I purported over the ACC even when I was living in ACC country and supported UNC, as some of my buddies from high school will tell you). I used to cut class every March to watch the Big East tournament (not the ACC tournament) and that was further solidified when Ray Allen came through, then Khalid El-Amin, then Rip Hamilton, then Caron Butler, then Emeka Okafor, then Ben Gordon, then Rudy Gay, then Kemba Walker, then Shabazz Napier, then Boatright, and now Kevin Ollie — who was on those teams that I originally became a fan of, is back as head coach and already has a national title under his belt.
Deion Sanders. Period. Before I learned that idolatry was an affront to God, I idolized #2. Wanted to, and eventually did, play corner because he did. Wore the same number in every sport that he did, high stepped like he did, ran faster than every one (except this one cat who I swear was juicing) through high school, but the aforementioned illness killed any hopes of playing sports collegiately. But from 1987 onward, I have been all about Garnet and Gold.
North Carolina Tar Heels.
I was born 9 miles away from Carmichael Auditorium (where the Heels played when I was born, before the Dean E. Smith Center was built), at DUKE HOSPITAL of all places. Yet I have hated Duke all of my life. Did not get to watch Jordan in college, and only got to watch a compromised Kenny Smith (after that dirty foul that broke his wrist vs. LSU, I believe it was), but those teams with King Rice, JR Reid and those guys were fun to watch. I did support them through the 1993 tournament run, but they have been secondary to UConn since that season.
I have always liked the Bolts. Not nearly on par with the Giants, but ever since they had Marion BUTTTSSSS (Chris Berman voice when he did Chargers highlights back then… BTW… FROMMMMMM???) and Junior Seau, I always supported them. Except, of course, when they faced the Giants; including that snowball game at Giants Stadium in the 90s. I even go back to 1986 when the Giants knocked the rat piss out of Dan Fouts, who ended up retiring the next year. But again, the Giants came first in that game, and every subsequent game when it’s G-Men/Bolts.