Becoming A Fan
Periodically someone will ask how I became a sports fan because I do not fit the sports fan stereotype. The answer is remarkably simple: I have no idea. But I do know when I could first trace my sports interest – inside the pages of Scholastic School News, Middle School Edition. In an attempt to quiet the noisy and rather odoriferous tweens, Mrs. Travis handed out the monthly magazines and asked everyone to complete the geography puzzle – name all twenty-eight cities represented in the National Football League. Primarily, my strength in this competition lied in my photographic memory of the United States map, but nonetheless I bested every boy in my class because I did know every team name to accompany the major American cities from Florida to Seattle. I blew those boys away because I knew the Browns played in Cleveland.
In the autumn of 1994, History 316 (United States History 1896-1919) piqued my interest in a quirky and under-studied period of Americana. From post-reconstruction to The Great War, the course covered heavily significant and momentous events such as the Spanish-American war and World War I, but the class also brought modern American culture to life during the Progressive era. During that semester, with Major League Baseball threatening to take away my beloved October Classic to a labor dispute, I poured my love of the game into a term paper on the transition of baseball to the modern era, as well as my overall academic effort. In my own words, I proclaimed my fandom and confirmed my passion for the boys of summer, and garnered an A for the effort.
On the three-hour drive from Melbourne to Miami, after surprising my boys with tickets to the Dolphins v. Jets on Christmas night, we play Hank Williams Jr. on continuous repeat to make undeniably sure that we are ready for some football – a Monday Night party. A line of damaging thunderstorms drives through Dolphin Stadium just after we sit down with our food and passes by game time. Of course the Dolphins’ last game of the season falls in the “L” column and the passing weather turned the dirt parking lot into a mud bog, but the presence of Dan Marino and Don Shula at halftime captures our football fanaticism.
But my heart belongs to baseball and the crown jewel: The World Series. The uncertainty of the yet-to-be-determined playoff sites challenges my travel-planning skills unlike my pilgrimage to Cooperstown (see “The Mile High Club” from December 2011). After four years of preparing, with a round-trip, frequent-flyer ticket in my virtual pocket, and a landmark birthday just around the river bend, I begin watching every play of the ALDS, the NLDS, the ALCS, the NLCS. I enter every team’s ticket lottery just for the opportunity to buy the one golden ticket that will admit me to baseball heaven. By the end of the pennant race, the baseball gods smile down upon me and place the World Series in my own backyard. Sitting behind home plate, cheering my team on its own albeit-AstroTurf, sipping my beer and nibbling my hot dog, checking the top box off my bucket list, and getting chills throughout every moment of the experience undoubtedly confirms I am a fan.