Yesterday, I expressed my desire on Facebook that everyone have fun regardless of whether or not they would be watching the Super Bowl. I then pointed out that I would not be watching the game and was asked why.
It was that question, in combination with reading a post on a blog that I follow that got me thinking about my relationship to sports. For better or worse, this post is an overview of my history with sports and how I consume them.
This is the last paragraph of this article that I am writing but I’m putting it here to explain what you are about to read. At some point I decided to compare my sports team relationships to my romantic relationships. Amazingly, I was able to think of a romantic relationship of mine that ran parallel to a sports relationship of mine, although only in 3 cases. There is no exact parallel between my relationship to the Braves and an actual romantic relationship I’ve been in. I outlined my romantic history here and will leave it up to you to figure out which of my former girlfriends matches up with my relationship to the Lakers and which matches up to my relationship to the Raiders. I actually identify the relationship that most closely resembles my relationship to the Avalanche.
I don’t know how you’re going to react to these parallel comparisons. I’m actually astonished that my relationships to favorite teams resemble personal relationships so well but others might consider the analogy to be labored or inappropriate. It will be up to you to decide in which camp you fall.
The first and most obvious statement that I mut make is that I love sports. American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, The Olympics, Hockey and the rare soccer game are all things that I follow. Toss in my 27-year relationship with professional wrestling and sports have been a part of my life almost back to my earliest memories.
My first sports love was NBA basketball. I was 10 in 1991 and that would be the season in which Michael Jordan captured his first ring with the Chicago Bulls. But I didn’t gravitate to Jordan and the Bulls, I preferred Magic Johnson and the Lakers. So not only was 1990-91 the first real year of my sports fandom, it was also the year that I first experienced disappointment in sports as Magic’s Lakers fell to Jordan’s Bulls in 5 games in the NBA finals. It was in November of 1991 that Magic Johnson would announce to the world that he was HIV positive. The only thing I really knew about HIV was that it was the virus that caused AIDS and the only thing I really knew about AIDS was what was in that movie about Ryan White. That movie did not end well. Still, my Laker fandom had already been cemented by then and out of all my sports relationshits it would be the one to bring me the most happiness.
More than with any other sport, I would watch basketball regardless of who was playing. My dad and I used to watch the Friday night doubleheaders together on TNT. I remember being captivated by what I saw from the original version of the Dream Team at the 1992 Summer Olympics. All of those games were incredibly one-sided but since it was my home country being that dominant I had no problem with it.
The Lakers for me are the relationship that has a lot of chemistry, the good times are always fantastic but the bad times can be kind of rough.
Also in 1991 I started my flirtation with Major League Baseball. My relationship with baseball took a long time to develop. It started out casual. I would watch the Atlanta Braves games because they aired on TBS which was the same station that showed World Championship Wrestling on the weekends. Then in the summer of 1993, my casual relationship got series. The 1993 National League Western Division Race is one of the most memorable events in my sports lifetime and it did not play out over a single day but over several months that year. Watching the Braves come back from being down so many games to the Giants to capture the title hooked me for good. I think the fledgling nature of my relationship with Baseball is why I did not take the player’s strike of 1994 as hard as other people, including my dad. It took him awhile to fully embrace baseball again after the strike but Cal Ripkin and the home-run race of 1998 helped.
For me, I came back to baseball immediately. And my relationship to baseball was the first one to provide me with the feeling of watching my favorite team win a championship when the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in the 1995 World Series. The Braves would be contenders from 1991-2004 an impressive streak in any respect but 1995 was the only year in which they were able to climb the mountain.
My relationship with the Braves is probably my most comfortable. It may not have provided the most excitement over the years but it has always been stable, reliable and worthwhile.
It was the fall of 1993 that saw the beginning of my most loved but also most frustrating sports relationship. This is when I started following the National Football League and in particular the then Los Angeles, now Oakland and future who knows where, Raiders. The Raiders have not exactly been a success in the 22 years that I have been a fan. They were at their highest point from 1999-2002 in which they won three division titles, made it to 2 AFC championship games and one Super Bowl. They promptly lost that Super Bowl by a large margin and have not experienced a winning season since then. There is hope for a bright future but I won’t believe that things aren’t going to go horribly wrong until they don’t go horribly wrong.
The Raiders are that one relationship that you just can’t quit for me. They’re the person that is obviously flawed but you stay with anyway hoping that things will get better. Only they never get better and you only get more depressed. Sometimes they tease you with signs that they’re about to start fixing themselves and then they break your heart. If that sounds like any romantic relationship you’ve ever had, now you know what it is like being a Raiders fan. Of course, fans of the Browns, Bills, Lions and Vikings would probably say that we have it easy compared to them and it would be kind of hard to argue the point.
My relationship to Hockey is weird. I don’t follow hockey as close as I do other sports but the Colorado Avalanche ended up becoming my favorite team. If you screw over French Canada then there’s a good chance I’m going to end up liking you. Seriously, that’s about the best explanation for how they ended up as my favorite hockey team. I was only vaguely aware of their first Stanley Cup championship in 1996. I was completely on board by the time 2001 rolled around though.
Hockey is kind of like the relationship I have with the woman I’ve known the longest outside of my family. I might not watch Hockey all that often but every now and again it is nice to check in, catch up and reconnect. Things are always enjoyable and yet it might be awhile before I decide to check in with Hockey again. Yes, if you are reading this Amber, I just compared our relationship to hockey.
The year 2001 was horrible in that it was the year of the 9/11 Terror Attacks and that overshadows everything else that happened for me that year. However, it was also the greatest year of my sports fan life. The Raiders and Braves each made deep playoff runs and I saw both the Avalanche and Lakers win championships within days of one another. It was also the year that World Championship Wrestling was purchased by Vince McMahon and that was a loss from which I have never recovered (more on this in March).
My relationship to all sports has changed over the years. In years past I would watch all of the championship games regardless of team involvement, now I don’t watch any game regular season or otherwise in which my favorite team is not playing. In fact, I don’t always listen to or watch every game involving my favorite team. I follow things through Social Media, Websites and Podcasts.
I can still tell you how all of my favorite teams are doing. The Lakers are horrid this year and the Avalanche are nothing special either. The Raiders are moving in the right direction and could be Super Bowl contenders in the next couple of years if they keep drafting as well as they have the last two years and sign the right free agents. As for the Braves, I may have to start drinking heavily just to survive their 2016 season as it doesn’t look pretty. But even in their case, they’re bottoming out now to be better in the future.
I still spend the most time actually watching football. I watch NFL Redzone every Sunday during the regular season at least until the Raiders kickoff. I prefer to listen to Baseball on the radio, there is just something about baseball on the radio that I will always love. I’m more excited for March Madness than anything happening in the NBA this year although the Warriors are quite the story.
But my relationships with sports have changed because technology has changed. It is easier to listen to a podcast to get caught up on things happening in baseball than it is to devote three hours a day to listening to games on the radio. If I’m listening to or watching a sporting event, I’m not reading and reading has taken up more and more of my time since 2013.
A few years ago, I actually paid for MLB.TV, NBA League Pass and NHL Center Ice. Well, it turns out that you can get me to watch those other sports a lot more when I have a personal investment in them. If I’m going to pay for MLB.tv I’m going to watch the Braves no matter how bad they are. Even though I got my money’s worth out of those three services when I had them, I stopped subscribing because I didn’t want to commit that kind of money to those things. I’d rather spend it on books than NBA League Pass. If/when I start working again and have more money, I’m sure I’ll start paying for all of them again and that will mean I start to watch sports more often.
I haven’t really discussed Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, The Olympics and Soccer even though I listed them above. They’re just on a different level although I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with real world relationship interactions I could compare them to but I think I’ve pretty much exhausted that premise. I will always be a sports fan even if my consumption of sports continues to change over the years. It could go up, it could go down or it could just take an entirely new form. I really don’t know what the future holds but that’s true of pretty much anything.
There are obviously a ton of sports anthems out there and a number of them are in my own personal collection. However, I have to go with two choices today. The first is Weird Al’s take on sports:
And this one is in memory of NFL Films composer Sam Spence who passed away over the weekend at the age of 88. This is one of his most iconic creations and it is the anthem of the Raiders.
And here it is with the poem: