“YOOOOO” and “HELL YES”. Those were the words I had been waiting and hoping for. OK – maybe not the exact words, but I knew what they meant when they popped up in my FB Messenger with fellow Central Park Softballer (GO BOMBERS) and Editor in Chief of The Turf – the one and only Justin Colombo. They meant it was finally official – after many conversations about it, I’d be joining the team. My journey as a sports fan was about to add another step.
To say I’m excited to take this step would be an understatement. As I’ve journeyed – from the kid growing up with aspirations of playing pro sports – to the reality of a middle age guy clinging to what athleticism his body has left – I’ve never let go of one thing: my passion for sports. It’s that passion that has energized me as I set off on this endeavor – but also has stymied me a bit in terms of “getting out of the gate”.
Out of the Starting Blocks
“Honestly, the first piece is the hardest” – part of a subsequent chat with Mr. Colombo – after having sat down at my computer to crank out what would be my “HI – My Name Is…” piece, introducing me to our readership. You see, I’m so excited to share my journey with all of you that I’m not really sure where to start. As a result, every time I’d get a few sentences down I’d pause and second guess myself before ultimately pushing DELETE and wiping the slate clean.
Eventually, (with a gentle nudge and a guiding hand from Justin) I dove into the archives and got a feel for how some of the other contributors and staff writers started their own journeys on the site. What I noticed was that many of them shared stories about how they ended up becoming a fan of “Team A” or how growing up in a specific spot made them root for all of their local teams, or how their family had influenced who they cheered on. – awesome debut pieces such as
A Trip Down Memory Lane
And that’s where I started to think to myself…. “Joe – what are those moments for you? How did you get to where you are now as a sports junkie?”. Well – I’ve got to be honest: I don’t have a definitive answer. I can’t point to a singular A-HA! Moment. Yes – I’m a NY Mets/NY Giants/ NY Rangers/Manchester United die hard – but the details that led me there are pretty mundane for the most part. I’d have to admit that it’s been a series of small “landmarks” throughout my journey that have sculpted my fandom – of particular sports, certain teams, specific players… all of it. Rather than a singular, indelible moment, it’s been a journey – a crazy trip full of experiences and memories that I carry with me every day.
Steps Along the Journey
I remember going to a baseball game at Shea Stadium with my dad (which is somewhat odd since he’s not a huge fan of the game). There wasn’t anything particularly memorable about it – all I know is it was a game against the Padres, and it lasted 15 innings**. The most noteworthy part of it all was I really ever blinked as I soaked it all in – the ballpark smells and sounds, the cheers from the crowd – and most importantly – the players on that diamond.
**A quick search of the interwebs led me to ultimatemets.com where I discovered that there have only been 3 instances where the Mets played the Padres in a 15-inning game – and in each of them, my Mets prevailed:
April 27, 1994 – Win 3-2
September 3, 1983 – Win 4-3
April 28, 1982 – Win 5-4
I recall sitting in my grandmother’s den watching her cheer on the Rangers (again, a bit odd since I grew up on Long Island, during a time where the Islanders were kings of the ice for a lot of my childhood). I don’t think I’d ever known my grandmother to be as outwardly emotional about anything as when I’d watch games with her. I’d often find myself yelling at the players through the TV right along with her (Brian Leetch was her favorite).
A Fan For Life
I harken back to my excitement when the US Men’s National Team had qualified for their first World Cup during my lifetime in 1990. This was a big one for me. Soccer is religion in my house. My brothers and I grew up playing the game. Our father was a referee for 20+ years. For as long as I’d been playing the game – the USA was never very good. We’d always been on the outside looking in, until then.
I close my eyes and see my best friend practically mounting me on his living room couch after the Giants beat the Packers to advance to Super Bowl XLII, where they topped that overtime thriller with “The Helmet Catch”, allowing the ’72 Dolphins to finally pop the champagne! For sure it was one of the moments early on in our friendship that completely solidified our “bromance”.
Let’s Get This Show On the Road!
These are just a few of the moments that stick with me – and those are just “fan moments”. Combine things like that with all of the stories I could tell from my “playing days” and I could go on and on (and on), but I’ll just save the rest for future pieces.
So here I am now. While my 40+ year old body has limited me to softball during the summers a few times a week and running in hopes of staving off the “beer gut”, it hasn’t prevented me from carrying that love and knowledge from the fields, courts, courses and diamonds into my everyday life. A life filled with passionate debate, intriguing opinions, insightful analysis and a fair share of heartburn (ah the joys of being a Mets, Rangers and Giants fan these days) …
I’m very much looking forward to sharing all of that with you. Thanks for taking the time – now let’s get to work… JOURNEY ON!!!