Anyone that knows me at all knows that I’m a huge sports fan. I fell in love with the Giants the first time my grandmother took me to Candlestick and introduced me to the grand old game. I became a die-hard 49er’s fan at the same moment that every 12 year old boy did in the Bay Area in 1982. Dwight Clark made “The Catch” and I was hooked for life. My allegiance with the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks is a little less obvious and a lot more complicated. And wait until I tell you the story of how I became a Michigan Wolverine fan, that’s a loo loo…
Basketball was my favorite sport to play as a kid. My best friend Gary and I could shoot for hours. He was way better than I was, which made me very determined. The only times I ever beat him was when we had played for so long that he got either tired or bored of beating me. In those years you could get Warriors tickets for about $5 and there was about five people in the arena. You could buy a seat in the nosebleed section and literally walk down courtside.
They were so bad we decided to become Bulls fans. Many of you would assume that was because of Michael Jordan. Not so, my friends. This was 1981, before Jordan was drafted and when Reggie Theus was the man in Chicago. Rush Street Reggie was the coolest cat at the All Star game that year but the real reason we became Bulls fans was that they were the same colors as our High School-to-be. I know, it’s kinda like picking a horse based on the color of the jockey’s silks. Hey, we were 11 years old!
Hockey came into my life in college. My fraternity Little Brother was a hockey nut and a huge New Jersey Devils fan. He taught me the game back when you could barely see the puck on TV, even if you knew where to look. I learned to love it, and then the Sharks came into existence in ’91. Never one to really jump on a bandwagon, I decided to become a Blackhawks fan. After all, they wore red and black also!
I have led a blessed life in many ways. Anyone that has met my wife, my mom or my kids knows this in spades. I have also lived through what has to be one of the greatest “sports” lives there has been. The 49’ers of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, The Bulls of the ‘90’s, The Giants won 3 World Series in the last five years and the ‘Hawks have won the Stanley Cup 3 of the past 6. As I said, I’m not a bandwagon kinda guy, but I did get caught up in the Warrior’s season and their run through the playoffs. And watching them beat LeBron was especially sweet. What a shame to be the greatest basketball player of this era and such a baby. But I digress….
I was also fortunate enough to carve a little niche for myself in the world of professional golf for a while. I ran a few tournaments for the Canadian PGA Tour and managed some up and coming pro golfers. It was a little like I imagine owning a double A baseball team is. It was a lot of fun, great when the economy was booming, and the first thing to die when it crashed. But it was a great experience and I got to meet a lot of cool people as I traveled in the golf world.
One of those guys was Casey Martin. He was a local legend at Stanford as a golfer, but was probably most famous for his court case against the PGA to allow him to use a golf cart during PGA events. Casey has a degenerative condition in his legs that make it very painful to walk any significant distance.
If you’re not a golfer, your reaction is probably “why would they not let him use a cart, what’s the big deal?” But to purists, including myself before I got to know him, using a cart in competition is a big deal. So the court case went on, he won, and it continued to be a big deal every time he was in a PGA tour event.
It was unfortunate for a couple of reasons. One, it took away from his play on the golf course. He was a REALLY good golfer. And two, he hated the cart. The only thing he wanted was to compete. And the only way he could do that was to use a cart. But what it did do was make him a stronger person. He was a pretty great guy to begin with, I imagine. When I got to know him he was as humble and engaging as anyone I met in the industry. I learned a lot from him, particularly about sacrifice.
I have learned a lot about life through sports, both playing and watching. Jordan’s determination, Rice’s commitment, Will Clark’s well, will. I find that when I think back to the things I learned from sports, it is only recently that I have begun applying many of them. I think the older we become, the farther removed we are from exuberance of youth, the more we can appreciate the lessons life has taught us.
I hope as a dad, I can find a way to impart some of those lessons to my kids so they can use them earlier in life than I did. But only if I can do it without taking away that exuberance of youth. Without that, there are few dreams. And I think all I can do for my kids is give them some tools to help them achieve their dreams
Happy Father’s Day to all the other nuts out there!