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The Utter Foolishness of being a Sports Fan

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A fan raises a foam hand at a Cleveland Indian...

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I can remember when I was a kid how my father and assorted, but related, older men would watch television sports of just about every kind. Baseball, basketball and of course football, for pops hailed from the state of Alabama. Unlike some, I was never driven into sports or told to like one team or another, and had no built in allegiances other than the ones that came with the region where I grew up. When the older dudes watched the game, I went and played something else for it was sooo boring to me that I can still remember the sentiment.

Of course nowadays, I am also no sports fan aside from the fact that I do read the box scores every single day of the week and write blog posts about sports and post comments to forums. Still, I would not call my self a big sports fan. Where I live, the sports that people play do not interest me and I dont understand them so that’s that. There really aren’t any statistics to follow over here regarding analysis so I cannot manage to get deep into anyting without some kind of room for non-visual analysis aside from wins and losses (and ties for crying out loud).

The part of my life between being completely indifferent to sports and where I am now…well, I was a HUGE sports fan. That must have went on for a good 10+ years. I guess it might be strongly correlated with watching television. I attended very few games, but boy it seems like we played sports every single day of my childhood…that is once I became interested in what was going on. I can still remember clearly the first time someone handed me a football. Sitting on the sidelines, looking at the older kids run, jump, throw and catch and someone asked me if I wanted to play. I forget who it was because I was so shocked that someone wanted ME to play. The guy asked me if I could catch and threw me the ball, and I caught it, by golly! I musta been around 5 or 6.

I dont think I was ever really good at playing anything, but I have long arms and legs and a nice sized brain case so I knew what to do. Plus as a kid I had some speed which can’t be taught. I could outrun just about any kid on my street which was a big deal, and I held that title for a long time in fact. We all know that 20 some odd years ago the kids actually went outside to play, and my clique was definitely of that group. We would play basketball and football and even baseball now and again. We set up games against other streets, against the other side of the street, and against ourselves and all comers inĀ  our age group. An average ruddy bunch the lot of us were, constantly thirsty and sweaty every single day of the summer.

Of course when you are playing sports as a child you are thinking about the guys who do it best, that is the professionals. Well after I played my first game of football and felt the exhileration of being chased by someone or chasing someone, I was hooked. It took me a while to figure out the rules and such, but eventually I could throw a pass, catch with the best of them, and as mentioned before I had some handy fast-twitch muscles. The first team I heard about that I really liked were the Chicago Bears. I had heard about quite a few teams up to that point, but not all of them. Then of course I figured out that my home town had THREE major league sports teams, the Major League Baseball Indians, the National Baskeball Association Cavaliers and the National Football League Browns. So those were the three sports I concentrated on early on.

Eventually I started to get to know players. my first favorites (not idols…) were Walter Payton, The Fridge, Daryl Green, Mike Singletary (there I just dated everything for you) and some others. Those were the superstars, but then I discovered the guys who played for the home town team. Bernie Kosar, Frank Minnified and Hanford Dixon, Kevin Mack and Clay Mathews, Joe Carter and Cory Snyder, Mark Price, Brad Daugherty and Larry Nance who had actually won a dunk contest. We would always say who we were when we played on the streets and in the park, and this is around the time when I started deciding the kind of person I would like to be.

It took me a while and I flopped around a bit before I settled on Joe Montana, Phil Simms and John Taylor. Joe Montana because he was cool under pressure, Phil Simms because he seemed like a nice guy, and John Taylor because he worked the shadows of all the stars on those great 49er teams of the eighties. I didn’t have any posters or jersey’s or anything of that sort, but I always kept up with them. I was a statistics freak, but I think my real talent was analyzing the players, or something like that. I would buy trading cards (in a totally saturated market), and eventually had the starting lineups of every team in the NFL.

I can remember how as a kid I would imagine growing up and having kids of my own and training them to be football stars because of the wonderful athleticism genes they would inherit from papa (that would be me). Today, I was out with my boys in our backyard garden throwing them a football…one of them with an Ohio State University jersey, and the other with a Portugese National Team Futbol jersey. Got me to thinking about all the crap that sports has been about from the time of my youth when it was all that I cared about, to now when I really care nothing about it.

Now of course, as a Cleveland fan, I dont have many fond memories of great athletic achievement connected to my favorite teams. Still, my high school won the Lake Erie League in football a time or two and played in the state playoffs. There were some minor achivements that we all could think about. It seems however, that for every championship any team wins, there is just tons and tons of heartbreak.

The Mets won the World Series in 86, but does that make anyone who remembers that feel any better about that team now? The Detroit Pistons won back in 04′, but what about the years before that, and everything since? Granted, if you are a Lakers, or a Steelers, or a Yankees fan it’s just a matter of time before another ‘ship comes your way. However, the overwhelming majority of us are looking for the one shining moment, but ultimately must make do with disapointment over and over and over again.

When I moved away from home and actually a little earlier than that I stopped watching television. It was more convenient to read the paper and I could look over the details and scores at my leisure. Watching the games totally lost it’s thrill. I even stopped playing after a good 10 years of doing it all the time. Not only had Cleveland never won in my (short) lifetime, but right after I left home, the Browns MOVED(!) to Baltimore! That hurt me even though I was more than 1000 miles away from home. Then a few years later the Indians were up in the BOTTOM OF THE NINTH INNING IN THE SEVENTH GAME OF THE WORLD SERIES…and lost. Then the Browns moved back and have been an utter embarrassment to professional football with disease epidemics, draft bust after draft bust, and oh yeah…the last coach we had before the team moved away has gone on to become one of the greatest of all time.

Cleveland athlete’s have a long history of leaving and achieving greatness. There was Paul Warfield who had great success in the state of Ohio, but who went on to become a legend when he took his talents to Florida. Then there was Ron Harper who was shipped out only to win several NBA titles with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Earnest Byner, Joe Carter, and favorite son Bernie Kosar even won a Superbowl with the Miami Dolphins. So this whole Lebron stuff is just a drop in the bucket really. We dont just lose games, but we also lose athletes who seem to go on to bigger better things, namely championships.

Anyway, so today I’m throwing the ball to my sons, and the youngest has on an OSU jersey I bought the last time I was back home. I bought my big boy a Grady Sizemore Indians jersey, and a Lebron Cavaliers jersey. I think it goes without saying that I have no clue what to do with the Lebron jersey (not burning it), Sizemore is on the DL, and OSU is disgraced and their National Championship from a few years ago is even tarnished. Now, I bought the jersey’s to represent where I come from. Sure, I keep up with my teams (the Indians 1 game from the Series in 07′, the Cavaliers giving Lebron no choice, the Browns organizational ineptitude) but all three jersey’s are just begging to be moth balled away.

It’s not just these sports though. Cycling is just about the dirtiest sport out there and has almost no credibility anymore. FIFA is just a mess, and has re-elected a president who has presided over bribe scandal after bribe scandal and rogue sponsors who act like owners. MMA? Well there’s nothing I can really say about that other than it’s much more brutal than boxing. Forget about boxing. Tennis is half decent except for the whiny, disresepctful personalities of the women and a men’s game that is fairly boring except for two or three contenders (Fed, Djokovic and Nadal). Besides, tennis and the ATP is getting more suspect all the time (see: IMG tennis scandal). Golf is ok, but, well I played 9 holes in my teens and frankly Tiger is no good anymore. Nascar’s most popular driver hasn’t won a race in years and hockey is almost as obscure as handball from where I’m sitting. Oh yeah, the NFL and NBA are either on strike or are going on strike. Sheesh!

Sports used to be so much fun, and while I can remember the passion with which I indulged it as a youth, it seems that as I get older it’s best kept as I keep my youth. In fond memory…