It has come to my attention that some friends of mine are unclear on which teams I root for. So I have come to give the history of all things sports in my life. I originally had the idea to post this back when I read this tweet.
I think I fall into line with most of these, but with some exceptions.
Everything with me starts and comes back to the New York Yankees. Baseball was the first sport I played as a kid, as young as I can remember. Growing up in southern Connecticut, there was a split between Yankees and Red Sox fans. It might have been 50/50, but maybe something more like 50/40/10 because there were some Mets fans around too. In any case, you knew the Red Sox fans on sight. Most of them were Irish, and/or had relatives up north. Some even spoke with a Boston accent if they had recently moved. The Yankees fans were the Italians, and those who might have had relatives in New York and/or New Jersey. The 80′s were a rough time to be a Yankees fan. They had some great players like Don Mattingly and Dave Winfield, but they never came close to winning a world series. Being that Yankee Stadium was the closest major league stadium to where I lived, I consider this following rule number 1.
As a kid growing up, the last thing you want to do is argue with other kids during the summer, and then bro down with them during the winter. So when it came to football, those same Red Sox fans were also Patriots fans. Now if we want to talk about a rough time to be a sports fan, the 80′s and early 90′s for the Pats were the pits (except 85 and 86). This choice practically made itself for me, because my father was a huge Giants fan. Every Sunday there would be screaming and yelling from the livingroom. The Giants won the superbowls XXI and XXV so things were pretty good.
At around the age of 10, I started playing hockey. My hometown of Hamden, CT is a hockey town. Our high school won the national championship in 1977, the banner hanging in the rink that I practiced and played all my home games in. If you didn’t play hockey you may not realize just how late that is to get into the game. Most kids start skating around age 4 or 5, and join a Mites team for ages 8 and under. At 10 I was too old to start out in Mites, so I started in the next age bracket up, Squirts, which is for ages 10 and under. After a rough start playing with kids who had been skating for 5 years to my 1, I finally got up to speed in time to move up to Pee Wees, the first age group where you are allowed to hit other players. Here is where things get a little interesting for my team selections. Unlike football and baseball, Connecticut had a pro hockey team, the Hartford Whalers. If I was going to follow any of the rules, I had to be a Whalers fan. They were where I grew up, where I lived, and my father didn’t know anything about hockey.
There was one problem. The Whalers were garbage.
The Whalers were never as successful in the NHL as they had been in the WHA, yet they attracted a passionate fan base over the years. They recorded three winning seasons in their eighteen years in the NHL, made the playoffs eight times, and won one playoff series, earning the nickname “Forever .500s” from Bruin fans.
Even before I played hockey I knew the Whalers sucked. So what was I to do. If I followed in the footsteps of baseball and football, I had 2 choices I could go with. New York has two NHL teams, the Rangers and Islanders, but neither team felt right. The Bruins were in the Adams division and the NY teams were in the Patrick division. I needed a team that would let me stay on the same side of all my other arguments. I needed to remain against all things Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins. The choice was easy. The Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal would play the Bruins as division rivals all thru the season, and were almost guaranteed to meet in the playoffs in either the first or second round. The players of that era became and remained some of my favorite hockey players even long after they retired or were traded. Chris Chelios, Patrick Roy, Guy Carbonneau, Denis Savard, Stephane Richer, Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schneider, and the list goes on. I’ve never been to Montreal, but they are my team.
So that leaves basketball. All of the teams above were decided upon and set in stone by the wisdom of a pre-pubescent child. Basketball was a little different. Let me explain why. I never played much organized basketball. I think I went to a summer camp once, but it wasn’t my sport. I was too short and too round. Then I was introduced to the man known as the round mound of rebound, Charles Barkley. His play style appealed to me. He was shorter than most of the other guys on the court, but he would out rebound them. He would shoot over them, he would DUNK over them. If you don’t believe me or remember Barkley in his prime, just watch this video. But for as much as I liked Barkley, I never really had any allegiance to his teams. I wanted HIM to win, I wanted HIM to get a championship. When he was traded to Phoenix, I never even thought for a split second about rooting for Philly. I’m fairly sure that the only book that I read in it’s entirety during high school was Charles’ book Outrageous!
But then Charles retired. I had no team, and it didn’t really matter. The NBA just wasn’t interesting without Charles. Over time though things changed a little. I was now living in Boston, the city of sports teams that I opposed. The Patriots had become a dynasty in the NFL, the Red Sox finally won a world series, though I would wear my Yankees hat around town including to the Boston Globe when I was working there. The Bruins, well, they were still the non-championship-winning-but-above-average team they had always been in my life time. But as of this writing, they are awaiting game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals against Vancouver. I hope they win. For the Adams division.
While living in Boston, the Celtics became an interesting team. Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker made for some entertainment. At one point I was even selling shirts outside of the FleetCenter after games. I would consider myself not much more than a casual fan. But it wasn’t until something happened to me that I really started to become a big Celtics fan. I moved away. Leaving the East coast, with all of my friends and family, for California, with a new job, I missed and still miss, living there. If you count my four years of college in Amherst, I lived in Massachusetts for 12 years, 8 of them in and around the city of Boston. As far as my adult life goes, it’s where I have lived the most. I can not, in good faith, grant the city my support of a baseball, football, or hockey team. Those are my big three. But according to rule number 2 above, you can root for the team where you live. That team is the Boston Celtics. Say I’m lying.