The Unexpected Fan
How a Canadian-born, bookish-type discovered that sports were much #MoreThanAGame for her (and apparently her sister, too)
If you’d asked me as a kid what I would be doing when I grew up, I guarantee you that writing about sports would have been nowhere on that list. For the first decade or so of my life, I would not have considered myself a sports fan at all; I wasn’t (and still am not) the most athletic of people, and I resented the fact that there was something I wasn’t good at.
Obviously, my mind-set changed. How, you might ask? I could give you the spiel about recognizing that being a bookish, nerdy type and enjoying sports didn’t have to be mutually exclusive, how sports seasons are stories and athletes are the heroes and villains in them, but it’s more than just that. Underneath it all, what (or who, rather) got and has kept me loving sports is my dad — but I’ll get to that later.
As I alluded to, playing sports has never really been my thing. My parents put me in T-ball when I was little, but that didn’t stick. Soccer was next, but when I was put in as goalie, when the team was on the other side of the field, I got bored and decided to go off and pick some flowers, so clearly that didn’t work out either. I picked up ice skating for a bit, did recreational gymnastics and horseback riding for longer than I ever participated in any team sport, and even made it up to red belt in tae kwon do. But eventually those all fizzled out too.
Watching sports, though? That’s a completely different story.
I don’t think I realized that sports were something that could be enjoyed as a spectator (rather than just as an athlete participant) until middle school. I’ve always been a reader; I love connecting to characters and rooting for the protagonist to succeed. It turns out I’m that way with sports, too: while watching a sporting event, I need a team to cheer for and/or athletes to get to know and follow throughout a season or I get bored. Give me the emotional connection, and you can bet I’ll latch on.
Growing up in Indiana, I suppose it’s no surprise that the first sport I started watching was basketball. I can still remember standing in the cafeteria surrounded by some of the boys in my class, reciting the Pacers roster, and approximately 10 years later, I can still name a lot of them without Googling — Jermaine O’Neal in his prime, Ron Artest before the infamous 2004 brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Jamaal Tinsley, Jeff Foster, and, of course, the great Reggie Miller.
After said brawl, I grew disillusioned with my beloved Pacers, and turned my attention to football. Turns out I had great timing, as my hometown Indianapolis Colts went 14–2 in the 2005 regular season (we’ll just ignore that Mike Vanderjagt missed field goal against the Steelers in the playoffs) and won the Super Bowl the very next year, fittingly going through the Patriots in the AFC Championship. I can still remember my grandfather calling us at halftime of that championship game when the Pats led 21–3, saying, “It doesn’t look so good for your team,” and I can still remember how ecstatic I was when the Colts completed their trademark comeback that went on to do several times since (there’s a reason they’re nicknamed the Cardiac Colts). Because it was against the Pats, I may have been even more excited than when we won the actual biggest game in the league just a couple weeks later. I’ve been a devoted fan since — and yes, I like Andrew Luck just as much as I liked Peyton Manning; when your quarterback starts an online book club, it’s a pretty clear sign you’ve got a good one.
As I mentioned, it took me a little while to realize this, but there’s another driving force behind my love of sports besides my own interests: my dad. He grew up in Canada, so it should be no surprise that his favorite sport as a kid was hockey; he and his brothers have a combined six MVPs among the three of them at their old neighborhood rink. He was a goalie, and a good one too — his dream to play in the NHL lasted until he was 20, when he hurt his back. He played and watched football as a kid, too — loved the Raiders (remember, this was the ’70s), hated the Cowboys (still does).
Fast forward decades later, and both my sisters like the activity of sports but don’t watch nearly as much, so acting as a spectator became my thing to do with Dad; that was and still is our bonding time. He’s the one who took me to 99 percent of those Pacers and Colts and other sports events, and on autumn Sundays you can find us sitting on the couch together for hours. As much fun as it is to be cheering on a team with the entire stadium, in the end he’s the one I want beside me, whether we’re at the game or watching at home.
So here’s to you, Dad, for never making me feel like I shouldn’t watch sports just because I was a girl or because I didn’t play.
And here’s to my younger self for recognizing that she could be both a “geek” and a sports fan at the same time, and it was okay. To you both, I say thank you for molding me into who I am today, and bringing me to The Relish.