In my family from a very young age I was taught what teams to root for.
They rooted for the Yankees, the Knicks, the Giants and the Rangers. Both sides too, surprisingly. I had Yankee hats, t-shirts with Knicks logos, Rangers hoodies, and even a Giants Starter jacket. Remember Starter jackets?
It was a hand me down, that I remember, but I thought that Giants Starter jacket was so cool and so comfortable. I remember all the kids telling me the Giants were terrible but it didn’t matter to me. My whole family loved them so I tried to love them even though I didn’t watch a single game. Then in what I think was 4th grade I got out of my mom’s car and walked up to the elementary school around the block wearing my Giant’s starter jacket. As a walker, instead of someone who rode the bus, you would usually arrive early enough that they wouldn’t let you in right away. Some people that I knew were waiting outside when I walked up and everything was normal until one of them pointed out that a worm was coming out of the large front pocket was the staple of those jackets. I don’t know where it came from, how it got there, or why I didn’t notice it before but I didn’t live it down from those guys for a good two months or so which is forever in kids-making-fun-of-you time. Never wore that jacket again.
A more positive memory of sports was Super Bowl XXXII, the Green Bay Packers versus the Denver Broncos. My father and I were going over my uncle’s house for a Super Bowl party. My dad asked me if I wanted to enter the pool, and this was at a time when what little money I had in my kids wallet was few and far between and quite frankly going to more important things like Nintendo 64 games. I was mainly going to see my cousin and watch the halftime show on MTV which was one of the first episodes of Celebrity Deathmatch before it became a regular series. Still, my father was encouraging it and I wanted to be a part of the whole football crowd. Unexpectedly, I was the one who won the pool and I barely watched the game. I had no idea how the pool worked or why I really won it. My dad had just put me in and now I had enough money for about three new N64 games and maybe even a controller.
Lastly, a nice experience followed by a traumatic one all focused around my eyesight. It isn’t that I have no depth perception but very little. So little that trying to catch, hit, and throw a moving ball for me as a kid was next to impossible. In 3rd grade all the guys stopped playing childish things and instead decided to play football. The lead kid who basically ran the football games didn’t make fun of me per se but told me straight to my face that he didn’t want me to play because I was bad at sports. So I didn’t, and was pretty much the only one. I just wandered the old playground where nobody played before. I don’t remember being upset because he was right, I was bad at sports but also I didn’t want to play football either. No, I remember being bored. If I had been then like I am now I would of been reading and writing. Possibly even asking my 3rd grade teacher if I could go to the library.
Instead what happened was I had a friend in the class who taught me how to catch despite my vision and showed my new found skills in front of the lead kid. If he wasn’t impressed he was surprised and allowed me to play. I wasn’t really ever thrown the ball but I still was one of the tallest kids at the time so I played decent defense. Best of all that kid, who I thought hated me, was extremely nice to me ever since even saying hello to me in highschool long after we didn’t really know each other anymore with a warm greeting.
Then 4th grade happened, which was probably the worst grade for me in elementary school. I had the meanest teacher and it took me forever to make any friends in the class. In gym every year when it got warm we played softball and I dreaded it because I struck out every time and couldn’t catch. This year though we had a new boys gym teacher and he was not satisfied with me striking out. He would not let me leave the batter’s mound until I hit that ball. I begged him after ten swings to just let me be out, after fifteen swings the other kids were getting tired of waiting to hit the ball, after twenty hits he finally let me go to the end of the batter’s line. I dreaded gym after that, crying at night when I knew a gym day was coming up, faking a stomach virus so I wouldn’t have to go. The teacher tried teaching me how to swing with more technique but he didn’t seem to understand that I was swinging where I thought the ball was, not where the ball actually is. Next time, same thing to both the scorn of the other kids and myself but this time I actually hit the ball after ten swings. It was a soft hit and I was caught out pretty quickly but I still did it. I’d eventually get my revenge during kickball when the gym teacher pitched the ball. I kicked it with all my might, not worrying where I was aiming it. My gym teacher’s privates never saw it coming and everyone had a good laugh.
That same year my closest friend in the class and I were the kind of friends who rough housed, push each other, play hit each other and the like. One day in gym when we were going to play dodgeball he took it too far. The gym teacher was in the back room getting out the dodgeballs while my friend I were leaning against the gym wall. Continuing our rough housing he grabbed me by the hand and swung me into the gym wall. It honestly didn’t hurt that bad but my mouth slammed first breaking one of my big front teeth in the process. The gym teacher came back, I told him what happened and I was sent to the nurses office where my mother would soon be called. I remember going back to lunch to wait for when my mom would arrive and the kid being on the verge of tears, apologizing profusely. I really wasn’t mad at him, it was an accident and I was glad he had not gotten in trouble. Meanwhile both that gym teacher and the principal were scarred out of their wits they were going to get sued. I remember telling my mom to do it, because I didn’t know better and so I’d have some money. We didn’t.