Sports fans are like no other fans. For many, their enthusiasm and allegiance to the team they've selected as their own remains with them throughout their lives. We begin to pick our "favorites" at a very early age, often simply embracing the team(s) our family members have chosen.
That's what happened to me. A family member became a fan of a baseball team in our state when I was elementary school age. We had moved from a small city where I had independent access to the city library for a number of years. That all ended when we moved to a small farm in a rural area where I was the only child and there were no others my age nearby.
A radio in our house brought in the outside world. That world included the 1948 Cleveland Indians baseball team. For lack of other activities I might have preferred, had we lived elsewhere, I gradually paid attention to the play-by-play accounts of the team's games coming across the air ways. I finally even wrote the radio station for a scoring card, and learned how to record the games, which I began religiously doing. This was, indeed, a special year for that team, as ultimately they won the American League pennant. I still remember some of the team members names: Bob Feller, Larry Dobi, Lou Boudreau, Ken Keltner, the famous ageless Satchel Paige, to name a few.
Many years later as an adult, I met and began dating someone with whom I shared some common interests quite unrelated to sports. When he expressed interest in attending baseball games, I was delighted to return some of his generosity by obtaining free box seats to a number of minor league teams' games we attended together. Sometime later, after we married, I soon learned I had wed a much more avid sports fan than I had realized. As the years wore on and TV coverage of sports increased, it seemed for every season there was a sport with which he was enamoured and persisted to be with increasing intensity, sometimes to my consternation.
But, my gradual indoctrination into supporting my husband's all time and forever favorite football team began soon after we wed. He was able to obtain much sought after tickets from a friend who had been a head cheerleader at his university, so we enthusiastically often took our seats in the stands of his team's horseshoe shaped stadium.
I remember warm autumn days, rainy cold days, bitingly freezing days, in our stadium seats, on occasion our legs covered with blankets, sipping hot steaming coffee from a thermos, watching his team in their red and white colored uniforms, invariably winning the game. The game play lacked the excitement of a football passing game with the ball sailing through the air, subject to interception, or sudden excitingly long gains, but the famous coach had devised a game plan which insured most games would be won by keeping the ball on the ground -- "10 yards and a cloud of dust" was often how these games were described. There could be excitement when a runner broke through the line or ran the ball back from kick-off the full length of the field for a touchdown.
There was one team in particular that was considered a primary rival for the champion spot in their league. This rival team or our own could have a perfect winning record, but when they played the other, there would often be an upset with the opposite team unexpectedly winning the game. In recent years, my husband's team has come close but didn't finish first in their league.
My husband derived great pleasure from armchair coaching, analyzing the team's performance potential, expressing his opinion as to their weaknesses, their strengths, as he saw them. He was a former football player himself in high school, one who received recognition and might well have had a chance for a scholarship to play on his University team's roster had not two events occurred upon his graduation from high school. The first, was the adverse effect on university football programs due to WW II, the other was the unexpected diagnosis he had a medical problem which placed him in a hospital for two years, thus altering his future life plans.
Years later after we wed, we moved to the west, then on to the west coast, my husband was often frustrated that TV coverage of his beloved team was frequently not provided in the west. Even the newspaper sports columns failed to provide much more than the most meager coverage, he complained. When the team had a game that actually was broadcast locally, this became quite an event to which he looked forward, especially in his last years.
When we were newly wed attending sports events, or watching an occasional game on TV was fun, but over the years, the abundance of sports on TV to which I was subjected, had begun to become an annoyance. Sure, I had enjoyed my high school and college sports teams, but having moved to various other states I quite lost track of them.
Generally, as the years passed by, I was frequently busy with other activities and might only take a few minutes to catch a special play, or for a quick update on the score, since I had long since had my fill of sports, whatever the sport, team, league, whether college or professional. I kept up enough to be able to participate intelligently, humorously and challengingly in the conversation when he felt the need to provide his analysis of various plays or games. He delighted in making his assessments and predictions for individual team members, each of his team's games, their whole season, their coaches and did not hesitate to point out what he viewed as their shortcomings.
In the past six months since his death, I have come to realize that I am quickly becoming sports illiterate, as I become aware how much information I absorbed from him that I took in passing, but now no longer receive. Most of all this year, I have become aware that his favorite team has had the kind of football season he dreamed about for so many years. His team is ranked No. 1 in our country. They are undefeated for the season. Later today his team will take the field in the enlarged fabled horseshoe shaped stadium where they play their games.
They will play the second place ranked team, their arch rival. Just yesterday their arch rival team experienced a loss when one of their former winning coaches died. I'm sure the players and the fans of that team while saddened at the loss,(and I offer my sympathy,) may well feel highly motivated to pay tribute to one of their own and what better way than to win the game against my husband's team. This football team rivalry has actually filtered down into our own family, but in a loving and friendly competitive way. Our son's wife owes her allegiance to her alma mater, the rival team from the state where they reside even now.
I don't know if this is connected to thoughts about this game, or why this is happening, but the past couple of days, I seem to be experiencing what I might generously refer to as "the blaghs." Only during the duration of my work and interaction with those I serve do I seem to be taken from that "blagh" place. Also, for some reason, the past day or so, I have found my emotions to be delicate. For no reason I can perceive, tears have suddenly welled up into my eyes a couple of times or so.
I have found myself thinking of this upcoming game the past few weeks, wondering if my husband's team would remain undefeated, and they have. I think the game later today is going to be carried on local television in So. Cal. I find myself thinking that I so wish my husband was here to watch it. I know our children will be watching as they, too, have felt a special interest in watching the progress of their Dad's team this season.
I think I'll order the pizza we might have ordered. I even think I will sit down and watch the whole game, as No. 1 ranked in the country Ohio State University plays No. 2 ranked University of Michigan once more in this arch football rivalry. Now if only the TV coverage would cut all the talking head analysis at half-time and show the Ohio State Marching Band with their famed Script Ohio formation.
This is a really big game today! Yes, a part of me hopes Ohio State will win -- just for my husband.