Everybody's fandom has story
I was messaging back and forth with a high school coach recently and he told me he could not believe that we cheer for the same Major League Baseball team, notably the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
As an avid supporter of the National Footbal League's Philadelphia Eagles, and he being a staunch supporter of the New England Patriots, we spend a good portion of the fall and winter trading jabs, barbs and ribs.
“But I have been a Red Sox fan practically my whole life,” I thought. “Why would he say that?”
Everyone has a different reason, rationale, set of circumstances or justifications on why they root for the teams they do.
Some come from a family rich of sporting traditions and their favorite teams are predetermined. Others root for the teams from the cities they grew up in, or the cities or regions they currently live.
I, to be honest, did not come from either.
My parents, nor my two older sisters, played sports of any kind and did not watch them on television. So how I happened to take an interest in sports at such a young age I am still not entirely sure.
My grandfather, whom I was named after, was a baseball fan. But where he lived in Dover-Foxcroft and we saw each other maybe four times a year, we did not get the opportunity to watch games together that often. What I remember more than anything is that he seemed to hate Red Sox center fielder Darren Lewis with the fire of a thousand suns.
The first professional baseball game I attended was when I was 12 years old. My father took me to Fenway Park where I saw the Boston Red Sox play the Seattle Mariners. We got the tickets for free because my dad had recently bought several items from Kohler for our new bathroom he was remodeling. Apparently back then, they gave Red Sox tickets away in the mail.
At this point of my life I was not necessarily a Red Sox fan, but I, along with every other youngster across the country, was mesmerized by Ken Griffey Jr. So, naturally, my dad got me a Mariners' hat. I remember the road team went on to win 4-3.
That may shock some to hear that at one point in my life I was not a Red Sox fan — well, it should not. Not only are young people always looking to define themselves and find their own identities, they also are, sorry to say, notorious front runners.
How many “lifelong” Miami Heat fans have come out of the woodwork since they drafted Dwayne Wade out of Marquette in 2003? Since they first won the NBA title in 2006? Since they signed LeBron James in 2010? I've seen more Heat “swag” in the last five years than I've seen in the first 27 years of my life.
Any much like “The Kid” in baseball, I, like youngsters across the country as far as basketball was concerned, was blown away by Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.
Larry Bird's back had pretty well informed him his playing days were over by this point, so I never had the chance to fall in love with those Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s. So I spent a few years of my childhood front running with Jordan's Bulls. The first season I vividly remember was the 1992-93 season when the Bulls went on to beat Charles Barkley's Phoenix Suns in six games for the NBA title.
But the Bulls, or the Mariners for that matter, were never “my” teams.
Jordan and Griffey Jr. for me, or LeBron James for many others of this generation, represent what most are looking for a player to call their own even more than a team.
That being said, I can easily remember when I became fans of “my” three sports franchises.
I became a Boston Red Sox fan in 1997, after the team acquired pitcher Pedro Martinez from the Montreal Expos. He was the first Red Sox player for me that ever moved the needle and made me sit and pay attention any more than casually to a baseball game. The way he seemingly rocked batters to sleep with his delivery and how effortlessly he made striking out even the most fearsome of hitters was astounding. Pedro's starts from that point on became appointment-viewing and if I missed it, I was sure to watch the next morning's ESPN's SportsCenter.
I became a Philadelphia Eagles fan in 1992 when my sister's boyfriend, who later became my brother-in-law, was a diehard fan and turned me on to the team that had Randall Cunningham, Herschel Walker and Reggie White. The Patriots' best player was arguably quarterback Hugh Millen. Not much to be said here.
My journey to become an Indiana Pacers fan was a different one altogether.
When Jordan retired following the 1992-93 season, I became a boy without a team. I watched basketball passively that next season, looking for the next star I could call my own.
Which is when Reggie Miller took center stage at Madison Square Garden.
Miller's performance in the 1993-94 Eastern Conference finals against the New York Knicks, a team that I had vehement hatred for after all the punishment they had dished out on Jordan's Bulls over the past few seasons, made my decision to become a Pacers fan a very easy one.
Though they lost the series, Miller's dominance against the Knicks that year and the year following were accurately depicted in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary “Winning Time.”
The only one of those award-winning documentaries that is better, in my biased opinion, of course, is “Four Days In October", which is to this day the best hour of television I can ever recommend any Boston Red Sox fan watch.
So, those are my teams, for better or worse.
But with the Red Sox coming off their third World Series championship in a decade, it is hard to get much better than that.
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.
Mark loves the Boston Red Sox, iced coffee, cargo shorts and time with friends and family.
He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.
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