It’s What Made Me Who I Am

We all have those indelible moments in life that forever mark us as people.  They shape our personality and character, and in some cases, alter our destinies.  As I think over my years as a sports fan, the moments that stick with me were not always the most incredible (though some were), but the ones that formed me as a fan.  The cheers and groans of those memories still reverberate through my life today.  So here they are, the 18 most important moments of my life as a sports fan (in chronological order).

1.  Rick Mears wins the 1984 Indianapolis 500. 
I was just 7 years old, but the yellow and black Pennsoil Special already caught my imagination.  The Rocket won his second Indy 500, and I was there.  Racing thrills me to this day. I’m still waiting for the next Rocket.

2.  The Bears win the Super Bowl (1986)
Like most kids in Indiana at the time, I loved the Bears.  I didn’t know any better. I had a Bears jacket, which was my most prized possession.  The Super Bowl Shuffle, the sun glasses, the Fridge…all of it.  It was my first memory of football.

3.  Jack Nicklaus wins the Masters (1986)
At 9 years old, I didn’t understand that Jack was making history.  All I knew is that everything was green and the player named “the Bear” was making everyone in my grandparents’ house cheer like children.  How could I not love golf after that?

4.  Hoosiers is released (1986)

If you don’t think this was a sports moment in the strictest sense of the word, you weren’t there on opening night.  The theater was packed for the second time in my childhood (opening night of Return of the Jedi was the other).  The theater cheered and groaned every shot as if it was happening live.  During the final timeout, a woman in the back stood up and shouted, “You hit that shot, Jimmy!”, and everyone cheered wildly when he did.   People were hugging and crying when it was done.  I was there with my dad.  Some things, you never forget.

5.  Game 6 of the World Series (1986)
My first baseball memory is game one, when Clemens pitched a 1-0 shutout.  They put up a graphic that said, “The last 1-0 shut out by a Red Sox pitcher  in the World Series was thrown by Babe Ruth in game one of the 1917 World Series”.  I had no idea what that meant, but I remember thinking it was the most important thing I had ever heard.  I pulled hard for the Sox that whole series, and my mom let me stay up late as we watched the ball go through Buckner’s legs together.  I was 9.  Baseball had me forever.

6.  Indiana Wins the NCAA Championship (1987)
If these were ranked by order of importance, this would be number one.  Every IU game was an event in our house.  I remember every game of the tournament. I paced around the kitchen table as Calloway grabbed the ball for the putback to beat LSU.  I played ‘Around the World’ on the pavement out back, and named each spot on the court “Auburn, Duke, UNLV”.  We bought our first VCR the night of the UNLV game, and watched the tape of the two final four games literally dozens of times.  When Smart hit the shot, Dad grabbed his rifle and opened the back door and started shooting.  It sounded like war broke out in the streets of Indianapolis.  It was my first and best sports miracle.

7.  The Indiana Pacers draft Reggie Miller (1987)
I was listening to the draft when they announced the Pacers had picked some spindly shooter from UCLA instead of my beloved Steve Alford.  I was crestfallen.  The next night, I watched the local news and Ed Sorensen showed clips of Miller, telling the people of Indy that he was an incredible player they were going to love.  It made me feel better.  I did what any 10 year old would do.  I pledged to root for him as hard as I could.

8.  Eric Davis hits the wall at Wrigley Field (1987)
In 1987, I became a Reds fan, and started watching for them on TV.  Eric Davis was in the middle of one of the greatest seasons in history, having already gone 30-30, and had 37 HRs in August. He was a lock for the first 40-40 season.  Then late one afternoon, he hit the cursed ivy in Wrigley field, and went down in a heap.  He was badly hurt, and would miss the rest of the season. The Cubs’ fans poured beer on his face and mocked him.
I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THEM.  NEVER.  EVER. 

9. The Colts trade for Eric Dickerson (1987)
I was vaguely aware of the Colts before this, but for my friends and I to see a Colt on the cover of Sports Illustrated and hear that everyone was buzzing about them, sealed it.  I watched every game the rest of the year, and went to the division clincher (my second ever game).  The Colts became my team the day Dickerson came to town.

10. Chris Sabo wins NL Rookie of the Year (1988)

1988 was the first summer I listened to baseball every night.  I was a huge fan of Buddy Bell, and when Sabo took his job, I felt obligated to root for him.  He was a base stealing, doubles hitting machine, and the fact that he was battling with Mark Grace for RoY made the summer seem more intense. I begged my folks to go to my first MLB game, because I wanted to be there for Baseball Card Set day.  It had the first Chris Sabo card in it.  Later that fall, I had him autograph it.  That autographed Chris Sabo Team Rookie hung on my wall for years.

11.   Pete Rose is suspended from baseball (1989)
The long summer of 1989 ended in misery as Rose was exiled.  I actually called bookstores asking if they carried the ‘Dowd Report’ which listed all the evidence against Pete.  I was glad when Giamatti died.  Whatever, I was 11. Give me a break.

12.  Damon Bailey wins the State Title (1990)
Bailey was headed for IU.  He was the greatest scorer in state history.  His team won the title in a huge comeback victory in which he scored the final 11 points.  He was all of our hero.  He was everything that it meant to love basketball in Indiana. 

13. The Cincinnati Reds win the World Series (1990)
By the time I was 13, there was no bigger baseball fan in Indiana.  I snuck my Reds hat into my school picture.  I wore my Reds Starter jacked everywhere.  I stayed up late listening to Barry Larkin’s game winning triple on opening night with the radio under my covers.  My grandfather called Paul O’Neil’s game winning home run against the Cardinals at the game we went to that summer.  I even had a ticket to the World Series…Game 6.  Davis stunned Goliath, Billy Bates scored, Sabo payed off my every hope and dream, and Rijo rolled the Reds to a sweep.  None of my teams would win another title at any level until the Colts after the 2006 season. 

14.  Reggie Miller lights up the Garden (1994)
By the time the Pacers made their huge run in the mid to late 90s, we were already die hard fans, and listened to every game on the radio.  The night Reggie made us believe he could do anything still managed to change everything.  We had never seriously thought about a title until that night.  Demond was a mess because the Pacers were playing so poorly, and I told him, “Calm down.  Nothing in the NBA matters until the fourth quarter”.  By the time the night was over, Miller was a legend.  Yet somehow he still got called for a flagrant foul with under 10 seconds to play in Game 7.  My hatred of David Stern and his crooked ass league began that week as well.

15.  Pike High loses the County Baseball Title (1995)
My senior year, the Pike Varsity Baseball team was unparalleled.  We set scores of school records in every ma
jor category.  We played in the county finals against Lawrence North.  Down 5-4 with runners at second and third and two outs in the sixth, I came up to pinch hit.  I looped a ball down the right field line that hit about 6 inches foul.  I turned to head back to the plate to see both runners standing at home.  Eventually, I ground out.  In the seventh, we lost on a line drive double play with the tying run at second.  I’ll never get over it.  I was sure that ball was going to hit fair.

16.  The Colts lose the AFC Championship game in Pittsburgh (1996)
I don’t want to talk about it any more.

17. The Colts draft Marvin Harrison (1996)

We knew he was great from the go.   From his rookie year, he represented the Colts’ best hope at any explosive offense.  He played with a young Marshall Faulk, but still everyone knew that Harrison was special. It was love at first sight.

18.  The Colts draft Peyton Manning (1998)
I wanted them to trade the pick and take Griese.  I wasn’t thrilled about the pick of Manning, but certainly wanted Leaf even less. I was there for his first game against Marino.  I was there for his first win against Ryan Leaf.  I was there for his first great comeback against the Jets.  Nothing was every the same after that.

Links:
I couldn’t disagree more.  I found this piece to be tacky and classless. There is nothing going on with the Colts right now.  The players are all on vacation.  There are no interviews to be had or done.  I’m making up crap every day to talk about.  Phil B hasn’t posted on his blog because he has to cover other things in the offseason.  The beat guys at the Star work freaking hard all year.  Now is the PERFECT time for them to take a vacation.  I don’t begrudge them that at all. 

Honestly, I hate all the offseason chatter (says the pot to the kettle).  I hate hand wringing over minor roster details.  I hate pointless speculation.  There isn’t anything constructive for the Star team to do right now.  Let them have some time to recharge with their families before they jump into another long season.  When there were stories to cover, and the Star didn’t do it, I called them on it.  Now…there’s nothing happening.  Ease up.  The Star fared just fine during minicamp.  Don’t rip on guys for taking a break during the time when they most need one.  The season is coming, and the press needs to be rested and ready too.

 I like SB and think BBS is a nice guy, but his rant today was out of line.  It’s fine to point out that the Star hasn’t had a lot of new info, but the conclusions were unfair.  What should they be covering and writing about these days?  They’d just have to make up stuff or give endless commentary and over analysis…then what would the rest of us have to do?

Here’s a nice piece on Phil Wheeler by Kuharsky.  I am pumped about the LBs this year.  Then again, I was last year too.   

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