On the Sports Couch by Stocktony
The first time I remember crying while watching TV was the farewell episode of the television classic M*A*S*H*. It was 1983; I was nine. The second time was almost a month later (I looked it up to be sure) while watching a USFL game between the undefeated Tampa Bay Bandits and the also-undefeated Philadelphia Stars. See, I was a Philly fan…Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, even Flyers to some extent. Not sure why I liked the city, but my young brain developed a brotherly love for it, and I was a passionate fan.
Thirty-two years later I look back and see myself in my parents’ living room, the house where I grew up. I can smell the smells of home, almost feel the shag carpet. The wooden, floor-model RCA projected its twenty-five inches of color to my young eyes which were dancing with visions of victory. Soon, however, they were filled with tears instead, as the Bandits took victory formation and I watched helplessly. Why? Why couldn’t the Stars have triumphed? Why couldn’t Coach Mora pull out a trick play or something, anything? Why did they have to lose? And, why was I so invested?
Truth is, without emotion, sports are just games that no one—other than the players—would even care about. Emotion is what makes competition so wonderful and so terrible, all too often all at once. If we aren’t cheering one team or throwing shade on another, are we not just non-existent and meaningless in the bigger picture of it all?
I thought back to some of the times when I was most emotional about sports. I’ve chosen to leave out all University of Kentucky basketball because the joy alone could fill a book, and I don’t want to relive the freaking Laettner shot any more than I have to. I’ve also decided to leave out all Kentucky football because I’d hate to get so upset this early on a Saturday and ruin my whole weekend.
Here are just a few, good and bad. Hopefully you’ll be able to look back and fondly, or not so fondly, recall some of your own.
1983 N.C. State Wolfpack wins NCAA Championship
It was my best friend Chad’s birthday and we were staying the night at his house. I was tape recording the whole thing (makes me feel ancient.) We weren’t necessarily fans, but loved the underdog story. When Derek Wittenberg heaved that ball and Lorenzo Charles dunked it home, we experienced sports nirvana the likes of which neither of us had ever felt. We danced, danced I say! And screamed jubilantly. Our bliss was such that Chad’s Boston Terrier almost attacked me because he was confused and thought I was attacking his master. I’m not sure who was more confused that night, the dog, us, or Jim Valvano.
1991 Twins World Series Victory
Here in southern Kentucky, for some reason, I seem to find myself rooting for strange teams. In 1987, I guess I jumped on the Twins bandwagon and was still riding when they met the Braves in the 1991 Fall Classic. And a classic it was. I tuned in for every pitch. Kirby Puckett was outstanding. And what can be written about Jack Morris’s ten-inning shutout that hasn’t been already? Celebrate Madison Bumgarner’s 2014 performance, but never forget Jack Morris’s superb 1991 Series.
2001 Daytona 500 Aftermath
I was a Dale Earnhardt fan, but you didn’t have to be. I remember the visceral reaction I had to the news that the Intimidator had died. I think everyone was shocked and sick to their stomachs. Even though we all know that going 200-MPH in a car can be deadly, no one really thought something so horrendous would happen, and especially not to the man in black, the toughest hombre on the whole track. Fourteen years later and I don’t feel NASCAR has recovered from the loss. I watch and don’t see full stands anymore. Maybe I’m wrong, but there just doesn’t seem to be an excitement for NASCAR like there was when the black 3 was roaring through the tri-oval.
2003 Brett Favre’s Monday Night Football Performance
I liked Brett Favre the first time I saw him play for the Packers, so I became a Favre fan. Through ups and downs, I got to keep my allegiances for the better part of two decades. Many games come to mind, but the 2003 Monday Night game is on top of the list. Favre chose to play the day after his father and football mentor died. And, wow, did he ever play.
I’m not much to believe in fate and destiny and all that, but it seemed that nothing Favre did was wrong. His passes were crisp, but even when they weren’t, his receivers seemed to get an extra boost of athleticism from some unseen force. Everything fell into place. I think we could all feel Brett Favre’s pain and joy that night. It was pure, unadulterated, and raw. It was what sports is all about.
Thanks for the Therapy
I started with obscure, 1983 USFL regular season football and ended with my all-time favorite player and his traumatic triumph. Man, I feel like I’ve run an emotional marathon. I hope you have looked inward and thought about the times when sports have made you feel…truly FEEL. You’ve been here for me. Now it’s my turn to be here for you. Let’s hear it. (Comments Section Below.)