As an adult you realize that sports don’t mean as much to you as they did when you are a kid.
Watching the Steelers lose to the Cowboys in the Superbowl in 1995 was one of the most crushing moments of my childhood. Ten years later while in Vancouver, Canada I watched the Steelers beat the Seahawks to win their first Super Bowl in my lifetime. After the celebration I stood outside in the rain waiting for a bus. That’s when I realized I didn’t win the Super Bowl or have an umbrella.
I look at sports differently now. If the Tigers beat the Blue Jays, so be it. I am okay flipping past an inconsequential regular season ball game without feeling emasculated. I’ll see the score at the bottom of the ESPN ticker.
If names like Rich Tocchet and Ron Francis aren’t familiar to you, I accept that your childhood was different than mine.If you didn’t accuse NBA Jam of cheating and immediately curse and turn off the Sega, I understand. You probably don’t know why Ronny Seikaly was the only basketball player in the history of NBA Jam incapable of heating up. Neither do I.
I appreciate sports in context. Trade deadlines excite me. Who announces the game is just as important as who wins the game. I’ll watch any game called by Gus Johnson, Doc Emerick and Brent Mussberger and wish Bob Costas could permanently host every telecast.
I’m a more self-aware sports fan. I no longer collect Fleer Ultra inserts or act as a play by play announcer when I play NHL ‘94, but I still care about sports, just not as much. Granted, no matter how hard I try, I know at least one segment on “Real Sports With Bryant Gumble” will always make me cry.
And I know that Steve Novak is the Knicks best spot up shooter. I can tell you that Lamarr Woodley graduated from Michigan, boarding can result in a game misconduct, and Jerry Tarkanian lead the UNLV Running Rebels to a national title. I can even tell you that New York Giants Linebacker Jason Pierre Paul’s father is Jean Pierre-Paul and New Jersey Devil’s Center Zach Parise is the son of former Minnesota North Star, JP Parise! It’s just that I don’t think it matters that I know these things.
I was a talented athlete as a kid capable of playing most of the major sports. I excelled at booting a soccer ball and played good enough basketball to swat Jordan Marks at the JCC. I showed potential as a youth squash player, but quit taking lessons because I feared Dulio, my instructor, would beat me with his squash racquet if I did not hit a hard enough boast of the side wall.
Over the years I’ve matured as an athlete. I have a better sense of gamesmanship. I’m the 6th best player on my men’s over 30 soccer team. We don’t have a coach so Kenny, our best player, will make a speech at half-time suggesting adjustments we should make in the second half. I’m the next person to say something like “Oh yea, and I’m open.”
I know that my role is to set up my teammates with long crosses, and if the opportunity presents itself, blast one from the 18. I’m not a dribble first kind of player. I play with a ball hog. He doesn’t even pass in practice. He yells, “Come on guys! What are you doing?”
“It’s called passing.”
You can tell a lot about someone by what kind of teammate they are. I’m not Tim Tebow or Jeremy Lin. I’m more like Mike Alstott or Fred Hoiberg. I can contribute, but I haven’t yet had my career defining moment.
At my last job my boss called me into her office and said, “We don’t think you are a team player.”
This was shocking to hear since I did whatever was asked of me.
“I’m a team player. I just don’t want to play on your team.”
I’m sure this is how Lamar Odom felt about playing for the Mavs.
Not everyone is Tebow or Jeremy Lin, even for a few weeks, but all you need is a chance.
A few days ago my team was called into our large conference room where our V.P. made a surprise announcement.
“We are searching for someone to manage Sports and Attractions.You are all welcome to apply.”
Upon hearing the news I made a case for the value I could bring given my previous accomplishments and my knowledge of the national sports landscape. I waited for the sports trivia portion of the interview. Ask me how many goals Pat LaFontaine scored in his career! I’ll even take the football quiz in Diner: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xS3VuRbizDs
I presented myself the best I could and tried not to think too much about the position. I had sports to watch. I was on pace to become the first Los Feliz tenant evicted for yelling during a Pittsburgh Penguin playoff game. After the Pens three goal collapse I flipped to the end of the Clippers/Thunder game where my Clippers (die hard bandwagon since 2009) triumphed over the #1 team in the west.
I listened to Dan Patrick and Colin Cowherd on the way to work and checked espn.com throughout the day, per usual. After lunch I was pulled aside.
“I’d love for you to join my team,” said John.
I shook his hand and said, “I just want to thank you for the opportunity.”
I’m ready to step up to the plate and hit one out of the park. I also want to play more basketball. And I’m stoked to come into work and prove myself to the good people giving me this chance much like Lindsay Jacobellis did at Winter X Games XII back in ‘08. All or nothing.