In Celebration of NFL, My Love for Sports

I used to be a bigger sports junkie than I am nowadays. But the funny thing is, it didn’t start out that way.
I can remember, way back in the ancient early 90’s, before iPhones, satellite radio, and really even the Internet as we know it, my cousin first picked up this habit of listening to games.
Oh I’d tried to on occasion with my biological male parent, but he never did much to explain what was going on to me. He’d just sit there tossing back first one then another beer, getting angry if I chose to intervene with silly questions about what was happening on the TV screen.
Later though, first my uncles and then my real dad devised imaginative ways for me to really envision what was going on. It wasn’t entirely uncommon for us to move the furniture out of the way, use socks and other soft things as props, and actually act out one of the most recent plays in a game we happened to be watching. My mom would sometimes get a bit nervous about this, but I think at heart she appreciated having someone around who would really take the time to nurture interest and bonding.
Anyway, I’m not entirely sure what got my cousin into sports. I would guess though that he had a desire to know something about them so that he could more effectively communicate with his friends. We all know how important that is to any kid in his or her early teens, don’t we?
So he’d turn on a college football game, thoroughly annoying me and meaning that I would have no one to talk to. I’d sulk and often just spend pretty much my entire Saturday afternoon sleeping.
It got worse as he suddenly started watching baseball too. Looking back at my interactions with him over sports at that time, I’m surprised he didn’t just decide he’d had enough of me.
“Why don’t you turn that off!” I’d ask, even going so far a couple of times as to seize the radio dial.
But one weekend, I opted to chill. I believe it was during a game between Boston College and the University of Notre Dame, one of the greatest rivalries in college football. I decided that just this once, I’d settle in and try to see what the fuss was all about. And, I was hooked.
This happened as 1993 rolled over into 1994. In the middle of that next school year, I left the city of Charlotte behind for a small town called Southern Pines, North Carolina. One of the most difficult things for me about this move was that I no longer had easy access to a local station carrying the Charlotte Hornets (and thank you New Orleans for at least giving us our name back!)
Did this stop me from listening? Of course not. I pretty much got whiplash from continuing to fling the Walkman about as the game played out, but I’d somehow manage to piece together enough of the action through the static to know whether or not we had won. And if we hadn’t, well don’t talk to me!
By the time I was able to move back into an area where I could again get the games, some of my passion had already began to abate. Oh I enjoyed, and still enjoy, the Hornets, Carolina Panthers (NFL) and all of the major college sports teams except for the Duke Blue Devils (BAH!), but I no longer cared to invest myself emotionally in quite the same way as I’d done previously. Moreso in the pros than in college, and seemingly to a higher degree these days than even in the 90’s, most players don’t much care about anything but the big bucks anyway.
I do still like the civic pride that a team’s success can bring, causing even many who don’t care a lick for sports to get excited when their city’s franchise makes a serious runat a title.
The best experience we in the Carolinas have had with this, on a professional level of course as many college teams have won, was in the 2003-04 season for the Panthers. Man, that year they just refused to be denied. In the first game, they were down 17-0 at half before changing quarterbacks and rallying for a 24-23 win on a last-second touchdown. In the second game, they had all but lost as all the Tampa Bay kicker needed to do was boot the extra point through as time expired to give them a 1-point win. And yet somehow the Cats managed to block it, sending the game into overtime and allowing us to take it back on a field goal. That magic carried us all the way to the brink of a Super Bowl victory against the then mighty New England Patriots.
So we stand on the edge of another NFL season. I’m excited, because I will enjoy listening to all of the games this year with my NFL Audio Pass. I’m kind of sad though, as it signifies that the cold will soon return.
The question all of us Panthers fans are asking as we get ready for action is: can we avoid a 1-7 start? I guess we shall see. Our first preseason game is this Friday at 8, and the schedule is tough. We have to play the entire AFC East and NFC West, as well as the NFC East’s New York Giants and the NFC North’s Minnesota Vikings. Hopefully our much vaunted quarterback Cam Newton can finally have his breakout year. Let’s see how long they can hold my interest.

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