If you ask a lifelong sports fan what his first childhood sports memories were, odds are he wouldn’t tell you about individual plays. Most likely, this fan would wistfully recount how the field was the most green thing he’d ever seen in his life, or that the fans behind him were yelling really loud, or that his hat was way too big for his head. For me, I remember my first New York Giants game that I watched on TV at 2 years old. My dad and grandpa made a huge deal out of it and decorated my grandparents’ Jersey City house for the occasion. I remember the sheer size of the yellow bean bag chair they nestled me into. And I remember the cheers. Those purest memories of sport rarely, it seems, have anything to do with sport. It’s that tangential stuff that stays in your mind and defines the experiences. Folks may not recall the well-stroked RBI single they saw at the Lowell Spinners game, but they sure as heck will remember that it was Free Nachos Night and that the T-Shirt Cannon could hit the back rows.

I’m older now, almost 23 years removed from my first sports memories, but I still bask in the peripherals attached to the games I love. In fact, they are some of my favorite things in the world of sport that I live in. As much as I loved watching Jeff Smith take it to the house on kickoff returns, I remember kids in Alumni Stadium singing the Boston College Fight Song with just as much fondness. With that in mind, today’s Business Day One column will list four Joys of Sport that have nothing to do with suicide squeeze bunts, zone blitzing and the downfall of trap-style hockey.

Playoff Beards

Sure the NHL is going through a rough patch right now, but it is responsible for one of my favorite non-sport Joys of Sport – The Playoff Beard. According to the Hockey News, the playoff beard originated in the early 1980s with the New York Islanders. It’s become a tradition that is adhered to by virtually every team that has ever made the playoffs since. And it is fantastic. By the time the Stanley Cup is awarded, the team that wins it looks like a pack of mercenaries or a boat full of artic fishermen. The mighty beards have come to symbolize the long, hard road to the championship. Players deal with the itchiness and potential insect infestation because it unites them and reminds them that they’re a part of something greater. An act as simple as not picking up your Mach 3 for a month symbolizes something that is so pure in sport. Camaraderie. Disgusting, unkempt camaraderie.

The Names Of Athletes’ Charitable Foundations

It’s wonderful that many professional athletes give back to the communities. But it’s even more wonderful when they attach a pun or a semi sporty sounding name to their charitable contribution. The name of an athlete’s foundation provides as much insight into a player’s personality as your average homogenized, no-tough-questions interview segment. Jeter has Turn 2. It is both classy and cool (since it has letters and numbers in it) and plays off the fact that he can turn a beautiful double-play. Classic Captain. Tim Duncan has the Tim Duncan Foundation. Simple, un-flashy, and so to the point that it would be boring if it wasn’t so effective. Perfect for The Big Fundamental. Ray Lewis has the RL 52 Foundation. It sounds like an experimental virus or a high-tech bomber. Totally appropriate, since Ray Lewis is a dangerous force that may or may not have killed someone a few years ago. It is my hope that Chad Johnson starts one of these up soon, just so he can call it The “I Will Beat Your Secondary” Partnership or The “I’m Faster Than a Horse, Even When Wearing My Three Pound Grills” Group.

Entrance Music

When a batter walks from the on deck circle to the plate, he gets entrance music as if he was a WWE pro wrestler. How awesome is that? Seriously, how awesome is that fact? It is the only thing that 3 foot tall David Eckstein and Five Knuckle Shuffle-delivering John Cena have in common. They both get to choose a song that will be blared to tens of thousands of people when the walk out to take care of business. As a proud veteran of the World Adult Kickball Association, I know how mighty entrance music can make you feel. Last season, I walked out to Battle Without Honor Or Humanity and by the time I got to the batter’s box, I felt like I could kick the sky open. People, find a song that rocks you, and keep that song in your iPod. The next time you walk into a final exam, a business meeting or a club filled with beautiful people, press play. You’ll gain a dozen levels and a Charisma modifier like it ain’t no thing.

Dads Explaining Stuff To Their Kids

You’re 8 years old and sitting along the foul line at Wrigley Field. You just see Carlos Zambrano whiff Scott Rolen on a high fastball and the catcher immediately jumps up and throws the ball to first base. The first baseman then fires it to second, who tosses to the shortstop, who sidearms it to third, who returns it back to Zambrano. You have no idea why the heck that just happened. So you turn to your dad, who’s fiddling with his digital camera, and ask him why that sequence of events just happened. Your dad, whether or not he has any idea why they toss the ball around the horn, will give you an answer. “Well, son, it’s just a, uh, tradition that they do here at Wrigley Field.” That bond between parent and child at a ballpark will cause a father to make something up to preserve the moment and give that little bit of magic to his son or daughter. Years later, you’ll probably figure out the infield fly rule or what a balk is on your own. But you’re never going to correct your dad. He gave you the right answer when you were a kid. It just wasn’t to the question you asked.

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  • I defy you to find one citizen who can truly, objectively state that he “knows” what a balk is.

    No, besides Armando Benitez.

  • Bombs

    I know what a balk is. And I have a vagina. Youre such a nerd.

  • Serpico

    A balk involves a vagina, right?

  • In my experience, yes.

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