The new SI cover, the one featuring SF Giants pitcher Brian Wilson about to jump into the arms of catcher Buster Posey, makes me miss my father. It also reminded me why we love sports.
My father grew up in Brooklyn. Although they lived in the shadow of Ebbets Field, his father was a die-hard Giants fan. As tradition goes, my father adopted his father’s team. Pop used to sneak into the Polo Grounds as a kid. The Giants were everything to him. Ironically, my father moved to LA shortly after the Dodgers did, so he spent his entire life as a Giants fan in a Dodgers town.
I wasn’t quite the obedient son that my father was. I grew up in the era of Garvey, Lopes, Cey, Russell, Yeager and Baker. I defected and chose the Dodgers as “my team”. The Dodger/Giants rivalry became personal in our family, but we had a lot of fun with it. I adopted my father’s love for sports, and the Dodgers/Giants gave us a bond when we didn’t have many.
We also watched football together. When I was around 10, Dad bought LA Rams season tickets. When they moved, he bought Raiders tickets. We spent endless Sundays tailgating at the Coliseum. Come playoff time, our team was usually out of it so Dad and I watched the playoffs on TV. Year after year, we’d watch Terry Bradshaw complete a deep bomb to Lynn Swann, or Franco Harris run up the middle. That’s when I picked “my team,” the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was at Super Bowl 14 when Terry and the ’70’s team won their last Championship. And I sat in my living room with my dying father on one side of me and my young son on the other when the Steelers finally won “one for the thumb” in 2006. It was the last Super Bowl my dad got to see, and it cemented the Steelers in our family.
When the Clippers drafted Danny Manning with the first pick in the 1998 NBA draft, Dad bought Clippers tickets. For 10 years, we rooted for LA’s “other team”. It didn’t really matter that they never had a shot. He and I believed they did, and we hung in there through the last game of each losing season. Once again, sports gave my father and I a very special bond like nothing else ever could.
My point is, I don’t love sports because I’m impressed by dudes with incredible athletic ability. For me, drummer Steward Copeland is way more amazing than any athlete. The truth is, as much as I love the Pittsburgh Steelers, I don’t benefit a bit when they win (another!) Super Bowl. My love for sports runs deeper. Sports allowed me to have a relationship with my father. And now it connects me to my son. It’s not about the players, or even the teams. It’s about family. And tradition. And memories.
Being a fan is like playing the lottery. At the start of each season, we buy a ticket and think this is the year our numbers come in. Once in a while, we get lucky enough to hit the lotto and see our team win a championship. This year, the Giants won their first World Series in 56 years. Their fans won the lotto. I just wish my dad was around to see it. Maybe it’s time to start rooting for the Giants, just for his sake.