Why do we love sports? These are our- and your- best memories of that first spark
It's been a long time since we've had a full schedule of sports. And we're really missing the action. It made us think: what is the reason we first fell in love with sports?
So we put out the call to staff and to our readers to tell us their stories. What was the moment or reason that you first felt *that* connection.
These are those stories. Ours and yours.
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"It was a big day for John Elway on Januy 25th 1998. But it wan't a good day on the other 4 Super Bowls that thay didn’t win."
And so began the first "game story" of my sports journalism career: A recap of the Denver Broncos' 31-24 win over the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXII. I was 6 years old -- and clearly not yet ready to let Elway off the hook. I loved everything about sports, and especially NFL football, long before that game. But Super Bowl XXXII took it to another level. It was the most memorable sporting event of my childhood, even though I don't exactly remember watching it live. I mostly just remember the feeling of it.
-Tom Schad, USA TODAY Sports reporter
It would be near impossible to be a kid in 1960's suburban Boston and not grow up with an obsession for the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots or Boston Bruins. Decades later, getting the crossword puzzle clue 'Hockey Great Bobby ___' correct evokes a poignant knowing for me.
Yet, my devotion for sports came at Quincy (MA) High School football games as a 9-year old, where my brother played the clarinet in the marching band. Mom would dress me up in a long blue and white stocking cap with a pom at the end. I would cheer with the cheerleaders and wanted so urgently to have crepe pom poms that my Mother made me some.
As I followed in my brother's footsteps, playing for my high school band, our song 'Anchors Aweigh' never did cut it like QHS's "March Down the Field To the Music'.
I'm not one to live in the past. Life and time marches on. But like the revolving crisp fall New England weather signaling football season, memories can't be robbed from our playbooks. They're as irreplaceable as home made pom poms and blue and white long stocking caps with a pom at the end.
-Julie London-Ferguson of Sarasota, Florida
I learned a lot about my dad from watching Michael Jordan win championships for the Chicago Bulls. To me, my dad had a similar mindset to Jordan and a thirst to prove anyone who doubted him wrong. Dad told me he had been an "average" hoops player in high school. But then I attended a basketball camp at my dad's old high school -- and saw something that changed everything. That's when I learned about 'Free-Throw Tom.'
-Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY Sports reporter
I grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. In the heart of New York Giants country, my dad, David Rosenberg, rooted for a team that had never even made it to the Super Bowl. But his dedication and devotion to his team was infectious, and I found myself rooting for the Orange and Brown, too. My love of my team keeps me close to my dad and every time I go to a game, I wear one of his old hats or jerseys so he is there with me.
-Beth Rosenberg Sanders of Gaithersburg, Md.
For a tween in the early ‘80s, no team could fill up a living room like the Georgetown Hoyas. Not that I was a fan, per se. Already a man of the people, my collegiate rooting interests favored public schools like Cal and UCLA, an ideal winter evening spent with Kevin Johnson running the point and Barry Tompkins on the mic. Yet this emerging beast called the Big East Conference was impossible to ignore. And with every passing year, the myths and realities of Georgetown basketball only grew. “Hoya Paranoia,” as it was known. In 1985, the Hoyas faced off with conference rival Villanova for the national title. What unfolded next remains the greatest upset in college basketball history, 16-over-1 be damned, simply because of what was required to pull it off. A perfect game.
-Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY Sports MLB reporter
I grew up as a Jewish boy in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles and my four years of Little League were 1963-1966. Of those years, the Dodgers were in the World Series in three of them and won the championship twice. Also, the best pitcher on the planet was Sandy Koufax and he was also Jewish and lived near my neighborhood so I had an idol + local MLB team + world championships + Little League = WHY I LOVE SPORTS!
-Ross Miller, Los Angeles
I never planned to go to college. Sports gave me the opportunity and I seized it. My grades were not good in high school. ACT score was terrible. Too hyper. I guess they call it ADD now. Never applied to college and was working in a metal fabrication plant welding and burning beams for new construction in summer of 1981. While playing summer baseball after barely completing high school, a competitor's parent asked me where I was going to college. I said I am not going. He said, "You have some of the most talent around here. My son is going to a JUCO in Florida so tell your mom to call me." That call led to a JUCO and ultimately to a College World Series title. All heart, buddy. Like sports, give it your all and you can overcome adversity. That's why I like (any) sports every day and that's my story.
-Rick Kosek, Atlanta
I didn't fall in love with sports because of a specific game or player or team. I fell in love with them because of the guy who got me hooked. As far back as I can remember, I watched Packers games with my Dad, Mickey. Every Sunday, without fail. My Dad would stretch out on the living room or basement floor in front of the TV and I'd flop down beside him. The team was godawful when I was a kid, with losing records in eight out of 10 seasons at one point, but still we watched. It's those Packers games that turned me into who I am and for that I have my Dad to thank.
-Nancy Armour, USA TODAY Sports columnist
I was a teenager growing up in little old Clemson, selling hot dogs in the stadium, when they won the championship in 1981. After decades of frustration, including my son asking, “Dad, why did you raise me to be a Clemson fan?” there was (Deshawn) Watson to (Tyler) Renfrow, and I wept.
-Greg Hawkins, Clemson, South Carolina
Imagine a child, a young sports fan, living so near a college campus that she could see the glow of the football stadium lights from her front yard. Imagine her walking to the football stadium with her dad, cheering for the team playing in that stadium for three consecutive years, and never once leaving disappointed. That team, her team, never lost a game for three straight years. You're a young fan, and you throw your heart and soul into a team, and it never, ever lets you down. That young fan was me, and that's when I fell in love with sports.
-Christine Brennan, USA TODAY Sports columnist
As early as I can remember I was always playing some sport involving a ball, stick, or puck. When I began team sports at 4 years old I poured my heart and soul into every practice and game as much as a 4-year-old could. As time passed the joy a simple practice, scrimmage or a game brought to my life was amazing. Growing up within an unstable home environment I sought refuge in sports. Sports saved me from a life that would have ended in despair as many of my childhood friends ended up incarcerated or dead due to unwise choices and unwise time decisions.
Sports teaches us all about hard work, dedication, teamwork, and discipline. You cannot be successful in sports without hard work, and I think us former athletes appreciate and respect that the most. Sports gives us the sense of achievement and the agony of defeat. Every human emotion is revealed in sports. I fell in love with sports because it allowed me an escape from reality at home and taught me the value of life’s most precious gifts: time, love, and desire. Sports made me the man I am today. A husband, father, teacher, professor, coach, mentor, and fan. I fell in love with sports because it created the best version of myself through teaching me how to fail, succeed, and continue to apply myself every day until I became a champion of life. And I hope to get the next 86,400 seconds to try it again.
-Jason Smith, Ed.D., Mount Juliet, Tennessee
If there was a moment that crystallized how important sports were to me, it was the death of Thurman Munson. I was 14 years old and living in New Jersey on Aug. 2, 1979, the day the Yankees All-Star catcher died in a plane crash. I was devastated. Four days later - hours after attending Munson's funeral in Canton, Ohio - the Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium to play against the Baltimore Orioles. I watched on TV. The Yankees trailed most of that game. But Bobby Murcer, after delivering one of Munson's eulogies earlier in the day, played hero in an amazing 5-4 win for the Yankees. It unleashed the emotions of the crowd at Yankee Stadium and my own sitting at home.
-Cesar Brioso, USA TODAY Sports
I grew up attending Milwaukee Braves games with my father. During the late '50s, my dad and I sat in the right field extension and saw the future Hall of Famer, Hank Aaron. I collected baseball cards just like any other child who fell in love with the game. And in 1960, I watched the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game, losing to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-13, as Green Bay was driving when time expired. From that game until today, I became an avid Packer fan, not missing a game on TV or radio for going on 59 years now. And as a 7th grader, I began attending Marquette Warrior games at the old Milwaukee Arena, with the late Coach Al McGuire pacing the court. I say all this to give one an idea of what sports has meant to me. I love sports because it’s been my escape from the realities of life, which today are hard to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not having any “live” sports since the first week of March has been hard to deal with. I’ve already lost the NCAA Tournament, The Masters, Kentucky Derby and Preakness, the NBA playoffs, and the Indianapolis 500. Sports has, and always will be my number one love. I can’t fathom my life without sports to watch.
-Jeff Ostach, Cedarburg, Wisconsin