Fandom and Impending Fatherhood — Part 1

28 Jan

Fatherhood and Fandom don’t usually coexist. At least not in the early years. If you try to impose coercion on the two, legend suggests your wife may find a new place for you to sleep. Maybe by the time high school sports roll around, a father is allowed to indulge again in the hours upon hours of ESPN that consumed his college years. But just about every young and/or new father I see says “Huh? There was a game on last night?” to which I politely respond “YES YOU BUFFOON!!”. I am beginning to realize that it will not be long before the stupid, sleepless gaze stares back at some fatherless dude as they tell me about the amazing games I missed last night while I changed yet another loaded diaper. Yet sometimes fandom just can’t be stopped.

As a baby myself, I have often been told that a swing chair and a basketball game would keep me quiet for hours. There is a rumor (unfounded?) that my first words were “alley-oop”. Ok maybe they were my second words.

I couldn’t have been more than 7 when I had my first taste of being a fan. My high school football team was ridiculously good at that point in time, or at least they were good for Wyoming 3A. Dad would take us down on Friday nights to watch the game. I remember only one player from that time — Cody Nicholson. He was a stud running back. I remember in one game he ran literally untouched 90 yards for a score. One night in McDonalds I asked for his autograph. I can’t make that up.

Not a lot of Colorado Rockies fans can say they saw a Rockies game from the friendly confines of Mile High Stadium. That’s right, for the first two years of their existence my beloved Rockies played on the Broncos’ hallowed ground. I still remember sitting high above right field and watching the Braves come to town, straining to see all my favorite players. I was even lucky enough to go with my Dad, uncle, and cousin and sit 4 rows above the “dugout” one night. Those images are blazed into my brain.

Most people also couldn’t tell you what they were doing on Monday, June 10, 1996. It was summer; I was 9, and the Stanley Cup Finals were in Florida. Late into the night (and actually on into Tuesday morning) I watched the Colorado Avalanche win the Stanley Cup. It was significant to me for many reasons: It was the Avs first season in Denver, it was a three overtime game that was tied 0-0 until a defenseman ironically and fittingly knocked in the game winner, and it was after midnight and I was still up. It was one of the greatest nights of my life. I can still remembering silently exulting as Patrick Roy jumped up and down on the ice. I wanted to jump up and down so badly but Mom had been upstairs just a couple of OTs earlier to tell me to go to bed. She obviously didn’t know what was on the line and I didn’t need to wake her back up to tell her. After the Avs won the 2001 Stanley Cup, Mom brought my brother and I home Avs pennants. I think she got it.

I’ve watched an incredible Rockies comeback victory over the Red Sox in Coors Field with my Dad (“Dad, Jason Giambi is about to put this over our heads”… and then he did), watched Troy Tulowitzki hit for the cycle against the Cubs with my cousin, traveled to Phoenix to watch Albert Pujols jack two home runs with my brother, stormed my living room when Wyoming beat UCLA in the Las Vegas Bowl alone, and stormed the field when Wyoming beat Fresno State in the New Mexico Bowl with my best friends. I can even remember the first “date” I ever got with Mrs. Pickle (Dec 5, Denver Broncos vs Kansas City Chiefs). I once attended 4 pro sports events over 10 days in the middle of finals week (easier than it sounds). In fact I can pinpoint several huge events in my life purely based off of a sports event surrounding it. Sports and I just fit.

Because of all this, fandom is something I treasure to my core. To me being a fan is a lot of things. It’s not just wearing a jersey to every game (I don’t even own a jersey). It isn’t knowing every player’s bio down to the name of their goldfish for your team. In my eyes, fandom is much deeper. You feel the joy, you feel the frustration. It all becomes a part of you. This part of me is something that I really want to pass down to my son. I find myself watching games and going over in my head just how I could teach him why that play worked so well, and why this team struggled so much. I want to explain that sometimes pitching “backwards” is better because everyone is sitting on your fastball, and that running the draw play five times in a row sometimes opens up your receiver deep over the top.

Last weekend Mrs. Pickle and I went to a high school basketball game mostly because our neighbor is the head coach. He has been telling me how good of a team he has this year, how athletic they are. And they were playing the #1 team in the state, so why not check it out? We got there and it was standing room only (not preferred with a 6+ month pregnant wife) and after fighting for a couple of seats, we happened to find ourselves next to two very white dads and their sons who were probably 10-12 years old. After the first quarter the guys leaned down and were saying, “Hey boys what do you think!? Pretty cool huh? Think you could go out and hoop it up with these fellas?!?” I couldn’t help but smile. No, it wasn’t over the fact that we had just watched a bunch of high schoolers fly around and dunk it, while their two boys tripped over the bleachers going to get popcorn… I was proud that these guys took the time to pass down some fandom.

How do I plan to pass fandom down to my son?… Let’s just leave that for another day.

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