Evolution of a fan: Part 1

March 9, 2009

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Evolution of a fan, Part 1
Follow the crowd

This is the first installment in a three part series. Catch the other installments on the next two Mondays.

I’m the youngest of eight children. None of my siblings have any interest in sports. I really didn’t become a sports fan until I was in third grade. My teacher was a sports fan. At some point during the third grade, I decided the sports were cool and became a fan.

At that age, most of the kids followed the same sports teams. Everyone followed the Iowa Hawkeyes, of course. The Cubs and Bears were also very popular. I quickly became a die hard fan of these teams. I also became a fan of the LA Lakers, although the reason for this isn’t particularly clear, since LA is a long way from Iowa.

My timing really could not have been better. I became a sports fan in late 1983 – early 1984. Ryne Sandberg was my favorite player. Ryno led the Cubs on a magical ride to their first playoff appearance since 1945. He was named the National League MVP. The Cubs, alas, fell to the Padres in the National League Championship Series and would not return to the playoffs until 1989 (where they would once again fall in the NLCS).

1985 was a great year for my football teams. My Chicago Bears went 15-1 during the regular season before advancing to the Super Bowl and running roughshod over the New England Patriots 46-10. The lone negative aspect of that year was the fact that Walter Payton did not score a touchdown in that Super Bowl game.

My Iowa Hawkeyes also had a dream season in 1985. In the greatest game in the history of the University of Iowa, the #1 ranked Hawkeyes knocked off #2 ranked Michigan 12-10 on a Rob Houghtlin field goal as time expired. The perfect season was later derailed by a loss to Ohio State, but the Hawks were the Big 10 champs and represented the conference in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, they were undone by Ronnie Harmon fumbles and lost the bowl game.

The Iowa basketball team also had some bright moments – notably a Sweet 16 appearance in 1988 – and featured stars such as BJ Armstrong, Roy Marble, and Acie Earl.

The brightest spot in my early sports fanhood were my LA Lakers. Unlike most fans my age, I never became a fan of Michael Jordan. My man was Magic Johnson, the 6’9” point guard for the Lakers. Magic led the Lakers to the NBA title in 1985, 1987, and 1988, as well as appearances in the NBA Finals in 1984, 1989, and 1991. His annual battles with Larry Bird was the stuff of legends.

At this point, I’ll go on a bit of a tangent to discuss the positive aspects of sports on children. At the time when I became a sports fan, I was a lackluster student. My newfound interest in sports compelled me to read any sports related item I came across. When I read the sports section, I even read about the sports that I didn’t follow. Sports also helped me build my math skills. Statistics are a key aspect of sports, and I became adept at calculating the statistics. In a couple of years, I became a very good student, emerging as a strong writer and math student.

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