I was going to jump right into a rant about how I hate day games, but I realized that would make little sense in the context of this space, for I have never outed myself as a basketball fan. So there it is: I am a fan of the Hometown University’s mens basketball team. SodaBoy and I transitioned from fair-weather fans to something a little more serious a number of years back when HU won the NCAA title. Before that we’d tuned in to a few games here and there, but when the team would start losing, we’d bail. The year of the National Championship they never started losing. It was hard to not get caught up in that excitement.
For me, it all started much longer ago than that. It goes back to spending time with my Dad as a kid. I grew up in a small town outside current hometown. Distance had more meaning when this area was first settled, and Childhood Village was a completely separate place, with its own little downtown. It was not originally a suburb of current Hometown, but the automobile changed things and the suburbs are spreading. During my lifetime it has always been an easy commute between CV and current hometown. Dad has been a season ticket holder to HU basketball games for maybe 25 years now.
He had two tickets, and would rotate through game day companions. It was always a big day for Sis or I when it was our turn to tag along. I remember parking in Tall Trees Cemetery right after the Thriller video came out. I’m not sure I would have admitted to the zombie fear, but there’s no denying I was hyper-vigilant on that particular nighttime walk through the graveyard. We never bought the overpriced venue food, but would often stop on the way home at a locally-famous hot dog stand in a neighboring town. The most exciting part of this was the spicy ginger beer we'd get along with our hot dogs. Soda itself was exciting enough in those days.
I recently had occasion to examine an old diary I kept in seventh grade. It was not one I considered “real,” because it was an assignment for school. Periodically the teacher would collect them, and then read and grade the journals. I think the grade was just a participation sort of thing; as long as we wrote something, it didn’t matter what we wrote. So in a struggle to find a topic I was willing to share with my teacher, I wrote about basketball. And pretty regularly, too: apparently I was watching all the games then. Something changed in high school. I don’t know if the team hit a slump, or if I didn’t want to hang out with Dad anymore. Maybe I just lost interest.
Throughout high school, and college, and even graduate school, I watched very little sports of any kind. I was a huge fan of the television series Northern Exposure in college. The syndicated reruns would come on weeknights at 11 pm, the perfect time to unwind after doing homework. There is a scene where Holling VinCoeur says to a very pregnant Shelly Tambo, “For people to judge a man's worth and his very manhood according to the way he feels about sport, and not to recognize it for the piddly, inconsequential goings on that it really is…” Yes, that’s right: inconsequential goings on. I just loved that. It was my answer for years whenever sports came up.
Of course, that didn’t stop me from watching big games when the team was playing well. In college, I watched the game where HU made it the Final Four, and loved the excitement when the team won and all my neighbors poured out into the street. It is the excitement that gets to me still. I love the energy of a live game, dressing in team colors, cheering the team on. I love the hometown traditions, the drunken rowdiness, the crowd screaming bullshit in unison at bad refereeing calls. I even love the wave. How cheesy is that?
One thing I do not like one bit: daytime games. I want to watch the game, but I hate turning on the television before sunset. It feels wrong somehow. It disrupts the natural flow of the day. In my mind, television is for evening hours. I don’t like matinees at the movies either. I always get all disoriented if I emerge from the theater and it is still light outside. Disoriented and cranky. I can’t fathom why games are scheduled during the day. It must be advantageous for someone. I wonder how the players feel about it.
OK, I better run along now... I don’t want to miss the game.