Some of us have been sports fans since the day we started to breathe, or so it would seem.
Others fall into it by accident, or by the grace of a free ticket to a game that otherwise we wouldn't have gone to see, much less even thought about.
I guess I'm the latter.
I went to a Washington Nationals home game against the Chicago Cubs at RFK during the Nats' first season in DC (in June 2005, while they were still atop the NL East). A friend of a friend had gotten four tickets to the game, and I was invited to tag along (the wife of the original friend having even less interest in sports than me at the time). I forget the exact final score, but the Nats won. In those prehistoric days during the MASN cable fight, the only way to follow the team was via radio or the newspaper. But it wasn't until July 4, 2006, listening to the radio when rookie No. 11 Ryan Zimmerman (whose uni number was 25 when he was called up in September the previous season) hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th, that I was well and truly hooked. He'd done it before against the mighty Yankees, but this was the first time I'd heard, live, Charlie Slowes' signature "Line Drive! Deep left field! Going! Going! and Gooooooonnne!" with the "gone" nearly drowned out by the cheers.
So in 2006, I went to around 10-15 games. By 2007, I'd bought myself a 20-game plan in the $5 outfield seats (that I actually sat in only twice -- the rest of the games I sat in the nearly empty left-field, upper-deck bleachers just beyond third base with my handy-dandy Bob Carpenter fan scorebook), as well as more than one jersey, cap and other team gear. The July 4, 2007, game I actually attended, and was utterly delighted to watch the Cubs walk Zimmerman (who was 2-for-2 with a homer already) to get to Dmitri Young, who in turn blasted a grand slam over the left-center-field wall.
Which brings us to the early part of the current 2008 season, with the Nats' record a lovely 3-8 so far. No worries. This year -- a gorgeous new stadium notwithstanding -- wasn't supposed to be a winner anyways.
In the early summer of 2006, the same friend of a friend (both of whom are named Peter), got tickets to a DC United game against Kansas City (I think). It was on the "loud" side, near the supporters section. Teen phenom Freddy Adu played, and DCU won 4-2. I loved how the Screaming Eagles and Barra Brava stood and cheered non-stop during the game, and how a good chunk of the DCU players acknowledged their cheers at the end of the game.
But it wasn't until the Spring of 2007, when I upgraded my TV from a pathetic 15-inch screen to a 22-inch screen (although not HD) as well as going from regular basic cable to digital with the sports package, that I was able to get Fox Soccer Channel and GolTV, which more often than not showed an actual game -- live or taped -- as opposed to ESPN's endless poker coverage. Of course, I missed the Beckham game due to a job-related business trip. At least that year was (by pure coincidence, of course) the first to have ESPN show live MLS games, so I was able to watch it from my hotel in California (as well as ESPN's coverage of the Nats-Giants game where Artificially-Inflated-Head Barry Bonds hit his Artificially-Inflated Record Home Run).
At the start of that season, I railed against the Offside Rule, thinking it the positively stupidest rule in sports. But by the end of that season, I'd begun to see the beauty in staying onside with a well-timed run -- or conversely, watching an opposing player fall into a well-executed offside trap. A low-scoring game? Maybe, but at least you have a good idea of when it's going to end.
In 2008, I'm a card-carrying Screaming Eagle and own a half-season plan, with my seat on the very edge of the SE section. I'm bummed that DCU bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup despite its 2-1 win at RFK, but buoyed that its latest Latin American acquisitions (Peralta, Niell, Martinez, Gallardo, etc) appear to be starting to gel with the rest of the team.
It's 2008, but no, the friend-of-a-friend didn't get tickets. This time, it was an invite to attend a Capitals game in December in a corporate box at Verizon Center right on the blue line. It was three weeks or so into then-interim Coach Bruce Budreau's tenure, but well before anybody in their right minds would have predicted -- without some form of alcoholic reinforcement -- the Caps' storybook run to the playoffs.
My thought on the Metro was, "Well, at least the food will be good. Who knows, maybe a hockey game will actually interrupt this fight?"
First impression: Wow. These guys are FAST.
Second impression: They're not fighting.
Third impression: Damn, these guys are FAST.
Even to this newbie's eyes, No. 8 Alexander Ovechkin seemed to move somewhat differently than either his teammates or his opponents.
The Caps won (3-2, I think, against whom I don't remember). A month later, I bought myself a ticket to another Caps game, with my seat up in the noesbleed section. Watched a game that was just as fast as the first one I'd seen, but the Caps lost. On a total whim, I decided to attend the following home game against the Boston Bruins, whom the Caps utterly demolished in a 10-goal win.
Does it help that the Caps are now in the playoffs? Probably. But who cares? Ted Leonsis I'm sure doesn't.
Why not do a blog concentrating on the beauty, intricacies and nuances of just one sport? (A) I'm a new sports fan, so I don't pretend to know even one-sixteenth of all the minute details of any one sport, and (B) it's just not my style. As a kid, I loved sitting on the floor with four or five comics laid out in front of me, reading bits and pieces from each -- or just reading one cover-to-cover, depending on my mood.
Most sports fans cheer for their hometown teams. I'm a Global Nomad, i.e. I moved around a lot as a kid because of my Dad's job (Guatemala, Costa Rica, Connecticut, Panama, Connecticut, Morocco and Egypt before graduating high school). But I've lived in the DC area a total of 16-plus years now, between college and post-college. Three guesses what my hometown is.
So that's what this blog will be. Dunno how often I'll update it, but it's something I've been meaning to do for a while, now. We'll see how it goes.