This might have been a phone conversation I had with my dad the other night.
Me: “So I’ll be seeing my friends Fred and Jenn this weekend.”
Dad: “Fred Solomon??? Man, I feel like I know that guy.”
Funny, because “Solly,” as we like to call him, has never met my dad (neither has his wife, Jenn). Yet, because of this wonderful thing called social media and Facebook, it’s introduced me to a universe of friends that I probably would not have known otherwise.
And at the root of it? It’s our shared fandom of certain teams.
When I was a kid, my dad would take me Mets games at Shea Stadium. Mr. E, as we call him, has a natural approachable and friendly personality. Anyone who meets him loves him. He’s just the right mixture of lovably wacky and heart-of-gold. This weekend, he turns 60. He’s showed me what it’s like to be a die-hard fan of sports and what it takes to be a friend.
I’ve probably loved him and hated him equally for making me a Mets, Jets and Rangers fan though.
Yet, when we used to go to these games, he’d go with his best friend, affectionately known as “Uncle Gene,” and I’d tag along. They’d keep me occupied with Cracker Jacks, fountain sodas and ice cream (did I mention how hyper I’d be at these games too?). They used to sit in a section with these guys Dominic, Rob and Mike. You’d never know it, but they just met and socialized at the games. They always seemed like they knew each forever. But it was sports. Sports is what drew them together, and what was an initial common bond.
Sadly, they lost touch over the years, but I can’t tell you how many times Dominic, Rob and Mike popped into a conversation with Mr. E or Uncle Gene while we talked about going to Mets games. I always remembered though that I loved the in-the-trenches humor that Mets fans have, and it kept me around, even in down times because it was always a common thread we have.
My dad also got me going to Rangers hockey games and into the Jets a long time ago. After the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008, I said, “It’s bad enough that you made me a Mets and a Rangers fan…but a JETS FAN???” Pops took me to my first Mets baseball game and Rangers hockey game…but I took him to his first Jets game last year. So I guess one good turn deserves another.
So this brings me back to Fred and Jenn, or Senor Solly and Mrs. Senor Solly. I don’t know if I’d know them outside of sports. I’d like to think somehow our paths would have crossed but outside of our mutual fandom, sadly I don’t think that would be the case. So even when my teams are horrible and they suck and they piss me off, I have the relationships and bonds I’ve formed as a result of them. Yet, because my dad has been “introduced” to them as a result of tools like Facebook or even about me bringing them up in conversation, they are kind of like my versions of Dominic, Rob and Mike. Though maybe if Facebook existed back in the ’80s, we wouldn’t be wondering “What happened to those guys??” and maybe seeing them at games more regularly. Last we heard, Dominic got married and was living in Greenwich, Connecticut, and had two kids. That was back in 1994. His kids might have graduated college by now.
This is the time of the year we are supposed to give thanks to what we have and friend we have met and for our family, but most of all I am thankful that my dad got me into sports. I may get mad at him for rooting in exercises in futility sometimes…yet, I also know the thrill of winning, which is why I stick around and it makes the bad times worth it.
But most of all, it got me to meet some lovely people over the years. If you are not a sports fan, then perhaps this is a bit out of the realm of your comfort zone. There may be common bonds you form with different groups of people. For us, we get together, and bitch about our teams, and reminisce about the good ol’ days, and then we find we have more in common than we ever thought.