Giving Thanks

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.

Fans at a Jets game (From L to R): Kevin, Coop, Mr. E and Kace

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.

Mets Fans at AT&T Park (From L to R): Ed, Coop, Senor Solly and Mrs. Senor Solly

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.

Who Gives A Shit?

When I first started to understand sports, I would ask my dad if he was watching a game and I missed it, “Who’s winning?”  If my team was losing he’d normally say the “other” team’s name.  When the Mets or whoever was on, and they were winning, he’d say, “We’re up.”  Then whatever the score is.

Look, Jets fans! "WE" Won!

I remember another time a few years ago, I was down in Tampa, right across the street from Tropicana Field where the Yankees of all teams were visiting (I was down there for unrelated reasons).  I asked one of the bartenders, “Hey, who won tonight?”  He answered, “We did!”  I said, “Uh….yeah, could you be more specific?  That could be either team!”  He laughed, told me it was Tampa who won.  I guess you could understand my confusion since Tampa does house many Yankee fans (even Mets, Cardinals and Red Sox fans, but that’s neither here nor there).

Yet, whenever a fan of the same denomination and you talk, we pepper our conversations like, “You know what we need?  We need pitching.”  Or “I’d love for us to have THAT guy on our team.”  Or “We’re winning, 3-nothing.”  Or “We’re going to the World Series!!!” (We Mets fans haven’t said that for awhile)

Anyway, I came across an article on Grantland (Hat tip to Blondie’s Jake for linking out to it initially) on the usage of “We” in the context of talking about our favorite sports teams.  I guess it must be a slow-news week for sports or something, because quite frankly of all the self-righteous and soapboxy type things I’ve read (and trust me, I’ve read a lot, even wrote a few of them myself), this is by far one of the biggest penis-sizing contests I’ve ever read.

Seriously, does anyone give a shit about talking about our favorite teams in the context of “we” or “us?”  I know the author referred to Green Bay Packers fans as having somewhat of a right to say it since they are equity partners there, but it’s a phrase that kind of has no meaning.  Like a cliche, I guess.  Doesn’t mean this author is right or wrong has a point.  It’s just a dumb point to bring up.

One of the great things about sports is a sense of camaraderie you have with other fans who are like-minded and root for the same team you do and hope and believe just like you do.  Not to mention, many of the fans who use “we” in the context of talking about their team are die hards, they live and breathe with each move of the team, whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, hockey, hell even arena football. So why begrudge them saying “We” when they talk to other fans or friends about the state of the team?  It’s self-righteousness to the Nth degree here.

When the Mets won the World Series in 1986, I was 10 years old, and I happened to be in the stands for Game Seven.  It’s something that at 10 years old, I probably didn’t have a better appreciation of till I was much older…especially when the Mets were absolutely terrible in the 1990s, till the late ’90s, when it became fun again.  The reason I stuck around all those years when friends and family were defecting to the Yankees or leaving baseball entirely was because of that moment in the stands.  I wasn’t so young that I didn’t realize the moment was much bigger than me.  I still never forgot that.  Talking about that night with other fans who happened to be there, or even my dad who was there for both Games Six AND Seven, it’s something you just don’t forget.  Try stopping someone who talked about being there for Game Six in 1986 when they say, “When WE won that game…”  I triple dog dare you.  Being a part of something larger than yourself is a part of sports,

So Chris Jones at Grantland doesn’t think it’s “cool” that we use that term.  To that I ask, who the hell is that hipster douchecanoe to judge?  Is he a “true” sports fan? (And don’t get me started on other people judging other people’s sports fandom…I’m using it for emphasis here, I really could care less about it).

So I interject “We” or “Us” into my conversations about the Mets, the Rangers or the Jets.  Sue me for speaking “out of context.”  I’m far from the only one to do it, and we’re not going anywhere.

Deal with it.

Aint No Shit Talker Like a Football Shit Talker

I’m certainly not reinventing the wheel by writing about football players who talk smack.  I happen to love it though, and I don’t really care about what people think about people backing their shit up or whatever.  I think it’s one of the great things that makes football football.  The anticipation of week to week, between games, there’s not much to do but practice and talk to the media.

Of course, when talking to the media, words can get twisted…or strategically placed to cause some friction.

One has to be living under a rock if one is not aware that there are high expectations placed on the Jets this year.  It’s easy to pick on them because they haven’t exactly won anything or made it far but not quite enough.  Trust me, as a Jets fan, I am well aware of this concept.  Even last week, the Twitterverse was blowing up at their play, only to come from behind and beat the Cowboys.  For their opponent this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars, it would be a feather in their cap for beating the big green machine.

Then Jaguars WR Jason Hill had to say that Darrelle Revis is a product of the New York hype.

Oh, brother.

I suppose that Hill is one of those aforementioned rock-dwellers who is unaware that Revis is pretty a much of a product of his OWN hype and styling, and is one of the most popular members on the team (and on Twitter).   How does Revis respond?  Oh, that he basically doesn’t know “Who that dude is.”

Do I think it will spill over into the field?  No.  Because at the end of the day, these guys get paid millions of dollars to take their lumps in the media and on the field.  But the funny thing to me, being with the spacing of games, is that a shit talker in the NFL is much different than the MLB, even NHL.  I know that if someone were to say something about, I don’t know, Jose Reyes (like the Phillies did monumentally in 2008), the media would be all over it, dragging it all over.  With the games being once a week, it’s just a build up, it’s done with as soon as the final gun goes off.

But it’s entertaining to sit and watch, both the game, and the pregame shit talk that occurs.