Sports have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a fan, I have had the luxury of growing up in the shadows of one of the country’s largest sports markets and living among the local supporters who are known to be as loyal and passionate as they get. As an athlete, I have participated in many different sports that have taken me to many different places in travels and in life.
Baseball was the first sport I ever fell in love with. I can’t recall ages or dates, but I can remember being a fan of both the Cubs and the White Sox. My dad would point out Carlton Fisk’s house whenever we drove by it in a neighboring town. A White Sox game is the first professional sporting event I ever went to.
I was six years old when the ’85 Bears won the Super Bowl. I was in first grade at the time, and our Friday movie hours were preceded by a screening of the Super Bowl Shuffle every week. Having witnessed the artistry of Walter Payton, the dominance of the Monsters of the Midway, and the charisma of Coach Ditka power one of the greatest NFL teams of all time, I was hooked for life.
Then came the rise of His Airness: Michael Jordan. As Jordan began winning slam dunk contests, you couldn’t find a kid in the driveway who wasn’t sticking his tongue out while driving to the basket. Also around this time, the Cubs had acquired Andre Dawson, who quickly became my favorite baseball player. “The Hawk” won the National League MVP award during his first season with the Cubs even though the team finished dead last in the division. I’ve been a loyal sufferer of the curse ever since.
I followed hockey the least out of the four major pro sports, but I did follow it off and on. While Wayne Gretzky was my favorite player, I do remember some playoff runs the Blackhawks made during the Jeremy Roenick, Chris Chelios, and Eddie Belfour days.
I also followed the Chicago Power of the now defunct National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) very closely for a period of time. Their games at the Rosemont Horizon (now Allstate Arena) were the ones I attended most out of any sports during my youth.
As I entered my teenage years, the Cubs continued on their quest for the elusive World Series title and the Bulls went on to win the NBA title three times in a row! Twice!Having grown up in Chicagoland during the era of The Sweetness, His Airness, and The Hawk, how could I not end up being a lifelong Chicago sports fan?
I played soccer, baseball, and basketball throughout my youth, being good enough to be a perrenial all-star team selection in each. I never got the chance to play football, as my parents didn’t know too much about it, though I loved playing in pick-up games.
When I reached junior high school, I stuck with soccer.
Of course I wish we had won, but I’m no less proud of our NIU Huskies. They left everything on the field in a gutsy game to bring an amazing season to a close. I was completely stunned to see so many NIU fans in Miami – we seemed to match up pretty evenly with our opposing fans, who were quite cordial. The Orange Bowl staff really did a great job putting on this spectacular event. It was such an awesome experience!