|A mere portion of the Packers gear that arrived at our house this week.|
Of course, I was originally a Milwaukee Brewers fan, and, to a lesser degree, a Milwaukee Bucks fan. But growing up in Wisconsin during the 70s and 80s was pretty rough when it came to sports. Born in 1969, I was the generation that just missed the Packers’ January 14, 1968 Super Bowl II victory over the Oakland Raiders. I would be 28 before the Packers would return to and win another Super Bowl in 1997.
In baseball, who (from Wisconsin at least) can forget Harvey's Wallbangers? I can still name most of that 1982 Brewers’ roster: Robin Yount, Jim Gantner, “Stormin' Gorman” Thomas, Rollie Fingers, Ben Oglivie, Cecil Cooper – loved them all. But the ’82 series ended in disappointment with a loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, and it’s been some pretty darn dry years since (and before, for that matter).
The Bucks are a largely forgotten NBA franchise. Apart from their 1971 NBA championship over the Baltimore Bullets (a little early for me I must say) they have done nothing of note. Like the Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Bobcats, and New Orleans Hornets, the Bucks have wallowed in mediocrity for generations.
It’s no wonder my baseball and basketball loyalties were vulnerable as I’ve lived in Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco as an adult. Baseball is really more of a pastime than a sport anyway, and I’ve always been a fan of proximity – the Cubs in Chicago, the Orioles in DC, and now the Giants. It was great to see the Giants finally deliver the goods for long-suffering Bay Area baseball fans this year. But for my kids, they'd expect nothing less than a World Series victory parade.
How my children became Lakers fans is harder to explain. We’ve gone to Golden State Warriors games, but a constantly changing roster coupled with a mostly non-existent post-season has made it hard to board that bandwagon. Whereas consecutive NBA Championships for the Lakers, coupled with relative geographic proximity, have sparked their loyalty to Kobe and company. Who, of course, have further solidified their expectation that any team they root for wins championships on a regular basis.
As I watch my boys decked out in their Packers, Lakers and Giants gear, it’s hard for me not to interject with a “when I was a kid, I had to wait 28 years for a championship!!!” Or a "we would be glad just to make the playoffs in any sport!!!" Or a “you kids with your hip hop and your gang bangin’ don’t even appreciate what it means for your team to be champions!!!” But I somehow manage to keep my generational reprimands in check.
In fact, I’ve decided to roll with it. There’s an indisputable joy to watching sports with kids – especially your own kids. You let your guard down. You allow yourself to enjoy the game again. You watch your heroes with awe. You revel in the spectacle that is modern sports. When your team scores, you cheer with the reckless abandon of a child – savoring every moment. Bounding around the room with a vigor and enthusiasm equaled only by the players themselves. It’s a shared experience, a shared passion, that brings us together as father and sons. Each championship we’ve celebrated this year has brought us closer together, and the Packers' 2011 Super Bowl will be a memory we will always cherish. Even if they are spoiled.