We choose our teams from the area where we live, the schools we attended, and outside influencers that cross our paths. I grew up in the Chicago area (northern Indiana) with a father that was a Detroit sports fan and neighbors that were Bears and White Sox supporters. My folks graduated from Indiana University and even baby pictures showed me in I.U. gear. They were able to win for many years with even me as part of their fan base but have fallen on hard times over the past 35-years of my life.
The Elkhart High School Blue Blazers were my hometown favorite. The only Indiana professional sports franchise was the Pacers, until the Colts showed up in the middle of the night. Nowadays, there are women’s teams and minor league teams, but the state is still primarily influenced by Chicago, St. Louis, and Cincinnati teams. Hockey and soccer were not of interest to me until later in life, while I began to follow the Cubs since my dad and son were big fans. With my record of losers, I’m sure I’ve done them no favors in climbing on the bandwagon.
As a kid, I was drawn to players like Johnny Unitas of the then Baltimore Colts, Sherm Lollar of the Chicago White Sox, and Mike Ditka of the Bears. These attractions were likely due to the influence of television. For Lollar, it was the 1959 World Series against the Dodgers. Unitas joined the Colts in 1959 and Ditka the Bears in 1961, all in my vulnerable pre-teen years when I established initial fandom. “Johnny U” was the only one on a team outside my geographic circle. Ironically, the team moved to Indianapolis, as Peyton Manning eventually took his place in my heart, wearing that classic white helmet with the blue horseshoe. My dad talked me out of being a Yankees fan, despite my love of Mickey Mantle. They wouldn’t have probably won as many rings if I had stayed on board.
Of all my teams, Indiana University basketball under Bob Knight is undoubtedly my most successful sports allegiance, witnessing three national titles, the most memorable in the stands when Keith Smart hit the winner. If I had chosen Notre Dame or Purdue, I would have seen personal glory in other sports, particularly football. I’ve tried to root for these teams, but negative childhood vibes have gotten in the way. It’s odd, because I’ve worked near both campuses and have had personal ties, so I should naturally be more supportive. My cousin played for the Irish and his father was an assistant coach, so it was the first stadium I ever visited, one of my treasured memories of going to games with my dad. I also interacted with Purdue coaches, like
Tiller and Keady, and players such as Drew Brees, but my dad hated both schools, so I loyally followed along.
As we moved from place to place, I adopted the local teams, but only rarely was it productive. The Illini were much less successful than the Hoosiers. While living in Austin, I did watch the Texas Longhorns win a College World Series title on TV and then saw live and in person the Oregon State Beavers equal that baseball achievement in Omaha, while working in Portland. I also followed the Portland Timbers when they won the MLS championship in 2015. The Oregon Ducks had their moments in football and basketball, but never won all the marbles. I even favored the Mariners in nearby Seattle, but they remain the only MLB franchise to have never played in a World Series – my kind of team. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl in 2013 but have been unable to repeat since I became their adoptive fan.
Most all my favorite memories of my father are around attending sporting events, including the infamous “Hamburger” outburst. We went to high school games, ND Stadium, Comiskey Park, Riverfront, and Wrigley Field together. Saw “The Monster” explode with fireworks, celebrated those NCAA Championships of our IU Alma Mater, had lunch with Jim Coker of the Phillies, watched an angry Lou Pinella throw first base at an umpire, and witnessed Sammy Sosa top Babe Ruth’s HR record. Outside of sports, I remember carving our YMCA Indian Guides totem pole, along with a related overnight campout and our pinewood derby entry. We also traveled to Akron as a family to watch my good friend Tim Steffen compete in the Soap Box Derby nationals. Who could ever forget our lengthy station wagon journeys to Yellowstone, Wall Drugs, Mackinac Island, The Wisconsin Dells/Locks, Mt, Rushmore, Englewood, FL, and Gulf Shores.
I never had success in the fantasy leagues or on betting in general, too often choosing players that ended up injured or performed poorly. I tried to stay out of my son’s selections, even though he invited me to be part of his team, a mistake he will learn to regret. We’re off to a bad start. Unfortunately, like father – like son.
As far as professional sports, I have only gotten small doses of victory, otherwise it has been a miserable relationship. The Pacers have never won an NBA title, but the Colts did win a Super Bowl in 2007. Unfortunately, it was against my Bears, so it was a game of mixed emotions. The Bears won it all in 1986 and I reacted with my own “Super Bowl Shuffle.” The White Sox finally won rings in 2005 and the Cubs did it in 2016, games I was able to attend. That’s only 3 Chicago titles in 60 years of following these teams. That’s 171 losing seasons, including this year. The Bears are already 0-3, while the Cubs have dropped their last four as a potential playoff contender, and the long ago eliminated White Sox have only won four of their last ten. I logically should have been an obnoxious Bulls fan, but I spared them the “Johnston Jinx.” I really know how to pick ’em, don’t I?
I’ve done too much whining about my health lately, so I need to change gears and move forward. Sports have always been a great distraction, so my Saturday started with College Gameday. For a first time in years, Alabama doesn’t seem to be much of a factor, much to the dismay of my half-sister. Maybe the BIG Ten Conference will be a factor in determining the national champion. It’s been nine years since Ohio State won it all. They also did it 2002, and Michigan claimed half the title in 1997, while Nebraska was #1 in 1995 and Penn State victorious in 1986, prior to both joining the conference. The South has prevailed!
IU plays Akron this evening in a must win game to even have a small chance for a Bowl bid. Purdue is equally impotent after a conference loss to Wisconsin last night. Moving to the West, I will enjoy watching the Oregon Ducks battle Colorado in afternoon “Prime Time.” At least the Buffalos have made college football interesting under the influence of Deion Sanders, a man who lacks no confidence. Former IU QB Michael Penix, Jr. is now a Heisman Trophy favorite after transferring to the University of Washington two years ago. Both Oregon and Washington are soon headed to the BIG, with the hope that more member teams will eventually put the conference in the CFP picture, or will the South rise again?
Going South seems to work for baseball and football, where warmer climates mean more outdoor practice time. Fortunately, basketball is an indoor sport, so Indiana still has a chance to return to greatness. Geographical advantages regarding sports do not extend to the Pros, although Tampa Bay and New Orleans has made the South Superbowl proud. As for baseball, Houston and Atlanta are recent World Series winners and current contenders from South of the Mason-Dixon Line. The Cubs could use a little Southern Comfort and Hospitality in Atlanta next week after a slippery September. They are in danger of finishing the season like they started it – poorly (going South). As they say down there, “Ya’ll get hot now, you hear!”
I’ve only managed 41 posts in the last 90 days, less than once every two days and far from my initial daily retirement commitment. I’m definitely slowing down in old age with little eventful to write about and a lack of motivation. The Georgia Southern vs. Wisconsin football game is apparently more important to the BTN viewers than the IU vs. Louisville match-up. Another slap in the face to Hoosier football, as I’m forced to watch the stats on the app, as was the case with IU soccer last night in their BIG opener against Wisconsin. I didn’t miss much since the game ended in a 0-0 tie. Plus, IU has yet to sign a player for next year in basketball, as top recruits continue to visit the facilities, but no one as yet committed. Am I worried yet? The first of the targets, Jaedan Mustaf, just signed with Georgia Tech.
Shohei Ohtani has just cleaned out his locker in Anaheim and is headed back to Japan- his season over and future in question. I have one more card coming in the mail, touting his stolen base and home run achievements, but injuries have not allowed him to fulfill record expectations. Will he have surgery and land with another team next year? Is his 2023 MVP crown now in jeopardy?
Can the Cubs hang on to the Wildcard and somehow make one last run against the Brewers for the division crown? The Brew Crew has gone 7-3 in the last 10 games while the Cubbies, while I’ve been paying attention, have slipped to 4-6. I should probably shift my allegiance to Milwaukee to put the jinx on them. My fortunes in sports continue to lead to disappointment. The poor play of Da Bears and reduced expectations only adds to this despair. Fantasy team injuries could jeopardize this week’s match-up with “Listed as Questionable,” a team name synonymous with my lack of luck. I need some good news to pick up my spirits that are bogged down with medical concerns and restless nights.
I had another rough night’s sleep between many trips to the john and fears of my computer/phone being hacked. MonopolyGO continues to be a welcome distraction. This evening I’m spending with a group of satisfied UConn fans, defending NCAA Basketball Champs. It’s been 36-years since I’ve had that glow about me. At least, the Patriots are struggling this year, to keep them somewhat humble. My lineup of teams don’t seem to be relevant anymore!
I’ve really tapered off on my writing these past few weeks. I’ve also lost my appetite for TV shows, having wasted so much time streaming series after series. Now, I’m hooked on MonopolyGO, focused on getting to that next level. There must be a better use of my days than stupid video games. Admittedly, life has lost some of its luster with a pending prostrate procedure, heart catheterization appointment, and probable surgery. Any of these medical actions could jeopardize my Running Streak, that now stands at 5,372 days and counting. I thought I was a pretty healthy guy, but 72-years of wear and tear on my body is taking its toll.
On a positive note, if my running streak ends, I will likely move on to some other addictive activity. Without the worry of injury to end the running, I might take up Pickleball or get back into skiing. Obviously, Florida is not an ideal location for fun in the snow. I was reminded that we are headed to Oakland in December with just a three-hour drive to Tahoe, so I just might consider finally achieving that 70+ Ski Club commitment. There is life beyond running, or so I’m told!
Since I last reported, IU football won its first game, and my son’s fantasy team was victorious in the NFL openers. The Bears and the Colts were not so fortunate. The Cubs, who I admittedly gave up on to start the season, are in strong contention for a Wild Card spot even if they can’t catch the Brewers. The disappointing White Sox have already been eliminated from post season play.
Shohei Ohtani has not played in over a week, falling behind the Braves’ Greg Olsen in the Home Run Derby. I have built a collection of over 150 Topps Now cards honoring the Ohtani, Babe Ruth-like achievements in the first few years of his career. His pitching season is over with 10-victories, but his claim to AL MVP might be threatened if he misses more games. His career high in homers is 46 and stolen base best is 26, both set in 2021. The Angels franchise HR record is 47 by Troy Glaus. Ohtani was on track to top both of these marks before this recent injury – he’s day-to-day. I have taken the collection to Blue Breaks, the local sport card shop, to get an appraisal on what it might be worth, having invested about $1500 in the project and numerous hours in monitoring the Topps site for purchase opportunities. It’s just another addiction that I’m tiring from!
“Tiring in Retirement” or “REally TIREd MENTally” might be the best descriptions of my recent attitude. As a distraction, we set up another Marriott Vacation Club (or in this case Sheraton) mental-health getaway for the first weekend in January. A group of neighbors will share our 3-bedroom Orlando condo to do Universal Studios, the Kissimmee Mecum Auto Show, and celebrate the New Year, along with a birthday. It will fill that travel gap between Oakland (maybe Tahoe) and our Cross-Atlantic spring cruise, once my medical woes have hopefully been resolved.