Fanatic: Ten Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die

Fanatic: Ten Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die

By:  Jim Gorant

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The sport lover's ultimate road tripWhen Jim Gorant, a Sports Illustrated staffer and lifelong sports fan, discovered that he had never attended a single one of sports' most iconic events, he wondered, What kind of sports fan am I, anyway? And if he had to pick the top ten, what would those events be? The result was a growing obsession, first with determining the events that should make the list and then with actually attending all of them. A personal challenge quickly evolved into a yearlong journey into the heart of sports.From the Kentucky Derby to the Super Bowl, from a day game at Wrigley Field to a fortnight at Wimbledon, from the NCAA Final Four to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, Gorant takes us along for the ride, evoking the best (and sometimes the worst) sports has to offer. He enters the inner sanctum of NASCAR, watching the decidedly American pomp and circumstance perched atop an RV. He encounters a fire-eating Patriots fan at the Super Bowl. He sees Jack Nicklaus tee off at the azalea-lined Masters for the last time. He walks a fine line between the football rivals Ohio State and Michigan. And in the process he reveals why sports can so affect our lives.Part adventure, part pilgrimage, Fanatic captures these ten unforgettable sports events in all their color and commotion. The perfect gift for sports enthusiasts, Fanatic is the next best thing to front row seats, and every bit as fun.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547879932

  • ISBN-10: 0547879938

  • Pages: 240

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/04/2008

  • Carton Quantity: 1

Jim Gorant
Author

Jim Gorant

JIM GORANT is a senior editor and writer at Sports Illustrated. He is the author of two books, Fit for Golf, with renowned PGA Tour trainer Boris Kuzmic, and America’s Top Golf Courses. He has also written for many publications, including Men’s Journal, Travel & Leisure, GQ, and Men’s Health.
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  • excerpts

    Introduction

    WHADDAYA SAY, PATRIOTS?” I don’t say anything. He shouts again, “What do you say, Patriots?” His face is now so close, I can see the blondish stubble of his beard reemerging after that morning’s shave, and if I chose to I could give a fairly detailed accounting of his dental work. I don’t choose to. At this proximity, our faces are like mirror images, but they’re quite different. Mine is clean and largely expressionless, save the raised eyebrow. His is painted with a primal combination of blue, red, and silver, and twisted into an expression, of what, exactly? Pain, anger, enthusiasm? I can’t say. Nor can I say why he’s chosen to ask me this question. Has he mistaken me for a fellow Patriots fan? It is the Friday before Super Bowl XXXIX, which this year features the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, and we are at The Landing in downtown Jacksonville, a sort of outdoor mall and plaza that has already become the alcohol-fueled core of the three-day pregame party both sets of fans will take part in. Almost everyone here has some sort of identifying mark, whether it’s a hat, T-shirt, team jersey, or otherwise. Two guys with actual Eagles football helmets drink their beer through straws. Dozens of grown men in green face-paint high-five each other upon passing. Those who don’t are local residents who’ve come down to join the party or check out the scene. I, in contrast, have nothing on that would indicate I’m for either team. I’m as neutral as neutral can be. Maybe that’s why this guy has chosen to get in my face. He needs me to declare my allegiance one way or the other. Friend or foe? I don’t know, but I do know that as the question hangs there between us a palpable tension grows. He’s shirtless. He’s drunk. He’s right in my face. The reason I’m nose to nose with the face-painter is because I’m an idiot. Not in the same way that he’s an idiot, exactly, but an idiot nonetheless. Ever since I was, maybe, five, I’ve been addicted to sports. I played them all. I watched them all. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, golf, badminton, pro wrestling— for chrissakes, my brother and I followed Australian Rules football on ESPN before the network could afford real programming. I’ve watched not just the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League version of the Super Bowl, but regular-season games as well; at one point I could name the starting lineup of the Montreal Alouettes. I was never a total stat nerd, but by second grade I’d mastered the calculus of scoring a tennis match. By third grade, I could tell you all the divisions and conferences of all the major sports, how their playoffs worked, where the wildcard teams came from, and how to calculate who had the home-field advantage. By fourth I understood that “questionable” meant a player had a 50 percent chance of playing, while “doubtful” dropped the odds to 25 percent. Most kids pined for Christmas; I loved early spring and midfall. In spring, baseball returned, basketball and hockey moved into the playoffs, and college basketball reached its seasonal climax. In October, the NFL was going strong, college football bustled with rivalries and showdowns, baseball played out its bittersweet endgame, and the NBA and NHL began to rev up. The virtual orgy of sports was—and still is—a sports fanatic’s dream come true. Growing up in northern New Jersey I developed deeply felt regional allegiances. Giants, Yankees, Rangers, Knicks. (This was a typical trend along the Connecticut–Westchester–New Jersey axis. East of Manhattan lay Met, Jet, Islander territory, although the arrival of the Nets and the Devils and the Jets’ move to Jersey have muddled the picture in recent years.) College football: Penn State. College basketball: uncommitted. I loved them all. In 1976 I was nine years old and the Giants signed Larry Csonka, fresh from his disastrous stint in the World Football League. Csonka was not the player he’d been as the centerpiece of the great Miami Dolphins teams of the early to mid-1970s, but the Giants had been so bad for so long that anything that had even the slightest crumb of success clinging to it was welcomed like an ice cube in a European restaurant. No surprise then that when I found out the Zonk, as my dad called him, would be signing autographs at a local car dealership, I forced my mom to haul me over there. I still have the autograph—“Thanks for visiting DeMassi Cadillac” scribbled across a glossy black-and-white photo of the Zonk, who smiles out from under his comically twisted nose and cheesy Magnum, PI mustache—but I remember little about the meeting with the future Hall of Famer. He sat on a chrome barstool with a black leather seat and wore a ssport jacket—which threw me. I think I was expecting him to be in uniform. It was the first time I’d ever met a professional athlete,,,,, and I’d never imagined them as real people with lives off the field; somehow they didn’t exist to me in any way but the way in which I always encountered them, suited up and ready to play. He asked my name. I can’t remember but I must have responded because the autograph reads “To Jim,” although it’s possible that in my shell-shocked muteness my mother responded for me. My father, who’d once seen Csonka in a restaurant, had talked about the size of his thighs, but what caught my attention were his hands. Meaty, tangled, snarled, and powerful, they were hands that knew things. They had held on to footballs at the bottom of ruthless piles, had led the charge on countless devastating forearm shivers, and had been held aloft in the ultimate triumph. The mildly homoerotic undertones of the exchange were lost on me then, but the larger picture was not. I came away thinking three things: Larry Csonka was my favorite football player; there could be nothing greater in the world than to be a professional athlete; sports were awesome. The meeting had such an impact on me, in fact, that as the legend goes, my family was awakened several times over the next few weeks by the sound of my voice ringing out in the deepest part of the night. They were used to me talking in my sleep (a childhood affliction I eventually outgrew), but this was different. There were variations, but the content usually went something like this: “Csonka off the left side. He breaks a tackle at the 20. He’s at the 10, the 5, touchdown!” The number of Saturdays and Sundays that I spent between the ages of ten and twenty-five watching sports from before lunch until well after dinner are countless. Ohio State vs. Michigan? Sure. Who cares that I don’t know anyone who went to either school and have hardly set foot in either state? That hasn’t stopped me from not only watching the annual matchup dozens of times, but actually looking forward to it. In fact, by the time I got to college, coming across such a game was a bonus. In those carefree days my friends and I would happily settle in for a filler game like the Citadel vs. VMI. The more obscure, in some ways, the better. And while I thought my hours of fandom would have reached a peak in college, it was in my early twenties that my sports jones really took off. I lived in a quintessential bachelor pad outside New York City with two guys I’d known since childhood, and we watched sports just about every night and in nonstop doses on the weekend. Sometimes, to get out, we’d visit friends and watch with them. There’s many a well-built seat cushion out there that’s been permanently ...

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780547879932

  • ISBN-10: 0547879938

  • Pages: 240

  • Price: $9.99

  • Publication Date: 04/04/2008

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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