Sports, what do they mean to me, or, well, anybody for that matter. For everyone I feel it is different, obviously. Not everyone likes the same sports, hell some people don’t like sports at all, no issues with that. For others, sports are their entire life. I wouldn’t say that sports are my entire life but they sure as hell play a pretty big part of it, and have since a young age.
My first sporting event were when I was seven years old, 1992, Portland Winter Hawks hockey. Opening night in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Kamloops Blazers; Kamloops was the team to beat at the beginning of the year, having won the league the year before. Portland got the win, 2-1 in overtime, and I was hooked on the game. I didn’t see the Winter Hawks lose a game that season till they played Saskatoon in February, quite the impressive streak of seeing victories for myself. Portland went on to fall in the league final that year to Swift Current but even with the loss in the finals, I knew hockey was the sport for me.
I was lucky as a kid, with my parents I managed to make it to between eight and fifteen Winter Hawks games per season including playoffs, as well as occasional baseball games in Portland with the Beavers, and eventually the Rockies when they came to town from Bend. There were also occasional baseball games in Seattle, I believe I have been to three or four Mariners games in my life, all in the Kingdome. I have yet to make it back up there since they moved into Safeco, and that has been open for 19 years so it has been a bit to say the least since I have seen them play.
Hockey has been everything to me though. Between the Winter Hawks, who now go by the Winterhawks, as well as the National Hockey League and the like. I have been to a few National Hockey League games, two up in Vancouver, both in the 90’s as well as last year. I have also been to a game in Anaheim over a decade ago which was a good time, but still, it was the Ducks, a team I really don’t care for.
I have seen hockey games at about every level possible besides NCAA in the United States. Between Major junior games in Portland, Seattle, Everett and Tri Cities for Winterhawks games, I have also been to the NHL games in Vancouver and Anaheim as well as ECHL games in Las Vegas back when the Wranglers were still a thing I have also been to one AHL game in Ontario California this year which was a good time and very enjoyable.
Hockey has just always been my sport of choice, what I have always been the most passionate about. My first video games I ever owned were NHL games back in 2000. Hockey has just been my thing, and I know it always will be. I just wish some of my NHL teams, Columbus and the Islanders, who became my teams because of the sheer amount of Portland players. Of course the Islanders don’t have any Winterhawks anymore; they traded Nino off to Minnesota where he has been much better off.
If I follow the same logic by following primarily Winterhawks I should pay far more attention to the Vancouver Canucks, as they now have three former Wintrhawks as well as a former Winterhawk coach. There are also a couple three guys in Winnipeg now, yet do I really need another team to follow closely? Probably not.
Still, hockey is life, and I know it always will be, and I will never not take the chance to see a game no matter the level wherever I am.
That summer of 1993 I was exposed to baseball for the first time as well, both in person in Portland with the Beavers but in Seattle with the Mariners as well. The Mariners weren’t great that year but it was the beginning of what was to be something special in Seattle with Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Alex Martinez etc. all coming up in the next couple years to turn the Mariners into a legitimate threat.
The Beavers were good that year, as I look back at the standings but I generally didn’t care as much about baseball as hockey, I honestly had no idea that they went up against Tucson for the league title that year.
When it comes to baseball the Mariners are my team, even if they are god awful and out of playoff contention by June most seasons. I haven’t been to a game in over 20 years, and haven’t watched a full game on television in about as long but I still get all their score alerts on my phone and still halfway care, at least enough to own a couple hats and an 80’s jersey. Still, if I don’t make it to a game anytime soon it wouldn’t bother me too much.
There are other teams I support as well for baseball, for entirely different reasons. I have always had a soft spot for the Twins since Portland was their AAA team back when I was a kid. A poor reason to support a team I know but I have always supported them at least a little, or at least paid some attention to them. Also there is a thing for the Kansas City Royals, however that is for family reasons. My grandfather, my dad’s dad was from Kansas City, and brought me a Kansas City Royals shirt when I was a very young kid, I always checked to see how they were in the standings, and then watched when they went to the World Series, and then again the year they won the World Series, which was unfortunately the year we lost my grandfather as well.
I can’t say I am the biggest fan of any of those three teams but my fandom is at least in passing, I follow them on social media, and generally try and have an idea of how they are doing but some days I just find it difficult to care about them.
My dad also had Portland Trail Blazers season tickets for ages both before the move to The Rose Garden as well as after. Going to games with him was always incredibly enjoyable, especially during the glory years of the Trail Blazers with Drexler, Porter, Williams and the like. Since he stopped renewing his tickets close to 20 years ago or so now I have only made it to two other games. I miss them to a degree but not going with him, and also not sitting as close as we did in the Memorial Coliseum, it just isn’t the same. When it comes to basketball I also was introduced to the college game at an early age with Portland Pilots at the University of Portland where my parents and I would usually go to a game or two a season here and there. Then when I went off to Nevada for school I started going to University of Nevada and going to mostly all of the games my first two years there when I was living on campus.
Also with living on campus I was going to mostly all of the University of Nevada football games as well which besides a single Portland State Vikings game when I was young as well as some Oregon Thunderbolts games when I was even younger at Milwaukie High School, that was my first real exposure to football in person. Football has never really been my thing, at least not in the same way hockey and soccer are. I honestly really don’t care if I ever watch football again, college or professional, it is enjoyable at least for the most part but it generally is something I find incredibly boring. The game just moves so damn slow and I find it really difficult to stay engaged in the game, especially watching on television. At the game it is a good bit more exciting but I still found it hard to justify going to games in Reno towards the end of when I was living on campus. Now, I hardly pay attention to football at all. For the NFL I halfway give a shit about the Seahawks but not enough to really call myself a fan. For college I like the University of Nevada, obviously, as well as Oregon State, for family reasons but truthfully I just don’t care.
My dad was also the one who took me to my first professional soccer game, it was mid-July in 2013 and he took me to see the Portland Timbers vs Milwaukee Wave United. From there my love for soccer, even though I had played for years as a kid, grew a ton. The Timbers were the first team I really felt a deep connection with since the Winter Hawks back in 92. Today, that love for the Timbers is still strong, and with the season starting in less than a week I am quite hopeful for a better season than last, at least in terms of the end result.
I also follow Norwich City in English soccer, not one of the traditionally great or powerful teams but once again for family reasons I have adopted them. My great aunt, via marriage was from Cromer England, right up the road on the coast from Norwich, so it only seemed logical to me to support them. It is drastically harder to support them now that they have been relegated down to the Championship instead of the Premier League and there aren’t games on television but I do my best to make due.
My fandom is generally just for local teams here in Portland. The Thorns, Timbers, Trail Blazers and Winterhawks for the sports, other teams I like are for somewhat different reasons. I still follow the University of Nevada where I went to school, as well as Oregon State University to a degree, I much prefer them to the Ducks. Even though I went to Portland State University for a year I really don’t care about the Vikings, basketball or Football. During my time attending Portland State I made it to one football game, and zero basketball games, and I haven’t been back to a game since I moved back to Portland six years ago. Once their new arena opens I think I may make it to a game to check it out though.
Sports are just an important part of my life, they are something I grew up with, both supporting teams, as well as playing sports as a kid. I played basketball and soccer from elementary school till I got to high school, then I ran and eventually played lacrosse. Sports have been something to distract me in times when things haven’t been the best. Listening to Winterhawks games online when I was living in Reno, alone and hating everything, as well as watching the choppiest of web streams of the Timbers in the USL got me through some less than ideal times. Sports have in a way helped me feel more connected to a given place, to home. Through Timbers Twitter I have met a ton of wonderful people who helped to encourage and facilitate my move back here to Portland in 2012. Some days I wish I was a better sports fan, or at least better than I feel I am. I know I am a better sports fan, a more active fan than I had been in the past, still there is clear room for improvement.