When people ask me how seriously I take sports, I tell them this story:
November 23rd, 1984
On November 23rd, 1984, my parents got me a special present: tickets to the Mickey Mouse-Capades. I was 6 years-old. Every little kids dream, right? It just so happens that November 23rd, 1984 was the same night of the Boston College vs. University of Miami football game. I threw a tantrum (which I did a lot as a kid.) I didn’t want to see Mickey Mouse on ice; I wanted to watch the game. (I’m sure my Dad felt the same way, but he couldn’t say anything. And I have to credit my two older brothers for teaching me that watching sports was far better than Mickey Mouse on ice skates.)
My memory may be slightly off, but this is what I recall. My Dad took me to the bathroom during the show. I wandered off and my father chased me throughout the arena. Somehow, someway…I found a janitor watching the game on a mini-TV. My father found me and the 3 of us watched the game together. It was a great moment: me, my dad, and some random janitor named Pepe taking in the game. All was good until my mother hunted us down and brought us back to our seats. She was pissed.
In the end, I didn’t see Doug Flutie’s miraculous hail-mary. And I didn’t see one of the greatest college football games of all time. But even at 6, my priorities were already set—there was nothing more important than watching sports and I was committed to doing whatever it took to do so.
June 5th, 2008
I tell this story because I was met with a similar situation 24 years later. Somehow, I was coaxed into chaperoning a high school prom. This happened several weeks ago—how did I know Game 1 of the Celtics-Lakers Finals would be on the same night? In retrospect, it was completely my fault as I failed to check the schedule. It’s kind’ve like planning a wedding during October, and then shrugging when it conflicts with the World Series. I should’ve known.
I cried and moaned, (just like when I was 6) but there was no getting out of it. I thought of buying/bringing a mini-TV—a strategy my father has used at Bar Mitzvahs and weddings. (It doesn’t win points with my Mom, but instead by other men longing to see the big game. He gets treated like a hero.) But I was assured there would be a TV in the bar downstairs—I couldn’t watch the whole game, but this would be OK. The Celtics are so inconsistent; I can’t watch the whole game anyways.
Why Not Just Tape The Game?
This was the brilliant solution every woman came up with. I cannot tape sports for the following reasons.
My phone: I receive 5-10 text messages after big wins. If I don’t receive any, I know we’ve lost. I could shut off my phone for 6 hours, but that’s a real pain in the ass.
Random People: I am bound to run into one person on the way home that will reveal what happened with the big game. (I know some people didn’t like Fever Pitch, but there is a great scene in this movie that shows why taping the game doesn’t work.)
DVR: It’s a great invention, but am I willing to leave something this important up to a gadget— What if it breaks? What if it tapes the wrong show? What if my roommate accidentally changes the channel? There are so many issues that could come into play. It’s just too risky.
Self-Control: It is incredibly hard to watch a game knowing you can press one button and find out what happened. I cannot handle that responsibility. It is just too hard for me.
8:30 PM—When I arrived in my tuxedo, I was shocked to learn there were no televisions. Let me repeat that: No TV. What kind of establishment was this? I went into panic mode. That’s when I remembered 1984. I would find a way to watch this game.
9:35 PM—While the kids groped each other on the dance floor, I snuck out of there. I figured there would be a bar within walking distance. But what I failed to realize was that I was an area where televisions were considered evil.
Brooklyn, NY: Williamsburg
Williamsburg is the Los Feliz of New York City. Conquered by hipsters in the early 21st century, these people hate sports, TV, and cheap beer—basically anything a normal dude enjoys. So when I ventured to the five nearby bars, there was not one television. Not one!!!
I was furious. I sprinted and shook my head at the same time. Finally, from a distance, I saw the flashing of a flatscreen. Was it a mirage? No, it was a gym. I entered in my tuxedo and explained my problem to the cute receptionist named Olga. She was extremely confused, but I charmed her into changing the channel from “Indy” rock videos to the NBA Finals. I even grabbed a gym towel and cleaned myself up.
I barked at the TV as the Lakers outplayed the Celtics in the 2nd quarter. Gym-goers scratched their heads as they looked at me: why would a man in a tuxedo be at a gym at 10 PM watching a basketball game? As the halftime buzzer sounded, I was off. On the way out, Olga warned me that the gym was closing very soon. She wished me good luck and I swear she shouted: “Beat L.A!” It was either that or “Please go away!”
10:15 PM— I returned to the prom and interacted with as many people as possible; danced, ate, posed for pictures. This gave the effect that I was there the whole time. When in reality, I would be disappearing again very soon.
10:45 PM— I was jogging again. I ventured past the gym, which was now closed. I felt like James Bond in my tux: a man on a mission. I tweaked my knee and hobbled into the only bar in this damn town with a TV. As I limped in, Paul Pierce was doing the same (except he heard the loudest standing ovation the New Garden history while all I got were several blank stares.)
I proceeded to watch one of the most memorable NBA Finals performances. Pierce’s “comeback” is now being compared to Willis Reed (obviously not the same because it was Game 7, but still…) For those who thought he was “faking,” can I remind you that Pierce survived being stabbed 11 times in the face, neck, and back in September, 2000. And he still started every game that year. Maybe the skeptics thought he was faking that time too. Pierce is bad-ass, and his performance was amazing!
I let out a primal scream when Garnett nearly tore the hoop down with that vicious dunk. There were actually a few Celtics fans at the bar who cheered as well. They were slightly afraid of me, but gave me high fives on the way out. I pumped my fists in celebration, and headed back to the prom.
11:55 PM—I made it back to the prom with five minutes to spare. The kids had a great time, and so did I. I did my duties as a chaperone, but I also found a way to watch the game.
Moral of the Story
So for all you sports fanatics out there who can’t watch the big game because of a wedding, bar mitzvah, anniversary, event with the in-laws, work function, birthday party, or even prom; Just recall my story, and remember, there’s always a way.