Unlike most of my posts on here which usually focus on me trying to outthink myself on various sporting issues.....this post is essentially to give just a bit of personal insight into my sporting life.
I am the SportzAssassin...and most who know me on here no nothing more than that. While it isn't a character of mine or anything....it is an extention of myself in the sports field which, and all those who know me personally know too well, is my definitive hobby. Below are the sporting influences in my life.....and just sporting characters who have entered it from time to time....
MY DAD. Most boys get introduced to sports from their dads. Well, mine did the same. Mainly baseball. My dad's side of the family is a baseball kind of family [more on that later]. I remember playing catch, and dad tossing a knuckler in there every once in a while. He even started a "pee-wee" type league for us...in which I won the inagural MVP award [and, apparantly was in the local paper after, as a 6-yr old, I caught a ball while diving, rolled around and held my glove in the air....I have no memory of this]. Later, he'd be my Little League manager for the Cubs. As a Cub, I played centerfield. I was an All Star, mainly for my defense and just knowledge of the game....since I had the rule book pretty much memorized. I couldn't....I should say WOULDN'T.....hit worth a lick. As was much of my problem as a child....I was afraid to fail. I never wanted to strike out swinging....so I chose to strike out looking. I probably had a .000 batting average, since I either walked or struck out.
Down the line, I stopped playing baseball because, well, I moved to a place [Charlotte] that baseball doesn't matter.
RUSS NIXON. Mr Nixon was a catcher in the American League during the 1950s and 1960s. He was the catcher for the Red Sox that the ball never reached when Roger Maris put #61 into the stands. Later, he would be the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves managers....and as a bench coach in 1976, won a World Series ring and trophy.
He is also my uncle.
My dad's sister's husband, to be exact. When I was a kid....he was involved with the Reds. When I went to his house, I would try to look in all the closests to see where he #2 Reds uniform was. I figured he put it on at home and headed to work at Riverfront Stadium. Being the nephew of a MLB manager does have it's perks. I went to a ton of games....usually sitting a few rows back of home plate. After the game, we got to go to the clubhouse and meet all the players coming out of the locker room. My sister even got Johnny Bench's autograph....which I later scribbled on and tore up. [Honestly, I have never really been an autograph hound because I never have felt that any athlete was worth me doing so]. And, apparantly, I knew Ken Griffey Jr when he was a young teen.
My uncle was the Braves manager in the late 1980s. He was fired after the 1990 season. He was the manager of the last Braves team to not win the division.
PETE ROSE. Ask me who my favorite baseball player was...and it was Pete. And I didn't even get to see half his career...nor have I ever met him. But this goes deeper than "the guy for my favorite team."
Pete Rose grew up with my dad and his brother. They attended the same schools and knew each other pretty well as kids [dad says he was a better football player than baseball]. In fact, my grandfather [my dad's dad] was Pete Rose's "Little League" manager. My dad still has a video tape of my grandparents being interviewed in 1986...around the time he broke Ty Cobb's record.
ST JOHN'S STARS. Around the time that I left baseball...I was falling in love with basketball. The only reason I ever played was because I went to a Lutheran school that didn't have enough players for a team unless I played. From there, I was a hoops junkie. I wore #4 which, to this day, is my number on every personalized jersey I'd ever wear.
THE TAR HEELS. A weird story about why I am a Heels fan. Mainly, it is because my mom was born and raised in North Carolina. But I was living in Indiana at the time. However, I'm the guy that likes to root for the team that everyone around me isn't. In 1981, UNC played Indiana for the championship. Despite the Heels losing, I was a Heels fan. My uncle [my mom's brother] is a die hard Heels fan and always sent me Heels apparell. When we moved to Charlotte....well, it was on.
MAGIC JOHNSON. Even though I am a Heels fan....my favorite player of all time isn't Michael Jordan. It is Magic. I can remember watching the Lakers and Celtics battle and just in love with Magic's game. I mean, he was the greatest player I ever saw....or will see. I played point guard...as did Magic...and I wanted to do all the things he was doing with the ball. Just the way he saw the floor.....amazing. Well, I always said that if there was ONE athlete that I would die to meet....it was Magic.
Well, in 1999, I got my chance. I have been to Laker games in Charlotte to see Magic play....but this was the closest I got to him. At my wife's college, they have a keynote speaker during Black History Month. In '99, it was Magic. So my wife scored some tickets for me and her. Since I was knew to the area [I was in Northern KY then]...I had no idea how to get there or anything. My wife was sooooooo sick, but took me there anyways. I got to hear Magic speak on everything....from basketball, to business, to family, to HIV, to whatever. There was cameras filiming it....and we got to see us in the audience...my wife looking as white as a sheet....lol.
ANTAWN JAMISON. Jamison went to Providence High School in Charlotte. Now, I went to Independence High, where 4 eventual Division I hoopsters played on the same team [Anton Hubert-K State, Andre Davis - Charlotte, Barry Canty - Wake Forest, Todd Fuller -NC State]. That team also played a team that had Jeff McInnis [West Charlotte] that I got to see play.
Anyhoo....I actually got to play against Jamison. In those Hoop It Up tournaments they had in the 90s, we always sent a team [always called the "Soul Assassins"]. Jamison was a high school senior who had commited to UNC. But there wasn't anything great about him....or so you'd think. His team was made up of him....and three short white guys. They blitzed thru the tournament and won the thing.
DAVID THOMPSON. One of the ACC's greatest players was the subject of one of my funniest moments. I was at a Media Play in Charlotte with my buddy....who is a huge NC State fan. Well, we look over...and I'm like "is that David Thompson?" Hard to tell. So, we had this plan to find out. We walked over by where he was standing...and I said "I don't care what you say.....Michael Jordan would dunk all over David Thompson!!!" My buddy replied with a "Thompson was a better dunker than MJ could ever be." The guy looked up at us and laughed....and introduced himself as David Thompson.
That's a pretty cool moment for my friend. But I had the last laugh. I told him, "that's the best player in the history of State. Yet, no one but us noticed. If the best ever Carolina player...MJ...was here, well, the entire shopping center would be crammed in here looking for his autograph!!!"
DELL CURRY. About 10 years ago, you'd swear that me and Dell Curry were best friends. Curry was a guard for the Hornets...and usually the most accessable Hornet. Well, the Hornets would have a Fan Fest where you could come to the arena and meet the players, shoot on the court, and all kinds of stuff. Well, I seemed to always bump into Curry and get his autograph [yeah, I did get autographs then]. I think I got his name on about 5-6 items...including a photo that my mom gor for me. For another Hornet story, I ran into Muggsy Bogues at a Circle K at about 1 am in the candy isle. And I ran into Larry Johnson at a dunk contest at that afore mentioned Hoop It Up.
More to come......