I have had the opportunity to take a look at my life lately, and appreciate the temporary escape offered by sports fandom. In a variety of ways, sports has played a major role in helping me deal with the hardships that come in life.
Both of my parents are from San Diego, and many of my relatives live there as well. My dad was in the Air Force, so we could only visit. As luck would have it, we were stationed in California three different times during my childhood, so visits were frequent. Oftentimes, we'd catch a Padres game while in town. Once we even went to a Chargers-Raiders game.
I suffered from depression as a child. In addition to medication, my parents got me involved in some activities, which helped. Then, in 1994, we moved from Los Angeles to Germany, and I did not have those activities anymore. This is when I discovered box scores and statistics. I would pore over the baseball box scores in the newspaper every day, looking at the shape and breadth of major league baseball. Tony Gwynn and Greg Maddux quickly became my favorite players, and I followed both the Padres and Braves religiously.
I had always been good with math, and even though I was only 11 years old and had never heard of Bill James, I quickly understood the value of statistics in baseball. Actually watching games was difficult, as I was living 9 hours ahead of the West Coast. Games would often start in the early morning hours, but I'd make a point of convincing my parents to let me watch the games when I could.
Then the 1994 baseball strike happened and left me with nothing to follow. Like many baseball fans, I felt a betrayal by the sport. How could they do this, just as I was getting interested? How could they abandon me when I needed them the most?
A month later, football season started and the Chargers very quickly captured my focus and my developing love of sports. They rolled out to a 6-0 record to start the season, and I was cheering every time I'd see a victory in the Tuesday newspaper box scores. I would look for how many tackles Junior Seau accumulated, or how many yards Natrone Means would rumble for. I'd watch the sports highlights on AFN, eagerly waiting for them to talk about the Chargers game.
Many people on this site have seen it, but it bears revisiting. This happened:
This was incredible and amazing and tense, and watching it in the wee hours of the morning as a sleep-deprived 11 year old is still one of my most cherished sports memories.
Sports (and especially the Chargers) had given me the best gift they could have given a boy; They showed me that underdogs could win, and no matter how bleak things appear, your heroes can still prevail. Sports gave me hope, and continues to do so today.
I fell in love with the San Diego Chargers when I was 11 years old, and I haven't stopped loving them.