Kansas City Chiefs
The first professional sporting event I ever remember going to was a tilt between my hometown Kansas City Chiefs and their arch-rivals, the Denver Broncos. The Broncos held a six-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and were punting the ball away to a little guy named Dante Hall.
Hall received the punt on his own seven yard line, immediately side-stepped a pursuing Bronco, and proceeded to perform football magic, finishing the return 93 yards downfield for what would be the game-winning touchdown. Words cannot do the play justice. Watching the video back, six different Denver players could have, by my count, conceivably tackled Hall; none of them did so. This return was also the original ‘X-Factor’s’ seventh return touchdown in ten games—an NFL record. Given the historical significance and sheer magnificence of the effort, I’d say Hall’s play was and is the best punt return in NFL history.
Interspersed with other incredible displays from the man also called the ‘Human Joystick,’ that 2003 season was the team’s best since my birth. Similarly to every other Chiefs season, it saw some cool things, some weird things, and, ultimately, it ended in disappointment. Fortunately, by now, I’ve become numb to the team’s failures, but the memory of that return—a single play that set my unhealthy passion for the sport into stone—will stay with me forever.
It’s difficult to qualify why I love the Vancouver Canucks. I can’t point to any one event or any one player. I certainly can’t call myself a bandwagon fan considering how unsuccessful they have been in recent seasons. It really comes down to my home and the environment around me growing up.
Before arriving at McGill, I had lived my entire life just 15 minutes away from Vancouver City Centre—the heart of Canucks fandom. Canucks supporters have a reputation for being fair-weather fans, and during my formative years, the weather was quite fair. In my first seasons watching the Canucks, they were among the best teams in the National Hockey League, and even went to the Stanley Cup Finals. They were all anyone could talk about.
It could also have been hereditary for me. My grandfather was one of the first to get behind the new team in Vancouver when it entered the NHL in 1970, and he passed that love on to my father. Today, our love for the West Coast Express is the strongest bond of many within my family. They may not be turning any heads at the moment, but the Vancouver Canucks aren’t just on my mind: They’re in my blood.
Boston Red Sox
My first memory as a sports fan dates back to mid-October 2007, when I was seven years old. The Boston Red Sox were playing the Cleveland Indians in the ALCS and on their way to winning their second World Series in four years. They had gone down three games to one in the series, but were in the middle of an amazing comeback—second only to the one they staged in 2004 against the New York Yankees. It was the bottom of the first in Game 6, and the bases were loaded. J.D. Drew stepped up to the plate and launched the ball over the fence in straight-away centre field for a grand slam, giving the Sox an instant 4-0 lead. They wouldn’t give it up for the rest of the night.
After beating Cleveland, the Red Sox went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, but, besides a Matt Holliday bomb in Game 3, I don’t remember any of that series. It was in that one moment in the 2007 Championship Series, when the Sox took control over the series, that I really fell in love with the team. My appreciation has only grown since then, with another championship run in 2013, as well as their current run through the Yankees and Astros en route to what will hopefully be their ninth World Series title.
Whether I was playing or watching, the beautiful game has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My earliest recollection of watching soccer is from the 2006 World Cup, when Germany lost its semi-final match to Italy. Hailing from Germany, the memory still stings.
Fast-forward to 2012, and I had started paying attention to the Bundesliga in addition to the World Cup. Borussia Dortmund won the league and German Cup double that year. Watching them beat Bayern München in the final was nothing short of a spiritual experience. There was Shinji Kagawa’s early goal, Robert Lewandowski’s hat trick, and, as always, Jürgen Klopp’s priceless reactions. The joy on the faces of players and fans alike was enough to convince me to dedicate a very cringe-worthy Tumblr blog to my favourite team. I watched the young attacking duo of Mario Götze and hometown hero Marco Reus flourish, and I saw Lewandowski become one of the world’s best strikers. It was, in my opinion, one of the best runs in recent soccer history.
I can’t give a definitive answer as to why I have always supported Dortmund. Maybe I genuinely love the players and the fans. Maybe I just really hate Bayern and want to support their biggest competition. One thing is for certain, though: After watching Dortmund win that double in 2012, I’ll never stop supporting them.
Los Angeles Lakers
I was four years old when I first decided I wanted to shoot on a full-sized basketball hoop. The pictures tell the story of my hopes; I was a small child, barely able to get the ball more than a foot above my head. The Los Angeles Lakers were back-to-back-to-back NBA champions, and that spurred my futile ambition.
Thanks to my dad, the Lakers were my religion. I studied old VCR-recorded games of the Showtime era to learn the skyhook and add a little ‘Magic’ to my passing. When we were stuck in Los Angeles’ infernal traffic, the great Chick Hearn would be with us calling the game over the radio. And, when my family made the move to Canada, practicing Kobe’s footwork and fadeaway became one of the few constants in my life.
I’m lucky: Most fans only get to see their team raise a banner once or twice in their lifetime. But, the Lakers won their fifth championship ring in my lifetime with their come-from-behind-win in the 2010 championship to beat the Boston Celtics—a team I have been conditioned to hate so much that I used to refuse to own a single article of green clothing.
In the years since, I find as much joy in draft day as in Game 7 and I care just as passionately about the team’s rookies as its MVPs. Championship banner number 17 cannot come soon enough, but, in the meantime, I’ll be watching every game and enjoying every moment because that’s what Lakers basketball is all about.