We miss sports so much so that we started asking ourselves this question: What was the moment or reason that we fell in love with sports in the first place? Now we're sharing the stories that answer that question. Gentry Estes, a sports columnist at the Tennessean, part of the USA TODAY Network.
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Looking back, I can’t say what it was exactly. The spectacle, maybe? Certainly wasn’t a matter of spine-tingling suspense. No one was on the edge of their seat. The personal highlight for me actually came about 33 years afterward.
Because the game itself was a dud.
Alabama beat Vanderbilt 42-10 on a warm, sleepy, sunny morning/afternoon in 1986 in Tuscaloosa in what they used to call a Jefferson Pilot game. The experience wouldn’t hold a candle to today’s Alabama games, which take place in a cavernous and vastly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium that seats more than 100,000.
I was one of the 58,168 that Saturday. It was my first college football game in person. It was also Watson Brown’s first game as Vanderbilt’s head coach. (I was amused years later to be able to share that fact with him on the air while guesting on George Plaster’s radio show in Nashville, which Brown co-hosts. He remembered much about the game, too, which made, well, two of us).
As I’ve been tasked with recalling a specific moment in which I first fell in love with sports, it feels a bit silly to claim such a thoroughly forgettable game that I attended as a first-grader with my dad. It’s as good a guess as I’m bound to come up with, though.
Truth is, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t adore sports, either watching them or playing them and now – as a grown-up – writing about them, which I always wanted to do for a living. I’m insanely lucky.
When questioned about the source of my obsession with sports – most often, college football – I’ve usually replied, “Well, I grew up in the South.” For many, no more explanation is needed.
I’ve often wondered what my balding, middle-aged self would advise the younger version about his career path. Would I offer prudent words to him like “law school” or “medical school” or “MBA” or “mortgage payments” or “retirement fund”?
Nah, I don’t think so.
I’d be wasting my breath anyway. By age 16, I had managed to secure a job writing and designing an actual sports section all by myself. It was a done deal from there.
Over the years, I’ve found the passion that drew me into this world is not exclusive to one sport or one region. I still get chills when teams run out of the tunnel on fall Saturdays, just like I did when I saw Tom Brady run down the sideline to fire up fans before his final game as a New England Patriot and just like I know I will when I again get to hear “My Old Kentucky 真人百家家乐官网网站home” played as horses and jockeys enter the track on the first Saturday in May at a packed Churchill Downs.
I’ve said the moment I stop getting those chills will be when I need to find something else to do.
Hasn’t happened. Not since that Saturday in 1986.
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