In the sports world and also in the real world, Mothers’ Day is a great excuse to tell stories about mothers and how important they are to their children’s lives. Michael Farber wrote an excellent article for Sports Illustrated about hockey player Alexander Ovechkin’s mother, who passed down her athletic genes at birth (she was an Olympic basketball player) and has continued to nurture her son in her own distinctive way to this day. That way included being the primary negotiator of his 13 year, $124 million contract with the Washington Capitals. Not bad. In the hopes that one day my mom or grandmother will negotiate a deal like that for me, I want to share some stories about them today. Jokes aside, I want to thank them for being a big source of inspiration for Dear Sports Fan. This site is the product of my love for sports and writing, both of which I can trace back through my matrilineage.
Before I could even walk, I was a soccer player. My mom would lift me up and swing me at a soccer ball, teaching me simultaneously how to kick and how to strive for skills just beyond my reach. Before I was old enough to play on a club team, my mom and I were an elite pair of soccer spectators, spending hours watching my brother’s team play. She coached our Saturday morning “house league” teams and helped manage our club teams. She quite un-ironically drove us all over the state to games and tournaments in her minivan. To this day, the term “soccer mom” in our family bears only positive characteristics. My mom got her love of sports from her parents. Her dad, my grandfather, was a member of the Italian-American Bike Club of New York (he was of Russian/Polish ancestry, but he sure could bike) and raced bicycles on the wooden velodromes of the city before World War II. During the war, he played soccer for an American military team who played against other allied teams in England as the soldiers waited to invade Europe. Back home, my grandmother was growing to love the sports her husband loved. The early days of their romance were full of sporting activities. He taught her to ski and to skate and to bicycle. Together they learned to play tennis and golf. They had season tickets to the New York Islanders throughout the glory days of the 1980s. Sports were a glue that bound them together through 50+ years of marriage.
Before I could even write, I was an author. For some reason (my brother claims I’m actually a lefty), I found the physical act of writing difficult. Gripping a pen was awkward, painful, and frustrating. When forced to write for a school assignment, I would do as little as possible, preferring to skimp on composition for the sake of convenience. Instead of trying to force me to write more, my mom developed a work-around. She would sit at the typewriter (later a computer) and let me dictate my homework to her. At times in my life, I’ve felt embarrassed by this luxury — how many other seven year-olds have a secretary? — but now I’m convinced it was a smart move. Without being freed from the physical act of writing, I don’t think I ever would have discovered a love for the mental aspects of composition. As for my Nana, well, I forget exactly when it began, but before Dear Sports Fan was even the germ of an idea in my mind, Nana had begun encouraging me. “You’re a writer,” she would say, or “One day, I’m going to see you in the back of the New York Times magazine.” These little remarks fostered a slow burning desire to write and a spark of belief that I could.
Of course, the content and style of Dear Sports Fan would be nothing without perseverance. The life of a blogger is not a particularly hard one, but you do need to keep plugging away at it, turning out two or three posts a day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I don’t have an enormous following, so most of the views I get each day are from people who go to Google, wondering about some aspect of sports. By writing every day, I make it more likely that I’ve written about what they’re wondering about and more likely that Google will favor my site in its search rankings. How do I keep going every day? It’s in my blood. My grandmother has been making art for decades and the thread that connects her printmaking to her sculpture to her haiku is a confident determination to always be creating something. My mom always has a project too. For over 35 years, it was inspiring classrooms of students to love nature and be creative. Now that she’s retired, she’s concentrating on different things, like taking care of her grandchild or cleaning out the garage (sorry Mom for all my junk in there).
The three of us enjoy sports together too. With the Women’s World Cup coming up, I was thinking about the finals of the last World Cup in 2011. The United States played Japan in the finals and I was in Long Island, watching with my Mom and my Nana. To be historically accurate, the three of us started to watch the game but my Nana decided to leave the room at some point in over time because she was getting too fired up! Today, on Mothers’ Day 2015, the three of us won’t be in the same place geographically, but sports might still find a way to bring us together. The U.S. Women’s National team will play against Ireland in a friendly World Cup warmup game. It will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET. Here’s a video of the team saying happy Mothers’ Day to their moms.
Happy Mothers’ Day, Mom and Nana, and to all the other mothers out there as well. Thanks!