For Mother's Day, I gave my mom a signed copy of Mike Krzyzewski's new book The Gold Standard. Even though she's a Tar Heel, my mom likes and cheers for Coach K and Duke -- and the University of North Carolina.
That's unusual, I know, but my mom is an unusual sports fan. She doesn't use the word hate and she's never booed a single team or person in her life.
She gets that sunny disposition from her mom, my 90-year-old grandmother, who not so long ago declared that she wouldn't be reading anymore stories with unhappy endings. Why bother, she said, when there are more than enough happy endings to keep her busy?
That's the kind of logic that explains why my mom is so blissfully unaware of A-Rod's nastier nicknames; why she doesn't get angry at Brett Favre for retiring and un-retiring; and why she never gets agitated by the likes of Skip Bayless and Jay Mariotti, ever.
My mom saves her energy for the people and teams she likes the most. When her Boston Celtics lost to the Orlando Magic the other night, my mom sent me an email saying, "Well, it was nice to see JJ Redick playing for Orlando."
She also roots for the New England Patriots, but my mom never made excuses or cast blame during the Spygate scandal in the fall of 2007. She was too busy rooting for her favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, as they marched to their second World Series win in 89 years.
My mom's love for all things Red Sox-related sparked a much sadder email from her on Thursday. But no, she wasn't worried about Manny Ramirez's legacy or his 50-game suspension.
She was worried about Jerry Remy, the voice of Red Sox Nation, who is battling lung cancer. Maybe that's why my mom doesn't watch ESPN that much. Although he will never be the subject of an ESPN Special Report, the RemDawg is a person truly worth worrying about. Just like my mom, I've always liked him, as long as I can remember, I think.In his memoir Trying To Save Piggy Sneed, John Irving wrote:
A fiction writer's memory is an especially imperfect provider of detail; we can always imagine a better detail than the one we can remember. The correct detail is rarely, exactly, what happened; the most truthful detail is what could have happened, or what should have.
With those words in mind, I think my mom is the real reason I love sports as much as I do, although it's possible that my older brother was a bigger influence.
Growing up, I was never as big or strong or fast as my brother, but I could be his equal as a fan. We rooted for the same teams and dressed up like the players for Halloween.
Or maybe I became a sports fan because of the T-shirts. I like T-shirts a lot. Any sports fan who came of age in Massachusetts during the '80s remembers the "Squish the Fish" and "Berry the Bears" shirts for sale during the Patriots' run to Super Bowl XX.
My favorite shirt was a green and white ringer tee. It said "Boston's Best Six Pack" on the front and featured beer bottle-like caricatures of the Celtics starting five, plus sixth-man Bill Walton.
I loved that shirt so much and wore it so often that it surprises me, now, that I ever lost it. It probably came apart in the washer or dryer after its zillionth wearing.
Years later, I came across a street vendor at the Spanish Steps in Rome selling that shirt. It was too small so I didn't buy it. It's a decision I still regret. That same vintage shirt featured the same vintage Celts who were trailing the Detroit Pistons by one point with only seconds to go in the pivotal fifth game of the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals.
"Now there's a steal by Bird," Johnny Most screamed through the radio in our kitchen. "Underneath to DJ -- he lays it in...oh my, this place is going crazy!"
Johnny Most's call and my family's ensuing celebration is one of my favorite sports memories, right up there with Laettner's shot, Henderson's homer, Vinatieri's clutch kicks, and Dave Roberts' steal.
Although the aging '87 Celts went on to beat those upstart Pistons, they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, but my memory of that defeat has faded over time.
As my mom and grandmother would say, Boston's dramatic victory over Detroit was our happy ending that year and the only one worth remembering, and mothers know best.
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