The Glory Years: Part 1 - Childhood Bliss

Although most of you probably know me as a huge video game fan who loves to play (and review!) an eclectic selection of games, I am also a big sports fan who enjoys both watching and playing pretty much anything imaginable. Basketball, soccer, flag football, baseball/softball, and frisbee/disc golf are probably my favorite sports with foosball thrown in for good measure just in case it ever becomes an actual sport!

So why is Matt the supergeek extraordinaire a sports fan you ask? Well, you could say that I was pretty much born into it as my family has always been quite passionate about teams such as the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals, and Ohio State Buckeyes (I grew up in Ohio remember!) and that I naturally followed suit. There is just something special about watching an epic game filled with intense competition, boisterous fans, and that satisfying relief that comes with a big win. Conversely, there is that soul-crushing feeling you experience after a heart-breaking loss. I was officially christened as a long-suffering sports fan after having to endure the Bengals tough loss in Super Bowl XXIII (Darn you Joe Montana!). Of course, there is always the hope of "next year" which keeps fans like us coming back but still...if you happen to be a lifelong Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals fan like yours truly, it feels more like a fool's hope than anything else. But I digress.

In addition to enjoying the thrill of watching epic, memorable sporting events with family and friends, I love to play sports as well! I may not have the "perfect" height or build but when it comes to being fiesty and determined and never, ever giving up, I am your man. ;) I enjoy exercising in general and the strategic aspect of most sports has always appealed to me. I would always love to think about hypothetical situations/scenarios and play them out in my head...even as a youngster! I would go out onto our old driveway with a basketball and imagine that the clock was ticking down and that I had to make a last second shot to win my imaginary game. This is something that I did on a regular basis and it truly did help when I faced these situations in reality. Sure...I would miss my fair share of potential game winning shots but I would also go on to make some clutch shots as well. You win a few and you lose a few, right?

In addition to visualization and tactical elements, I also adore the numbers/statistics aspect of sports and I appreciate the history as well. Trust me...if a #16 seed ever does knock off a #1 (it is now 2016 and that still has never happened), I will cherish that moment. I just hope that the #1 seed isn't Ohio State when that happens! Heaven forbid!

Anyway, I think that I began playing organized sports when I was around six or seven years old. We lived in Fairfield, Ohio back then and I remember it all starting with a YMCA father-son basketball league that involved kids teaming up with their dads. The dads would occasionally shoot but it was mostly about teaching us young whippersnappers how to play the game. I enjoyed those days and I still recall one particular game where I couldn't miss! Although I didn't think about it at the time, these precious moments were a sign of things to come.

Many of you may not know this but I was actually into soccer before basketball became my main focus. I have the best memories of playing soccer for our local SAY soccer league. I vividly recall playing games on cool Saturday mornings and I still remember the feeling of dew on my cleats and the smell of autumn in the air. It is just like "Shoeless" Joe Jackson said in the movie "Field of Dreams." You remember the sounds and the smells more than anything. This is particularly true of the fans...ah...the good old fans. The only regret I have of my soccer days was that I was admittedly a very average player and it wasn't until years later that I improved my dribbling and shooting skills. Oh least I had fun, right?

Another "sport" I just want to briefly mention is kickball! I enjoyed playing kickball immensely with my friends and classmates at Community Christian School in Hamilton, Ohio. The kickball days were so special as there was nothing quite like running to recess and playing an exciting game on the pavement. Despite its simplicity, there was an unpredictable element to kickball. Some games were close and epic while others involved us spending most of our recess time chasing down foul kicks that landed on the other side of the fence (it was a very tall fence and you had to run all the way around it to get the ball...good exercise but very time-consuming).

In any case, one particular game still stands out in my mind. It was the day that my good friend Wesley Messer decided to jump in and play! I was in the outfield on the opposing team and I vividly recall us bringing in the defense expecting a slow roller. You have to understand that, while Wesley was a genius when it came to video games/comics/cartoons, he was never really much of a sports fan and, since he didn't usually play kickball, we just naturally assumed that his kick would be pedestrian at best. With that being said, our strategy completely backfired because on the very first roll, Wesley absolutely crushed the ball over all of our heads with it rolling all the way to the house at the end of the parking lot! It was amazing! Even though I was on the other team, I couldn't help but smile watching Wesley enjoy a moment of glory that day. I still recall his teammates rallying around him at home plate and congratulating him for such a massive kick. It was well-deserved and Wesley had shown all of us what can happen if you want something bad enough. And on that day, Wesley took out all of his inner aggression on that poor piece of inflated rubber. It was a moment I will never forget for sure. :)

Okay...we have now reached the point where I can start to discuss the main sport in this particular blog: basketball. Even though I love playing other sports such as frisbee/disc golf, flag football (preferably flag...I am simply not built for tackle football), and baseball/softball, I feel that I was born to play basketball. I received my initial five-foot basketball goal when I was around seven-ish and I still have the most wonderful memories of shooting baskets in our driveway back in our Fairfield, Ohio house. I would pretend that I played for the Lakers (they were actually my favorite team back then...before I became a Hornets/Pacers/Suns/Warriors fan) and I would literally have my own pretend "games" where I would play as both teams (I always played for the Lakers of course!) Yes, it might seem a little odd but hey, I always had a very active imagination and it came out in different ways. I loved to draw my own made up video games as well as have Hot Wheels car crashing tournaments...complete with professional looking brackets! And believe it or not, my pretend basketball games actually helped me to succeed later on because I would encounter so many unique scenarios during my "games." Perhaps my "team" would be down by five points with a minute to go; maybe we were down by one and I had a chance to shoot two free throws (after getting "fouled" of course). How funny it is that, in the future, I would actually stare down these adrenaline-pumping scenarios in reality! What's wrong with being a dreamer you know?

As I mentioned earlier, my experience in organized basketball began with the YMCA Father and Son league. And later on (it was probably 1991-ish), I played in the YMCA youth league for a few years and gained some valuable experience there. It was an absolute thrill despite the fact that I was probably only slightly above average. I was a good shooter and I wasn't bad at all for my age but, unbeknownst to me, my basketball journey was just beginning. I would go through so much over the next decade and, not only would my basketball journey provide me with countless opportunities to play the game I would teach me a lot about life as well. Excitement, adversity, confidence, anger, determination, vindication...all of these attributes would play a role in my basketball future. This is not an entirely happy or positive story but it is my story and it is one I would love to share with all of you. If you need a little inspiration or a jolt of confidence or even plain old encouragement, I just might be able to give you what you need.

Please click the link below and take a journey down memory lane with me. It is quite the story and I am certain that you will not be disappointed! :)

The Glory Years: Part 2 - Through the Fire

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Last Updated: October 11, 2016
WebMaster: Matt Hull
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