The Lone Ranger Fan
As a 31 year old male African-American born and raised in New York, it ceases to amaze me that some people automatically perceive that my favorite sport is basketball.
Well, it's true that I do play basketball in my spare time because it's great cardio-vascular exercise and I can get into shape rather quickly. It's also true that my favorite teams are the Knicks (Obviously with me living in New York!).
I'll watch playoff games and gather up a lengthy conversation afterwards about some of the best moves of Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, "the Mailman" Karl Malone and Hakeem "the Dream" Olajuwan. And if I can afford those outrageous ticket prices, I'll see an NBA game.
But ladies and gentlemen, I have a confession to make, and for some of you reading this admission, it will be to say the least, mind boggling. When it comes to making a decision on what my favorite sport is, it would not be basketball.
It wouldn't be football, soccer or even professional wrestling.
To give you a hint, you have to go back to the spring of 1970. I was visiting my grandfather's house in Jersey City, New Jersey. My grandfather let me and my brothers, Gary & Vincent watch television.
There were no cartoons on at the time so we continued to turn the channel knob out of sheer boredom. Suddenly, we stumbled upon a program that caught our attention. It was different from any sport we've ever seen before. It featured a rectangular oval with a large slab of ice in it. We saw twelve guys carrying long sticks with a slight curve at the bottom. They were wearing shoes that had blades on the bottom. It looks like they were gliding on the ice. We noticed that two of the guys, each in front of nets, had sticks that wider at the bottom, like the paddles some parents would beat their kids with when they got bad. They were also wearing masks on their faces and bulky leg pads. There was a black disc that the players would all go after with their sticks and try to shoot it past the guys with the extra equipment into the net.
The best part we found about this game was that it seemed very aggressive. Sometimes, the players would fight with each other. We were screaming and hollering, "KNOCK 'EM OUT!! KNOCK 'EM OUT!!" We were enjoying the game when our grandfather walked into the room to see what the commotion was all about. He shouted out to my dad, "Don't worry, there just watching the Hockey game." I said to grandpa, "Is that what this is?" Grandpa said, "That's right. You're watching the New York Rangers and the Boston Bruins. They’re the biggest rivals in the league." After explaining some of the rules, he left you to enjoy the rest of the game. Because of its incredible intensity, aggressiveness and fast pace, that experience forever changed the way we viewed sports.
So if you asked me what's my favorite sport is, my answer without hesitation would be "ICE HOCKEY". Now, I know, some of you readers out, preferably many in the african-american persuasion, are probably saying, "What could possess him to watch a sport that has less than 2 percent of his own people playing?" It's plain and simple. I'm a man of principle. I stand for what I believe. And I never let anybody make a decision for me.
When I was a boy living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, it never ceased to amaze me to the similar lifestyles that black people in my neighborhood would live. For as long as I can remember, being a liberal Democrat was the way of thinking within the consensus of the area (If you were a Republican, a conservative, or even a moderate you kept your thoughts to yourself).
Financially, you were either poor and on some kind of public assistance or you were in the lower middle class bracket (that is, you had more than your constituents in the area, but you were not rich enough to get you out of the neighborhood and into your own home). Being that parking was a major problem when traveling to where you were going within the city limits, buses and subways were the normal mode of transportation.
My mother, father and then baby brother, Gary, had moved into an apartment project called Lafayette Gardens in late 1962. They were series of brick high-rise buildings that. At that time, it was a respected place of living. Low crime, hardly any drugs or graffiti. We had people of all races and religion living respected you for what you did for a living. Right about 1970, the neighborhood changed. It was an economic switch where we saw more low-income families move in and many middle class families move to the suburbs. Many of the friends I had growing up ranged from both sides of the fence.
One day, one of the guys I hung out with came over to my house unannounced and saw I was watching the hockey game in the living room. He said to me in an arrogant tone, "Why you watchin' that? That's a white boy sport!" Needless to say, I was stunned. I'm sitting there watching this game enjoying myself and here was someone who thought otherwise. If there was anything I learned from living in Brooklyn during my young days, it was to pick my friends very carefully. From that day on I did that. And I never bothered telling anyone what my favorite sport was until I left Brooklyn for Uniondale, Long Island in 1977.
When the New York Rangers finally hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads in triumph at Madison Square Garden in 1994, I looked at the tape on my VCR over and over again to make sure I wasn't seeing things. Because here was a team I supported ever since that fateful day 24 years ago at my grandfather's house, a team I watched through some of the most horrible and disappointing years, finally at the pinnacle of what every hockey fan in North America dreams of. As I watched them skate around with the cup, I said to myself, I'm glad I didn't take heed in those "so called" friends advice back on the block and stop watching Ice Hockey simply because; it was a "white man's" sport.
Come to think of it, if I would have listened to all the advice over the years just because of that kind of pretzel logic, I wouldn't have gone to college, I wouldn't have went into the military and I would have been just another African-American male looking for somebody else to do work for me.
So here's to all of the independent thinkers of the world. To all the men and women who stand by their principles, what you love and what you believe in. May you all strive to reach for the top!