Once again we’re borrowing an excellent question idea from SB Nation’s main page. Last week they asked people to share their earliest sports memory. What is your earliest sports memory? It could be anything from participating in a sport as a kid to a game you watched or attended.
My earliest sports memory is probably the first year South Carolina started the 5 in a row win streak against Clemson. CJ Spiller ran the opening kickoff back, and my dad literally almost made us leave. Luckily he didn't, and we got to witness the beginning of something special at USC. It started my true fandom for the Gamecocks, and without that memory I'm probably not the person I am today. Hearing everyone chant Go Cocks, GAME-COCKS, and SEC was something so remarkable to me. I have more vague memories of sports, but this is the earliest and most vivid one. It's great to be a Gamecock.
My first sports memory is the first Super Bowl I remember watching, Super Bowl XXXIV. That was when the Rams and Titans squared off in Atlanta. I was only four at the time but I still remember the build up to the game because I'm originally from north Alabama and it's where my family was still living at the time. Being only two hours from Nashville, the region’s fans are pretty much split up between the Titans and Falcons. My dad is from New Orleans so we’re Saints fans but my mom’s side of the family is from Nashville so my aunts, uncles and cousins are all Titans fans. With the Saints, at the time, being the worst franchise in NFL history, I remember pulling for the Titans because of the old NFC West rivalry the Saints had with the Rams. They blasted Coach Ditka’s Saints twice that season en-route to his firing.
The Rams were the favorite and had the offense with Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Tory Holt and Marshall Faulk. The Titans were the surprise team with Eddie George, Javon Kearse and the late Steve McNair. The 13-3 Jeff Fisher coached, Titans defeated Buffalo in the wild card round off the “Music City Miracle,” a young Peyton Manning Colts team, and then beat the 14-2 Mark Brunell led Jaguars for the third time in the AFC title game.
All I had really remembered from the game was the ending but when Steve McNair passed away in 2009, NFL Network aired the game and most of seemed to come back to me.
St. Louis went up 16-0 in the third quarter to set up a rally by McNair to get the Titans back into the game. He had a long run to set up an Eddie George TD, then drove them down to the field to set up another George TD before they got a FG to tie it up at 16 with 2 minutes left. Kurt Warner then threw a 70 yard bomb to Isaac Bruce to take the lead back. McNair then drove them down the field again to set up the final play. Needing 10 yards, McNair threw a dart to Kevin Dyson at the 5 yard line, Rams defender Mike Jones wrapped up his legs and Dustin stretched out but was a yard short. That was the first Super Bowl I remember watching and it's still one of the best even 17 years later.
Don’t ask how I remember this, but this image is seared in the back of my head and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. The date was Oct. 15, 1994, so I was just over two and a half years old. Once again, I know that seems way too early. But I didn’t make these up, they weren’t a part of some dream and my parents can recall the exact thing happening.
My parents had brought me to the Florida-Auburn game as a toddler. Normally I’m against bringing anyone under the age of six to a sporting event, but my parents obviously thought differently. We were moving seats so we could sit next to my grandparents and aunt. This required a lengthy walk through the upper deck and I remember Jordan-Hare being so high up in the air it frightened me that I was going to fall off if the wind blew too hard.
Anyways, as we made our way through the crowd I looked up and what seemed to be towering above me where three Florida fans with cut-out watermelons fashioned on their heads. Remember when that was a thing? I don’t know if it still is, but I feel like in the 90’s and early 2000’s that was something popular for fans to do.
But those stark-raving melon heads scared the ever-living daylights out of me. They were just screaming in my direction, looking down on me like evil gods atop Mount Olympus. It scared me so much I remember ducking below the seats while my Dad was still holding my hand and crying in terror. I don’t remember much after that, other than we eventually made to my grandparents seats.
So my first real sports memory was absolutely terrifying. Somehow it never phased me because I’m still writing here. The moral of the story? Don’t bring toddlers to football games or they’ll be scared with melon head nightmares forever.
My earliest sports memory is actually watching the 1986 Masters and somehow, without the aid of a remote control, turning the television off just as Jack Nicklaus hit the ‘Yes Sir!’ putt on the seventeenth hole. I remember this for no other reason than my dad loved to tell the story that it was the, quote, “only time he ever put me in timeout,” which is total BS.
However, the memory we’ll delve into, which is something I’ve gone into some detail about here, is a memory worth re-hashing. Not simply for its connection to Gamecock sports, but, simply because it was one of the coolest moments ever in Gamecock football history.
So, 1987. I was three years old. It was November. There was literally no reason for an adult person to bring a child to a football game that starts at 7 p.m., but, there we were. My father and I. Lots of pieces are blurry (I was three, sue me.), but three things stand out in my mind:
- ‘Also Sprach Zarathrustra’ (even in those days of the Jackson-Pilot logo’ed, ‘Enjoy Coke!’, 8-bit scoreboard) was the most ridiculous and exciting thing I’d ever witnessed to that point, besides touching a hippopotamus on the nose (which is another story).
- Football was easily the most confusing thing I’d ever witnessed, but people seemed to enjoy it, and there were big, hot, pretzels.
- I fell asleep, only to be awakened by Brad Edwards lightning-bolt of an interception that sent Willy B into a cacophony of crazy half-drunk Gamecock fans.
I’ll never really know why this was seared into my brain the way it was, or why the image of my Father with tears welling in his eyes over some large children running aimlessly with a misshapen ball will be forever indelibly linked to my happiness, but, every fall, when I listen to the opening tones of Richard Strauss’ Magnum Opus, those same tears fill my eyes and I can’t wait to watch the next generation of overgrown kids run around the same patch of grass, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ll never forget seeing what looked like missiles firing into the air come from Brett Favre’s arm. It was a day after Favre’s father, Irvin, passed away, and Brett played one of the most outstanding games of his career against the Oakland Raiders. The game was in December of 2003, so as a six year old Packer fan, this was easily one of the first vivid memories I have from what became my obsession for Green Bay. Favre was living up to his nickname, the gunslinger. He was tossing balls into triple coverage and watching as his receivers came down with them dramatically. But he wasn’t just heaving the ball, he was also completing passes with precision. His touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone to tight end Wesley Walls as he rolled outside the pocket is one of my favorite Packer throws and earliest memory of where my love for football, and the Packers truly began. Favre finished with 399 yards and four touchdowns. It was a courageous performance by one of the best to ever do it, and that will stick with me forever.
I guess my first sports memory is technically the 1996 Summer Olympics. I was four at the time and my family lived in Atlanta, so I was aware that something big was happening, but I don’t remember anything about the actual events. The first time I actually remember paying attention to anything related to sports was a few years later when my younger brother started playing tee-ball. I don’t remember any one specific game standing out, but that was the beginning of years of my childhood spent regularly going to those ball fields to watch him practice and play as he progressed up through youth baseball. Even though it was years before I fell in love with baseball, I always liked going to the games and most of my earliest sports memories are of eating junk food and cheering for my brother.