Who didn't want to grow up fast when they were a kid?
What 12-year-old didn't see the movie Big and leave the theater praying to find a terrifying fortune-telling machine so he could hit fast forward on time and just get to the adult stuff in life?
But I'm glad I never found that machine, because turns out, it's not all Porsche Boxsters and all-night Cheez Whiz parties on the other side.
Things just aren't the same as an adult, particularly in the world of sports. Nowadays, we can't watch a game without working ourselves into a frothing mess, and we can't play pick-up hoops without herniating a disc.
Those are just a few reasons sports were a lot more fun when we were kids, and the following list is an attempt to remember just how good us sports fans had it back when we were watching games in our Transformers pajamas.
While they’re technically meant for people of all ages, the actual joys of trading cards—aka, the trading part—could only be fully experienced when you were a kid.
Because after a certain age, holding on to a Jerry Stackhouse Fleer Metal rookie card becomes less of a naive treasure you once believed would end up being worth its weight in gold, and more of an eerie indication of hoarder-like tendencies.
There were no weekly waiver-wire quandaries when we were kids. None of us watched a game hoping for our team to win, but for Michael Jordan to drop 50 points on it in the process. Nobody secretly hoped for Troy Aikman to pull a hammy in Week 16 so they’d win their league championship.
You just watched the damn game and drank your Hi-C like a man.
I hope you know how a reverse mortgage works.
Being a sports fan was cheap and effortless when we were youngins.
Mom and dad picked up the tab for the cable we watched SportsCenter on and paid for the tickets when we went to games—games we attended without dropping $40 on plastic cups of foamy domestic beer.
We also didn’t endeavor into the money-draining extracurricular activities older sports fans get into, such as throwing into the pot for our office’s yearly Pigskin Pick’em bracket and toeing the Vegas Line on the NBA Finals with our children’s insulin money.
Never is being loud and obnoxious more rewarded than when it’s being done by one of the youngest members of the crowd.
As a kid, you learned the cheers and went along with the crowd antics as best you could. And unlike adult fans, being the out-of-control kid at the game only earned you five seconds of face-time on the Jumbotron.
As opposed to a knee in the back and a long suspension from entering the stadium.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good replay, but watching a slow-mo version of an awesome play isn’t even half as fun as you and your friends lowering the goal, dragging your parents' mini-trampoline out into the driveway and trying to do it yourself.
Oh, how far they have fallen.
Professional athletes were once the pinnacle of coolness and the apple of all our nine-year-old eyes—the irreproachable golden idols we all revered for their skill and dedication to the sport.
But the next thing you know, 15 years have flown by and you find yourself sitting at a laptop writing a joke about Tiger Woods “pitching from the rough” in a strip club.
All of us could probably pinpoint the moment or event when it happened, but one day, we woke up with a tarnished and cynical mindset toward most sports figures—even ones we like.
And between the non-stop nature of Twitter and the 24-hour sports news cycle’s constant focus on off-the-field play, it’s unlikely our innocence is going to be built back up.
The best part of playing pickup games when you were young was staking your claim for the athlete whose style you were going to channel during the game.
As adults, we try to recreate this magic by playing with our favorite teams and players on game consoles, which is fun, but it certainly isn’t as nearly as entertaining than driving to the bucket with our tongue out MJ-style or trying to dribble through defenders with Maradona-like ferocity.
“Oh, you’re a __________ fan? You don’t say...Well, I’d certainly like to ask you an infuriating series of follow-up questions in order to see if you can qualify your allegiance.”
That’s how it goes for most of us adult sports fans, especially if you claim to cheer for a talented team based far away from where you live.
And I understand why the Spanish Inquisition is necessary from time to time—I’ll go to work on a fake bandwagoner with a bag of lime and a tuning wrench if I find one.
But I’ll never wheel out the iron maiden and cattle tongs on some young fan from North Carolina who's a Vikings fan because he likes Adrian Peterson.
When we were but wee lads and lasses, we never engaged in these kinds of futile trips after our team lost. We didn’t lose our damn minds and run to the computer in order to argue over “which player lost the game for us.”
Sure, losses still disappointed us as kids, and some of us might’ve had a few tears fall onto our Bucky O’Hare action figures from time to time, but we didn’t over-analyze sports the way we do now as adults.
We had better stuff to do back then—Tamagotchis to neglect—and we weren’t going to let one bad night ruin our week.
Delicious, nutritious mouth guards—the orange slices we ate as kids were truly a multi-tool halftime treat of the heavens.
Standing in a circle and enjoying those wedges of delicious vitamin C was unadulterated bliss compared to the halftime routines we have as adults, which, for most of us, involves sitting on the ground sweating a blend of buffalo ranch dressing laced with bourbon and regretting our choices of lifestyle.
“Well, Jake’s got a thing at 10, I’m going to Sur La Table with Jess at 11 to buy bread knives and Ryan’s proctologist says he can’t play ‘action sports’ until the swelling subsides. Maybe we can just do it next weekend?”
And that is why we can’t play games anymore—we’re too damn busy.
Putting together a pickup game as an adult is the same as trying to coordinate anything involving a group of people with busy and diverse schedules these days—pure, unsalted hell.
As a kid, getting the crew together for a game was as easy as rollerblading around the block. Now it takes 30 text messages, 10 phone calls and a Facebook event to get a group of your friends out to the park on Saturday.
“I don’t care if I’m a Saints fan and it makes no sense now... *Sniff* I loved you, No. 84 Vikings jersey! You were lithe and graceful like the deer, Randy Moss!”
It might not be your luckiest one, and there’s a good chance the athlete whose jersey you wore was never even on the team you currently cheer for, but you’ll never feel the same surge of supreme legitimacy you experienced after pulling on your first “big boy” jersey.
As a kid, the athletes you loved and looked up to were just “adults.”
All you knew is they were older than you, and they inspired you.
So it’s a strangely unsettling occurrence the first time you notice you’re older than a good deal of the players you’re cheering for, and you realize that many of the sports figures you once looked up to were talented but essentially clueless "young adults" when you idolized them.
Plus, nothing knocks you down a few pegs like watching an 18-year-old become a millionaire.
You know what’s engendering today’s youth with a false sense of “Everybody Is a Winner” accomplishment?
Trophies being given out to every kid just for playing youth sports.
You know what was one of the coolest things about playing youth sports? Getting a trophy just for playing youth sports.
Did you win the big game? Pizza party.
Did you lose the big game? Pizza party.
Regardless of whether you scored the winning point or accidentally painted brown abstract art in your Underoos in the middle of the first half, there was always pizza afterward.
As a rule, we adults don’t get to have pizza parties anymore. Sure, we get to have “pizza,” but it’s infinitely less cool-sounding, and there’s a much higher chance it will end in calorie-counting and sadness.
Remember when your eight-year-old buddies would pull up lame and clutching at their hamstrings during a game of flag football?
Perhaps the biggest reason sports were more fun as a kid is because our bodies were like rubber bands filled with limitless energy instead of the fragile Ming vases stuffed with Southwestern egg rolls they are now.
Play after play and day after day, our bodies could take the abuse. Sometimes we got a boo-boo and cried because our jerk friend Cameron liked to throw elbows, but we didn’t need a defibrillator and a priest on the sidelines in order to get through a game of 21.