25 Reasons Why Being a Sports Fan in the '90s Was Awesome

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2013

25 Reasons Why Being a Sports Fan in the '90s Was Awesome

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    Remember when you were a kid and watching sports was about the only responsibility you had?

    Yeah, those were definitely the days.

    But just because you're now a grown-up—used very lightly—doesn't mean you have to forget why sports in the '90s were so awesome.

    That's why we're here.

    So take a look at the following 25 slides and see just how well your memory is serving you these days.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas

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    There weren't bigger stars in all of baseball than "The Kid" or "The Big Hurt."

    Frank Thomas and Ken Griffey Jr. both had their own endorsement deals with Nike and Reebok, respectively, and their home runs made every kid want to go yard just like them.

    The two were polar opposites, though, which made kids choose who they wanted to emulate most. Thomas was more low-key and professional, and Junior loved to have fun and pull pranks as if he was still a teenager.

Reebok Pumps

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    Though they weren't much cheaper than Air Jordans, for youth who either disliked the Bulls star or just couldn't afford his kicks, these were the cool alternative.

    They added extra support to each pump you made, which no one had ever seen before, so of course they caught on with the kids.

Starter Jackets

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    Every kid wanted one of these to rep during the winter months.

    I personally had a UNC one for being a diehard Tar Heel basketball fan, and you better believe I wore that thing anywhere I could.

    You probably wouldn't be caught wearing one nowadays, but back then, they were the absolute jam.

Competitive Balance

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    Maybe it's just us, but for some reason it seemed the teams back when we were growing up had more stars who resonated with fans and were always in contention.

    Before all the super teams that we see now, there were legit stars people cared about—like Karl Malone and John Stockton in Utah, or Boomer Esiason in Cincinnati.

Sports Illustrated for Kids

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    We haven't looked at one of these mags for years, so we're not sure if the content was more geared toward kids—which we assume it was—or if it just gave a ton of stats for us to remember.

    Either way, when you opened one up and saw the sports cards in it, along with a pin-up poster in the middle, it was pretty dope.

Little Tikes Hoops

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    You may not have a pretty stroke now, but back in the day, you used to light it up like Reggie Miller in your basement thanks to this plastic hoop.

    With a couple different height settings, you could pretend to be your favorite player.

The 1994 World Cup

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    It didn't matter if we were fans or not. When the U.S. hosted the beautiful game around the mid-'90s, we all watched.

    Chances are you played soccer while growing up, so it was cool to see some of the guys you remember adoring, like Italy's Roberto Baggio, on your home soil.

    The fact that the U.S. upset Colombia in the group stage and advanced to the quarterfinal round made it that much better.

Sports Movies

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    The '90s gave us our fair share of great sports movies.

    The Mighty Ducks trilogy.

    Rookie of the Year.

    And who could forget Rudy?

    We may still love to pop these flicks in on a rainy day, but back when you were a kid, they were seriously all you ever wanted to watch.

    Knowing every single word to Happy Gilmore is a highlight that will never escape your childhood memory.

SportsCenter

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    Remember when MTV still played music videos? Yeah, we do too.

    Just as the music channel turned more toward focusing on original content that entertained their audience, so too did the worldwide leader.

    We soon found ourselves watching highlights and hearing catchphrases we used in our backyards.

    Now we're forced to watch CNN, but for sports.

Rock N' Jock

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    Speaking of MTV, who didn't enjoy seeing Dan Cortese and Bill Bellamy lace 'em up with professional athletes on the diamond and hardwood?

    The laid-back style of play and adaptation of the sports we loved made these contests super entertaining to watch—even if they were just an exhibition.

    Just look at this picture and you'll understand why these were so great.

No BCS

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    Oh yes, the dreaded Bowl Championship Series.

    Though it made its first appearance in the 1998 national championship, for the majority of the decade, we didn't have to deal with the headache of arguing over who the two best teams were.

    Though the old system had its flaws—namely dishing out split national champions and no absolute title game—it maintained the emphasis on winning during the regular season, and not getting lucky in a championship game.

No Athlete Was Younger Than You

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    Sports were more fun as a kid because there was such an age gap between you and any of the guys you were watching.

    These days, you might really be a fan of Bryce Harper or Kevin Durant, but it's a little less enjoyable knowing you're a couple years older than them.

    What's going to happen when there aren't any guys left in the pros who are older than you?

Nike's 'Bo Knows' Campaign

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    I am a little too young to remember how rare of an athlete Bo Jackson was, though I do remember seeing him a couple times.

    Thanks to the famous Nike campaign, his legend carries on with anyone who was old enough to know his name.

    The ESPN 30 for 30 documentary only helped us understand what a once-in-a-generation athlete he really was.

Franklin Sports Uniforms

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    I know I'm not the only one who had a couple of the replica NFL uniforms that this sports apparel and equipment company released.

    When you were a kid, it wasn't uncommon to dress up as your favorite athlete, and this was just about the most authentic way of doing so.

    And though it said not to, we all wore the pads and helmet to play backyard football in.

Autographs

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    I remember sending handwritten letters to Cal Ripken, Jr. and Mario Lemieux to see if they'd send an autographed photo back.

    It worked, which me feel like I somehow connected with those guys and was more important than the casual fan.

    But even if you just waited around trying to have your favorite player snag the ball from your outreached arm before and after a game, it was always something special to hold onto.

Bringing Your Glove to a Ballgame

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    These days, the only leather you should be wearing at a sporting event is a jacket.

    Back when you were younger, though, it was expected that you brought a glove to the game just in case a ball came your way.

    It didn't matter if you were 30 rows back in right field and 600 feet away from home plate, if there was a chance a ball could somehow find you, you'd be ready.

Your Baseball Card Collection

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    Before falling in love with the stuff in Maxim and Esquire magazines, you subscribed to Beckett and made sure you read it each month.

    Whether constantly trading cards with kids at the lunch table or heading down to your favorite sports shop to buy a packet, you made sure the more expensive ones were always kept in the heavy plastic cases to avoid bent corners or scuff marks.

The Advancement of Sports Video Games

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    The beginning of the decade gave us games like the Tecmo Bowl series and NBA Jam, and by the end of it, you were waiting in line to land the new Madden or NBA Live.

    Who could possibly focus on homework after school when you had a franchise to run?

Creating Yourself in Video Games

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    One of the better things about video games moving toward a more realistic gameplay was the ability to create yourself in each of them, actually putting in features that looked just like you.

    I definitely had a team full of 7'8" guys who were 99 overalls, and I bet I wasn't the only one.

    Why was that fun? Because you absolutely dominated the competition.

Pretending in Your Backyard

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    Want to know what was the best about this? That you never lost.

    You could lower your hoop to six feet to make yourself dunk over imaginary defenders, and when the "clock" was sitting at three seconds left, if you missed it, you always bailed yourself out with a foul so you had another shot at it.

    It didn't matter which player you wanted to be. Each day, you seemed to live out the championship game—always coming out on top.

Posters

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    Let's face it, at this point in your life, you're not hanging up posters on your bedroom wall with that little putty stuff.

    How many times did your parents give you $10 to buy a new book at the book fair and you came home with two new posters of your favorite athlete or two?

    Oh, was that just me? Yeah, it happened about four years in a row.

Heckling

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    It was always so PG-rated, but you thought you were being such a hardass each time you yelled something.

    You're a grown-ass man now, and the stuff spewing from your mouth isn't exactly appropriate for the family of five in front of you to hear, so you have to be a little more cautious about it today.

    No one would fight a 10-year-old telling someone they sucked, but someone would take a swing at a 28-year-old.

Fan Giveaways

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    Sure, they still do these things, but how many times do you take the free cap or shirt they give you and just toss it in the trash or leave it under your seat?

    When you heard that there would be a giveaway for the first 10,000 fans in the stadium, you always made sure you and your dad got to the park in time to land whatever it was they were passing out.

Michael Jordan

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    How many people can trace back their personality and sports love to His Airness?

    He's still the greatest that's ever played, and each time we try to force the "Next MJ" onto someone, we get nothing but disappointment.

    Jordan took sports to a level that no one had ever even imagined before, taking the success he had in basketball and turning it into A-list celebrity.

    We all bought his shoes and tried emulating his game. It's no wonder why most kids in the '90s wanted to "Be Like Mike."

Innocence

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    Back in the day, your sports knowledge was so one-sided that you had no clue your favorite team was as bad as it really was.

    I remember cheering for the Indians and convincing myself that Cory Snyder was the greatest player in the game. Though good, he was anything but.

    These days, if your home team sucks, you're very well aware of it and aren't as disappointed to see it as bottom feeders in their division each year.