25 Things Sports Fans Were Obsessed with as Kids
Oh, to be young again, when the postgame snacks once flowed like Yoo-hoo and life's biggest conquests revolved around throwing a perfect game in Bases Loaded.
Welcome to a brief breakdown of years gone by, or, if you like, a digestible snack of nostalgia for you sports fans out there.
We like to think that our interests have somehow matured since our Little League-hitting, peewee-tackling days, but, fortunately, a nostalgic look back at our early sports memories reveals we were just as ridiculous back then as we are now.
As you will soon see, some things never change, because a trip to the court still features a moment to hone the H.O.R.S.E. skills.
A few notes before we dive right in: This is but the ramblings and memories of one sports fan, hardly an exhaustive exercise—so feel free to offer your own in the comments section below. Also, being a '90s kid, you will notice that many of these things revolve around the world's greatest decade.
Lastly, some of these items, if not most, do in fact transcend the sports world. Thankfully, that just means you didn't have to be a strict sports nerd to enjoy a good time.
With that, let's leap into the figurative DeLorean and head back to a simpler time when obsessions were like fezzes—really quite cool.
What's for Snacks?
I've mentioned it before and will do so once again: There was no bigger pressing issue as a kid than finding out what the latest parent was bringing for postgame snacks.
The moment you rolled up to your soccer, Little League, peewee or any other game was the exact second you demanded what your buddy's mom brought for snacks.
If said parent failed to bring any kind of juice in a whimsical container (Capri Sun, Squeezit) or fruit snacks with a superfluous twist (Gushers), it meant you were allowed to ridicule your teammate for the remainder of the game.
My family's out-pitch of sorts was the Ding Dong, which remains the bread of kings to this day.
Getting a Player to Light on Fire in NBA Jam
It wasn't enough to win at NBA Jam, you had to demoralize your opponent with Bill Laimbeer-like clear-outs and one of the best weapons in sports video games.
Sure, unlocking players like Bill Clinton was nice and all, but getting a player "on fire" was really where the interest lay for this game. It even caused a Street Fighter-type cheesing wherein you just went to the same player over and over again.
Finally, you would make three baskets in a row and tear up the court. That just left one thing to do: get the announcer to bring a Boomshakalaka! to the mix.
Reebok Pumps didn't make you jump higher or run faster. They merely enabled you to experience what it was like to have an air sac inside your shoe inflate when you wanted. (Yeah, that isn't the sexiest description.)
The fact remains the Pumps worked in so much that you felt your shoe fill with air, and then you could release said air, yielding the kind of magical transformation that just had to be what Autobots felt .
Essentially, the better part of my youth was spent filling and releasing air in my shoe. Perhaps this is why I never mastered a jump shot.
Crafting Perfect H.O.R.S.E. Shot
Through the years, I have finally concocted my own signature move, which involves a "Gangnam Style" dance into a twirl leading into some rather wonderful tap dancing into a shot wherein I toss a ball behind my back from one knee—quite the finale flourish.
And to think, it all started with, "OK, you have to go from behind the backboard with your eyes closed."
Honing Batting Stance
Any of you current baseball players or softball weekend warriors might want to emulate Alex Buccilli here, who owns a modern-day marvel of a batting stance.
In my day, hours were spent perfecting items like Juan Samuel or Carney Lansford's performance. However—and the Dodger fan in me hates to say this—there is nothing like the simple masterpiece that was Will Clark's batting style.
There, now I feel dirty.
Getting a Pristine Jersey and Destroying It on the Field
We didn't have much to worry about as kids other than wearing your pristine jersey like a champion when you showed up at the field.
The rest of the game was dedicated to making certain there was a dire need to clean said jersey after the contest was over.
Quoting Sports Movies
Video features NSFW language.
Thanks to Major League, I had both a need and a purpose to utter some of my earliest profanities, especially when it came to Roger Dorn's suspect fielding.
Seeing an awesome sports movie wasn't enough, because you had to savor it over a multitude of viewings to really get the lines down.
Some of my favorites off the top of my much older head:
- "You're killing me, Smalls!" - The Sandlot
- "To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases—stretch a double into a triple and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?" - Field of Dreams
- "I'll tell you what. Why don't we take all these bricks and build a shelter for the homeless, so maybe your mother will have a place to stay." - White Men Can't Jump
- "I see pride! I see power! I see a bad-ass mother who don't take no crap off of nobody!" - Cool Runnings
For a better part of my youth, I chose to merely speak in quotes.
Mastering the Art of Spitting
Try as I might, I couldn't track down a video of the scene in Naked Gun where the entire stadium seems to show off their spitting chops, so Roger McDowell will have to do.
Either way, we'd like to take you back to a time well before you even knew what chewing tobacco was, when the only way to properly emulate a big leaguer was to really let loose a proper loogie.
From that day forth, those who continued to play sports did their part to make playing surfaces some of the most disgusting places in the universe.
Taking It to the Streets
A few friends and a football were all you needed to take a quick jaunt to the street to play for hours, garnering the huddle hilarity that comes with, "OK, now listen up. I'm gonna need Chubbs to stay here and block in case there is a blitz. Speedy, you cut to the hoopty parked over there and then just go."
There was always some debate as to whether the less athletic friends tending the line should count in "Mississippis" or in "one-thousands."
These were some of the most important games of my early life, taking on a quality of a life-or-death situation. Dinner time? That was just some moment for losers and quitters. We played until someone got seriously hurt or the inevitable car was hit.
Not Getting Picked Last
Now, if you weren't a sharpshooter from distance or a threat to reel in the long ball, that was just fine. There were those who excelled at sports and the rest who just sort of stood around and watched all of the action unfold.
What you couldn't allow, however, was to be picked last for any team. Adults seem to forget there is a very specific and real caste system that plays out over and over again at playgrounds around the nation: Kids are being picked according to their talent.
I know. It's as horrible as it sounds.
Unfortunately, some of us didn't also have the help of a Rick Moranis and his bright ideas.
Wasting Time in a Structured Manner
Practices are long and arduous, especially when you are a kid. Fortunately, there were plenty of ways to let loose after or during the day when you really should have been doing something else.
Here are just a few:
Pepper - Please don't explain to any kid that when they are playing pepper, they are actually working on some sound fundamentals. Hell, even writing that makes me want to take a nap.
Pickle - Have a ball and a few friends? Well, stick one in the middle and see if they can't get out of that pickle of a situation like our pal Coco Crisp here.
Three Flags Up - The seemingly innocuous game of tossing a ball in the air for your friends to catch it was a quick lesson on natural selection. Some of us still bear the bruises of bigger kids boxing out for a point.
Making Characters Fight in Video Games
Of course, the most famous item on the must-do list of sports video games is making someone's head bleed in NHLPA Hockey '93, something covered hilariously in the movie Swingers.
For me, there was something so satisfying about causing a brawl in the NES' Bases Loaded. You could hit a batter a few times with no repercussions, lending a certain arbitrary quality to the proceedings.
However, when a brawl occurred, it came out of nowhere and was over quickly, but it was oh so wonderful.
Playing with Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl
Bleacher Report's Nick Dimengo once covered the best sports video game characters, listing the most obvious and satisfying avatar at No. 1.
You were usually banned by buddies from playing with the Raiders because of the Bo Jackson factor. There were those times, however, when you played an accommodating '90s noob, and the results were glorious.
Deciding on which teams to use in Tecmo Bowl caused some of my earliest and most heated kerfuffles.
Somewhere lying around your house might be a box of untold treasures: baseball, basketball and football cards of legends mixed in with those called up to the bigs for a respective cup of coffee.
The best of any collection might be Ken Griffey Jr.'s 1989 Upper Deck card, an item that made you feel like a member of the Goonies when you finally found it.
Of course, the card that every fan searched for constantly was the Billy Ripken one that featured a naughty word.
Sadly, sports card collecting dissolved into Pog-mania, and our own boxes were relegated to collecting dust. I encourage you to dig them out, because seeing Chris Sabo in goggles will surely brighten your day.
Mastering Paper Football
According to this video, things have become quite serious in the world of goofing off with a sheet of paper.
Whether it be passing the time in a restaurant or just getting in a game in class with the teacher looking the other way, the realm of paper football was a distinguished one.
There was no need for things like instant replay. In fact, a debate as to whether a football slid just over the edge was settled with the highest of justice: sliding your finger back and forth on the edge of a table.
Getting the Glove Pocket Just Right
Getting the glove just right isn't relegated to MLB stars. No, it was a sacred ritual shared by just about anybody who played in their youth.
Whether it be rubbing it down with glove oil or shaving cream, the next step was to place a ball in the pocket and stick it under your mattress, waiting for perfection as if it were delivered in the same way the Tooth Fairy brought money.
Mastering Happy Gilmore Golf Shot
Here is Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and others attempting the same thing you have been doing at the range since Happy Gilmore came out in 1996.
First off, yes, it has been that long and you are indeed old. Second, there is something so stupid and pleasing at the same time in perfecting the swing.
Look, I'm going to duff the damn ball anyway. I might as well get some laughs out of it.
OK, this one goes out to the younger generation armed with recording devices, a pool and spare time. It seems the one big summer obsession nowadays seems to be crafting the perfect swimming pool dunk.
We aren't quite sure exactly when this all started. The only thing we know for sure is it isn't stopping anytime soon, only taking brief breaks during the cold months.
That's when we imagine kids and their friends stand around a table filled with schematics, crafting their next masterpiece.
Zany Throwing Devices
"Oh, no way! I totally want that ball that's not really a ball and serves no purpose outside of passing a few moments of utter boredom!"
At least, that's how we might color our thoughts when we were younger. Sadly, I really wanted the Nerf Vortex as a kid, but eventually settled on the equally odd Aerobie.
I quickly found out that the regular, ho-hum football was far superior. Although, that didn't stop my constant whining to get my hands on this stuff.
Getting the Right Look (baggy Shorts Black Socks)
Sadly, some of us haven't quite outgrown this concept. These are the guys who show up to softball games or pickup basketball games rocking four wristbands, a headband or skull cap, knee braces and the newest sneakers or cleats.
When we were kids, there was something necessary about getting the perfect bat, the football pads that fit just right or sneakers that went perfectly with black socks and Fab Five baggy shorts.
There was a time when it was better to look good than play well. Hopefully, that time passed you by already, because some of you just look like Guy Fieri with basketball shorts on.
Must-see TV for sports kids is subjective, but for me, it was Pro Stars and NBA Inside Stuff.
Now, I've said it before and will say it again: I loved how Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky had special items enabling them with amazing ability like rocket shoes, but Bo Jackson had unbelievable power—you know, a touch of reality.
Then there was the classic version of NBA Inside Stuff, which ages like anything Bill Murray has ever done or the movie Monster Squad—quite nicely, really.
Aside from air hockey or eating an entire pizza, there is no better way to illustrate your own athletic prowess in an arcade like Pop-A-Shot—or what I like to call a Shawn Marion Shot Training Device.
This was always the first machine you and friends sprinted to the moment you had your handful of quarters, shouting smack talk to one another along the way.
Hours later, you had a very specific muscle strain and enough game tickets to get a free pencil from the concession stand.
Could you have been practicing proper football technique or taking extra hacks in the batting cages? Sure. But how in the heck were you going to properly spotlight team camaraderie if not in the form of a completely ridiculous handshake?
It started as a simple high-five and soon evolved into a well-choreographed performance that would play nicely on Broadway or, as it seems, in the dugouts of some MLB teams.
Whether it be Wiffle ball or my own backyard games of tape ball, things normally got out of hand in a hurry. Simple games with bat and whimsical ball turned into all-out tournaments.
From simply busting out an item to act as home plate to actually creating a faux stadium, the pastime of children soon turned into something rather serious.
One day, I swear to you all now, I will have my homage to Dodger Stadium in the backyard. Now, if you need me, I will be out making millions first.
Well, we might as well end on the most obvious obsession of sports kids, which is turning messing around with your friends into a full-time gig.
Even as a child, you knew the odds were stacked against you, but that hardly deterred the daydreams that you might one day hear your name at the NFL draft or feature in the NBA All-Star Game or possibly get to use your own walk-up music at your MLB stadium of choice.
There were brief moments when the thought was more than a pipe dream, resting comfortably in your mind as a foregone conclusion.
It usually came out when someone asked what you wanted to be when you grew up. The answer, inevitably, came out as, "I am going to be a [insert favorite sports team]."
It's that kind of optimism that made being a child such a joy and something I try not to forget.
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