Meredith Gordon is the CEO of Sportify It. Prior to launching Sportify It, she worked as a full time freelance television and humor writer.
“Growing up, my parent’s big splurge was Oakland Raiders season tickets. But we were a family of five and my parents had two tickets ideally for them to go together, kid-free. Wrangling care for three young kids without family in town proved an arduous task for my mom making attending the games feel like a chore. Plus, she was a baseball person like most transplanted Brooklynites. Dad was a football person and needed a companion for the games so they came up with the solution that dad would rotate the other ticket between mom and the three kids.
Every fourth Sunday, it was my turn to go. Attending the games meant ducking out of religious school, braving the traffic from the East Bay into Oakland and sitting amongst the famously rowdy Raiders crowd under a blanket of thick fog.
It is still, to this day, my fondest childhood memory.
Football seemed to bring out the best in my dad and every fourth Sunday meant I’d get time alone with him. He was patient, explaining the game to me, sometimes over and over. He was protective, politely encouraging our beer-guzzling neighbors to tone it down knowing there was a little kid within earshot. And when we went to see the Raiders play, he was fun. He’d even let me do the otherwise unthinkable. He let me eat whatever I wanted.
In our house, what you ate was a sign of who you were. This was long before it was chic to eat healthy so the once a month we were allowed sugar cereal felt punitive. We threw our Halloween candy out the day after Halloween. And we never, ever had dessert after dinner. Today I’m thankful, As a kid; not so much.
But football brought out the fun in my dad. Out went the regime in favor of warm, salty pretzels, a full box of Red Vines and mustard slathered hotdogs on soft toasty buns.
After any of us returned from a game, my sisters or I would compare notes on who got the best snacks as if Dad’s leniency was in direct correlation to which one of us he loved most. It wasn’t until recently that I realized each of the three of us had decided our snack intake was far superior to that of our sibling’s. Each of us had probably spent our entire childhood assuming we were his favorite based on kettle corn on the 40-yard-line.
I now take my own kids to our own seats to watch the Rams. They almost always complain that the games are too long. The little one doesn’t always know what’s happening on the field. They hate when we’re seated on the sun-side of the stadium. But I hope I’m creating a little snapshot for them, a tiny memory they’ll take with them long after I’m gone just like my dad for me.
The beauty of sports is it’s different things for different people. For my son sports is dreaming of playing pro football or baseball. It’s a deep devotion to the Raiders and to the Warriors because those were my childhood teams. For my daughter sports is playing basketball and wondering why she can’t someday play in the NBA, not the WNBA. For her sports is watching the Clippers because ‘basketball is the most fun to watch.’ For my husband, sports is surrendering devotion to his home team, the NY Giants, in favor of his new home team, the Rams, a sign that sports fandom is as much about family as it is blind devotion.
And for me sports means fond childhood memories and creating new ones with my own children. Sports helps us see athletes as inspiration. It’s humanity at its best, and worst, a direct replication of life off the field. And it’s a conversation to which everyone has a right to; not just men.
As we kids got older, my parents sold our seats. The tickets had become too expensive and the schedule too hard to keep so mom and dad eventually said goodbye to our seats. I remember watching from the top of the stairs as dad passed the shiny stack of tickets to the new family who’d come to pick them up. I’ll miss those games, I thought. And I’d miss the time with my dad, just he and I in a crowd of 80,000, without a care in the world except what we were going to eat next.”