I am raising Los Angeles Lakers fans…
OPINION: I’ve begun the process of passing down my sports team fandom to my kids.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I’ve always been jealous of people who grew up with sports teams. Not that I didn’t, but because of how I grew up, and who I grew up with, I never had a built-in team to root for from a young age.
For starters, I grew up in Germany in a military community which means all of my friends had different teams they loved in all the sports. I remember having friends from North Carolina who were Charlotte Hornets fans (basketball) and friends from Georgia who were Atlanta Braves fans (baseball). And so on and so forth. Meanwhile, my mother lived outside of Detroit, and my father was from Alabama. Neither of my parents seemed to be ardent sports fans or the types to really say, “This is our team.”
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It’s for this reason that I only ever had a few sports teams that I really followed. For starters, while I’m sure it happened, I don’t ever remember watching a ton of football on television as a kid in Germany. We had one station in the 80s and early 90s (this was pre-cable), and that was AFN, or the Armed Forces Network. This is why everybody I know who grew up overseas in the 80s and early 90s is up on “General Hospital” and “Guiding Light,” the two soap operas that played on AFN.
I vaguely remember watching some Houston Oilers NFL games. And maybe a Cincinnati Bengals game or two, but because of the time difference, the games would come on so much later; a 6 p.m. game in New York City would be a midnight game in Frankfurt, Germany. A game that came on at 6 p.m. on the West Coast of America would air at 3 a.m. in Germany. As you can imagine, I didn’t stay up late very often watching games.
Except during the NBA playoffs. Because of the nature of the games running multiple days a week and at varying times of the day, I do remember watching some NBA games, and I remember being drawn to the gold jerseys of the Los Angeles Lakers. Part of that could be that they were on television so much because they won a lot. In 1987 and 1988, two of the years when the Lakers won the NBA championship in the 1980s (they won 5 in total that decade), I would have been 8 and 9 and really into watching the games with my dad. Some of those games in the NBA finals would come on at a time that I could watch the games, and I have a few memories of watching games super, super early in the morning. I’d wake up, and my dad and I would go down and look at the end of games.
Funny enough, the Detroit Pistons won the NBA championship in 1989 and 1990, and my uncles in Michigan would buy me T-shirts and posters with the Bad Boys all over them. But I never really got on that train because I’d watched the Lakers play, and I loved Magic Johnson and liked the Lakers’ gold jerseys. While I enjoy watching Steph Curry play and would be just fine if his Golden State Warriors won another ring – I think Denver is going to win the championship this year –the Lakers are the team I care most about.
Now that I have kids of my own, I have made it a point to want to give my kids teams to root for. I live in Washington, D.C., and that doesn’t make sports fandom easy. For football, we do root for the Commanders, but I’m not fully dedicated to the Washington Nationals baseball team. In fact, I don’t really have a baseball team though my favorite hats belong to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The one team I am truly intending to pass down is the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, it’s especially easy right now. For one, my 7-year-old loves LeBron James because of “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” so I had to get him a LeBron James jersey and everything. My older boy isn’t as big into basketball but seems to be interested enough in the team the rest of us like. They want Lakers hats and the like, so I think it’s working out. My daughter isn’t that interested, but I’m sure she’d let me adorn her in Lakers apparel for the sake of family continuity.
Now, thankfully the team is doing well this year and are one win away from making the Western Conference finals. That makes it so that my kids, when we do watch together, aren’t supremely frustrated and sad staring at multi-millionaires run up and down the court if things aren’t going our way; we’re doing pretty good. Now, that could change soon or in the next few years when the team isn’t that good or can’t seem to get over the hump. But it’s fun having a team to root for with my kids where we can all sit down around the television and enjoy it together. I came to the Lakers by circumstance, but now, I’m intentionally raising Lakers fans, and we have a front row seat to The Lake Show.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
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