Family tradition

The question would come at least once a day, and the answer was glib - especially if day was night, and the questioner was, say, at a bar, and maybe not all that cute.

"Why are you a sports writer?"

"Because my daddy raised me right."

Which is true. Sundays were for church, dinner (which is a Southern word for a big-ass lunch consisting of four meats, five vegetables, three forms of insanely fattening bread products and at least two desserts, not counting the ones in the fridge), washing cars and football. Saturday afternoons, if not spent building forts between the dogwood trees or swimming in the pool by the pasture, were for ACC basketball, Terry Holland stumping for Food Lion and Vinny Del Negro wearing those shorts. Friday nights were for high school football, where, before I was born, my daddy patrolled the sidelines in even shorter shorts and a walkie-talkie the size of Canada, and where, later on, my big brother pancaked opponents with the temerity to consider rushing the quarterback.

And yes, my father was a driving force behind establishing these truths. But my mother wasn't exactly knitting in a back room. Raised in the western North Carolina mountains by a Tar Heel blue-bleeding father, she was right there in front of the television or in the stands, her passion perhaps not as vocal as my daddy's but just as real. One of my earliest sports memories is of an impossibly young Michael Jordan and his UNC teammates winning the 1982 NCAA basketball championship. In the peripheral vision of my childhood recall, my mama is ball of tension unwinding in joy as Fred Brown makes his fateful pass. 

Not long ago, I watched as my husband showed our daughter the film of an even more memorable championship a year later, fighting back tears as Lorenzo Charles somehow cemented an impossible win for his father's alma mater, N.C. State. The excitement in his voice and his dancing eyes, the palpable sense of drama almost 30 years later, made me cry a little. (And the fact that the Wolfpack erased a seven-point lead late in the second half without benefit of the 3-point shot amazed me anew.)

Sports is underdogs doing what no one gave them a chance to do. Sports is forging identities for people, regions, generations. Sports is shouting at the TV so loud the dog barks. Sports is sobbing when your team misses that last-second shot, and walking eight feet off the ground for a week when a sudden, unexpected hero rounds the bases on one-and-a-half legs.

Sports is family.