FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH
|“Coming of Age”||
|By: Ron Brounes||
T-60 minutes to kickoff!!! My name is Ron Brounes and I am a sport-aholic. As I walked around the Rose Bowl in anticipation of the Bowl Championship Series title game (Go Horns), I realized that sports has always been top priority in my life. For 40-odd years (OK…47, but who’s counting), I would eat, drink, and sleep sports. Many a night I fell asleep watching one episode of ESPN SportsCenter only to wake up in the a.m. to the same exact highlight. I subscribed to DirecTV solely for the NFL Package because I couldn’t imagine missing a classic Seahawks-Rams matchup (and I don’t even bet on the games). I have been a long-time Rockets, Astros, and Texans season ticket holder and mourned the departure of the beloved Oilers (and curse the owner to this day). I have attended World Series games, NBA Championships, Final Fours, and even a Kentucky Derby in 1990 (my horse Mr. Frisky may still be running). In fact, over one glorious weekend in 1994, I traveled to New York and watched my Rockets tackle the Knicks in the championship series, attended a Mets baseball game at Shea Stadium, cheered the ponies at the Belmont Stakes, and shared beers at a bar with Rangers fans during the Stanley Cup finals. (A Peter Luger steak and Carnegie Deli corned beef sandwich capped off the stellar weekend.)
Alabama’s fake punt intercepted by UT’s Gideon!!! University of Texas sports has always come first and I “bleed” burnt orange. For years, I attended most home games and made several road trips each football season to glamour locations like South Bend, Charlottesville, Boulder, and College Station (so much for glamour). I can count the number of Texas/OU Red River Shootouts I have missed since freshman year on one hand and even almost blew off my niece’s Bat Mitzvah because of the conflict. (What were you thinking, Steve?) In fact, I got engaged on a Friday night in October and hopped a plane to Dallas early the next morning for the showdown, leaving my fiancé at home (no doubt, pondering what she was getting herself into). I scoffed at my married friends with 2.3 kids who began missing multiple games a year. Initially I blamed their overbearing wives, but then ridiculed them for not wearing the pants in their families.
Colt on the keeper…Something’s wrong…he’s running off the field!!! I came by my interests naturally as I excelled in multiple sports in my youth. As a nine-year-old, I scored the winning run in a crucial little league baseball playoff game by barreling into MVP catcher Mike Segal who was blocking the plate at the time and ultimately dropped the ball. Because of my rare combination of size, speed, and blocking ability, I played tight-end on my Jewish youth group football team, but saw limited action because we ran the spread offense. I was among the last cuts on my junior high’s basketball squad, losing out to Greg Kite who went on to have a workmanlike 12-year NBA career. (That should have been me.) In college, much to our coaches’ chagrin, I chose not to play in my fraternity pledge-class football game against our archrival because I was needed as the color commentator for the video production. (Back then, announcers got all the chicks.) Middle-age (and an overprotective mother) never hindered my desire to compete athletically as I have successfully completed two Houston marathons and only trailed the winners by about two hours. (I never should have taken those port-a-potty breaks.)
Shovel pass picked off by Dareus…TD Bama!!! I didn’t recover from losses easily (as player or fan) and often remained in a bad mood for days, weeks, months to follow. (It’s been 26 years and I still haven’t gotten over that Craig Curry fumble in the 1984 Cotton Bowl.) At the end of many games, I over-analyzed every critical play like any good arm-chair quarterback and would go to the tape (DVR) to watch replays in slow motion. I have questioned the play selection (and demanded the firing) of numerous coaches over the years and attended countless breakfasts and lunches where confidential strategies were discussed with only the most diehard of boosters. I have read many different sports newsletters and related blogs and have traded insulting verbal barbs with fans of competing teams. Through the years, I have done more than my fair share to help UT alums live up to our well-deserved reputations for arrogance and entitlement.
Gilbert to Shipley…another Texas TD!!! A funny thing happened while I was riding the bus from Los Angeles to Pasadena for the college football title game. The banter was lively as confident UT fans, decked out in every imaginable combination of “fashionable” burnt orange, devised their own game plans, and discussed keys to victory. Every few minutes, someone would initiate a rousing rendition of The Eyes of Texas and folks would stop in their tracks to put their Horns up and join in (even those who didn’t quite know the words). Beers and cocktails were flowing as the true partiers got their prerequisite “drunks on” in advance of the big game. (I have never understood the game day drinkers as I don’t want my senses blurred in any way in case the coach needs some halftime advice.) The 20-somethings among us hunkered down in the back of the bus, doing shooters, and laughing about the obnoxious behavior of their parents. Once we arrived, individuals made their ways to their respective tailgates to partake in more liquid courage and perhaps a brat or two. (I have no problem with such a pregame meal.) In any case, I was having a good time and eager for the big game, and yet a part of me missed my wife and daughter and wondered if I should have stayed home and watched on TV. (OMG…What had I become?)
Texas takes over with 3 minutes to go in the game!!! Once upon a time, football and sports in general represented everything to me and I had very few other distractions. I married later in life than most of my friends, perhaps because I was afraid of missing another big game. (I mean, I just never met the right woman, Honey.) But shortly after slipping on the wedding ring, I would find myself brunching with my wife on Sunday mornings, reading the NY Times, and together solving all the ills of the world (though often with slightly different resolutions). Occasionally I would miss the kickoff of the Texan football game, but somehow I never seemed to mind. Once our daughter was born, weekends became family time as music class, lunches with Mamaw, and birthday parties began to dominate the schedules. Sure I would catch a glimpse of a score if I passed a TV and would usually watch once I returned home (and naps began). Late night ballgames on TV have been replaced by Clifford the Big Red Dog videos. Morning SportsCenter recaps have been replaced by play-doh time. Truth be told, I actually enjoy these newfound diverse interests. (One never gets too old to climb through a bouncy-house at Pump-it-Up.)
Gilbert back to pass…he’s hit…Bama recovers the fumble!!! After the game, Alabama received the championship trophy at mid-field and disgruntled Texas fans rushed for the exits. Depressed folks on the bus drowned their sorrows, while contemplating “what could have been.” A dirty hit here; a missed call by an official there; an odd play call by UT; an unsportsmanlike late TD by Bama. For several days, the big game dominated the conversations with my friends. Would have; could have; should have…and Texas would be National Champs (again). I relived the disappointment through every SportsCenter highlight and related newspaper article. I made new Longhorn acquaintances on the flight home and talked about recruiting and the promising outlook for the next few years. Four years ago, this game would have stayed with me for days, weeks, months. But once reception finally returned to my Blackberry (thanks AT&T), I was able to listen to a message from my daughter…“I miss you, Daddy. I want you to come home.” My foul mood shifted immediately and hours later I was greeted by my wife and daughter back home. A new episode of Clifford; a “lively” debate about solving some of the (non-sports) world problems. (Tiger Woods counts as apparently sports becomes news once it crosses onto the front page of the paper.) My name is Ron Brounes and I am a sports fan (but no longer a sports-aholic).