Fandom Week Column: Great-grandpa’s gift has been a blessing and a curse

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come out to the field before Super Bowl XLVI. (Saboteur/Flickr, Creative Commons)

This week, Daily Campus Sports is celebrating both the highs and the lows of invested fandom with a series of personal articles telling the stories of our sports memories. This is Fandom Week.

I could have been a doctor.

Or if not that, I could have at least been a valued contributing member to society.

Instead, nearly all my free time is spent watching Tim Duncan highlights and I spend way too much time thinking about Duron Harmon’s ability to give help in zone coverage.

And it’s all because some man I’ve never met decided to buy a handful of season tickets to some upstart team called the Boston Patriots playing in something called the American Football League.

That man was my great-grandfather, and while I couldn’t even tell you what he looked like, his decision to splurge on Patriots season tickets, for better or worse, has defined much of my life.

In fact, one of the first memories I have is watching the Patriots high-fiving and embracing every fan that stayed to the end of what everyone thought was the final game at Foxboro Stadium. The Patriots made the rounds, making sure that everyone that endured the bitter cold to watch their Week 15 victory over the Dolphins was rewarded.

Of course, it didn’t end up being the last moment at Foxboro Stadium. That came a couple weeks later when Adam Vinatieri split the uprights through wind and snow to send the Patriots to the AFC Championship Game and jumpstart a dynasty.

But still, watching the line between pro athlete and fan blur as the team and the fans shared one collective embrace was the first time I thought: “Man, this sports thing is cool.”

Thus, my sports fandom was born and it’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.  

I vaguely remember those early Super Bowl Champion teams and going to the new Gillette Stadium, but the first team I can remember living and dying with was the 2007 Patriots.

My first true love was Wes Welker, lined up in the slot, and my first broken heart was caused, not by a girl, but by David Tyree.

After Eli Manning shattered my illusion of a just world, I jumped on the Celtics bandwagon. They had the best record in the NBA and captured Banner 17 that June. The Red Sox and Bruins soon followed and my fate was sealed. This sports thing and I: we were in it for the long haul.

My fandom has caused me to make some decisions I’m not the proudest of.

Like that time I decided to go to a Bruins playoff game the night before my Spanish final. Or that time I decided to ignore my prom date for five hours to huddle on a patio and watch a Celtics playoff game on a friend’s phone. Or my entire high school career where I spent more time caring about the Patriot’s rushing game than I did my GPA.

But being a fan has also led to some of the best times of my life.

I met my best friends in high school because we would all rather run the NBA Lottery Simulator for the 50th time than listen to Mr. Maki talk about macroeconomics.

Most of the memories we often recount have to do with sports in some way.  

Some favorites are the time we were illegally smuggled into the TD Garden, that time we partied on the Gronkowski Party Bus or that time we got to berate former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington for not re-signing Cody Ross. They’re all very long stories and I doubt they would’ve happened if I didn’t get to grow up watching the Patriots in seats purchased by a man I’ve never met.

I was at Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS where Ortiz hit that grand slam that sent Torii Hunter sprawling over the bullpen wall. I’ve seen Paul Pierce hit more clutch shots than I can count. And that Bruins playoff game that I skipped studying for? That ended up being Game 7 against the Maple Leafs where the Bruins rallied from three goals down. I’m pretty sure I got a B on that final so I’ll let you make up your own mind as to whether I made the right decision.  

So here’s to you, great-grandpa Lambert. You pulled the rug out from under my feet by enabling this fandom all those years ago. But without you I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate growing up with Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett, Paul Peirce, David Ortiz, Patrice Bergeron and the rest. My life would certainly be a whole lot more dull.

So I guess it evens out.


Bryan Lambert is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at bryan.lambert@uconn.edu.