Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fan Part 1 (from my New York Diaries)

In the summer of 2000, New York City was gripped with Subway Series fever with the Queens-based Mets and the Bronx-fixtures Yankees making the first intra-city championship since Jackie Robinson’s Dodgers were still encamped in the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn.

I am a huge baseball fan and was weaned on the exploits of players I never saw but got to know through a well-thumbed almanac. Now since the Yankees dominated baseball, they were mostly what I read of and their mystique tugged at my heart. And so my allegiances are to the pinstriped dynasty of Ruth, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jackson, and Jeter. But in a city with perhaps the most famous basketball playgrounds on the face of the earth I too am a basketball fan of the first order.

And I at first was a fan of a team not cut from the same championship cloth that the Yankees periodically, in fact up to that point they only won one NBA title and that was in 1967. But the Philadelphia 76ers of the Wild Wild West nevertheless snared my imagination. Only the played in the Eastern Conference where they faced up against Boston Celtics of Hondo and Dave, the Knicks of the Pearl and the Captain, and the Pistons of Dave Bing and Bob Lanier.

They were equal parts Barnum and Bailey and a quarter each of Evel Knievel and the Harlem Globetrotters. They were Doc, Doug, World, and Chocolate Thunder, and they enthralled me no end with magic and razzle dazzle in the Spectrum. They were my team until a skinny player who wore Tar Heel blue underneath his Chicago trunks held sway my imagination like no one did before or after. The Doctor included.

And that brings me back to New York in the summer of 2000. I was at Modell’s on 42nd and Broadway and the #23 red jersey with a Jordan neatly stenciled in the back had me looking like that kid in Come Fly With Me as His Airness was signing John Hancocks.

“You’re a traitor.”

Now that snapped me out of my reverie. It was one of the clerks. Military crew cut with an earring in tow, he leered at me and spewed venom towards the most identifiable Knick killer outside Reggie Miller, “I hate that guy. You’re lucky we serve your kind here.”

The red and black jersey set me back by 60 bucks (it was still the off season so it was relatively cheap), but I had bought the basketball equivalent of the Shroud of Turin. I have since purchased replicas of his North Carolina, Chicago Bulls, USA Basketball, and Washington Wizards jerseys and consider them as prized possessions. One would think that wearing the colors of another team while walking the streets of New York would be tantamount to an invasion of turf. But that’s farthest from the truth.

If people can wear baseball caps of the hated Boston Red Sox (just be extra careful about calling attention to yourself when you're at Yankee Stadium) then surely you can wear anything.

I was never a Knicks fan but when they did make it to the NBA Finals, I’d root for them as I’ve always been an Eastern Conference guy. I did like John Starks and Latrell Sprewell, but that was with a lot of reservations. Honest. And so I wore that red Bulls jersey with a #23 Jordan in the back and posed by the mural of Starks dunking on MJ and Ho Grant in the lobby of the Garden. One man swathed in Knicks blue passed by a yelled, "Hey, your man was posterized there."

"Ah, I think my team won the series... and the NBA championship."

Talk about a snappy retort. The guy flipped me the bird as I laughed and walked away.

Next: rebounding for Manu Ginobili and my US Marine guards at Rucker Park

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