Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Transition, Sports & Me

Originally posted on March 22, 2009

Transition, Sports & Me

This subject is being brought up (ok stolen, LOL) based upon a status post by Lori on Facebook this weekend.

All of my life I've been avid sports fan, especially hockey and auto racing, As per my usual, I like fast things, for example punk rock, and fast sports really appeal to me. Golf, baseball, Bad Company & James Taylor do not.

As a youth, I played organized hockey and basketball. I went to the super modified races as a real youngin',always cheering for Ollie Silvaor whomever was driving the Snapp Special. Little did I know then, how much auto racing would shape my teens, twenties and thirties.

I've been a lifelong Boston Bruins and St Louis Blues die hard. I also loved the Boston Celtics and it was the Steve Grogan era New England Patriots that got me into football.

When Manchester was granted an AHL hockey team, I immediately signed up for season tickets. In fact, I was #23 on the priority list at having my choice of seats for the very first Monarchs season. Needless to say, I had stellar seats. I made a few friends in the area of my seats, so
much in fact, that a co-worker whom had purchased my extra playoff ticket one year, referred to my attending Monarchs games more to see my 'sewing circle' than hockey. Not true, I swear.

If you know me, you know my history of auto racing, joining the Dave Snapp crew, helping Dick Crotty and ECAR, being asked to work for Lee USA Speedway, ISMA, Oswego Speedway and for NEMA, so I'll skip those details. One thing I'm proud of, I NEVER asked for a racing job, I was always asked to take over a position. From day one to my retirement, I never requested job or promotion, I was always asked to take it.

For many years, auto racing was THE priority in my life. I missed many a wedding, party, BBQ, work related event etc, because I HAD to be at the scheduled race. I lost virtually every weekend to travel and long, hot days. Traveled to Daytona for the Daytona 500 for many years,
later upgrading to the Indianapolis 500 for a few great years.

But in that time, spending so much time in the Syracuse, NY area, I became a Syracuse Orangeman fan. For Central New York, Syracuse University sports equate to being a Celtics fan in the New England era of Larry Bird and Robert Parrish. I caught the madness and have been an SU fan since the early 1980's.

In the mid 90's co-workers and I, whom usually played the bracket pools and other pools associated with the NCAA March Madness tournament talked about how we wanted to go to the actual tournament. In the late 90's we made it a reality. We traveled to Winston-Salem NC, Hartford CT, New Orleans, LA, Syracuse NY, and back to New Orleans for the sole purpose of having fun, consuming adult beverages and watching great basketball.

Over the years, friends and I would take the opening round, Thursday & Friday afternoons off to watch the NCAA hoop tournament. But my last trip to New Orleans, I got split up from my group. In searching for them, I got dosed with Ruphenol. Granted I only lost a night, $600, a driver's license, a credit card and a coat. Knowing New Orleans crime history, the fact that I'm still here to type this, I got off easy. But the remainder of my trip was living hell. I was scared to even leave my hotel room. Leaving only to attend the games and never, EVER far from my group.

But I swore, I would take back New Orleans some day. I don't lose. My chance arrived one day via mail. Because I had purchased eight or more tickets to the NCAA preliminary rounds in New Orleans, I was eligible to be entered to the lottery to purchase tickets to the 2003 Final Four. Being a single income mortgage holder, I had a choice of one, the Final Four in New Orleans or the 2003 Indy 500. At an "Indy meeting" with my supposed 'friends" the peer pressure was put on the table, am I going to Indy or New Orleans? In hindsight, I foolishly chose Indy. That very night I arrived home to find in my mailbox.....confirmation...... I could buy up to four Final Four tickets. This wound up being the year Syracuse not only made the Final Four, but won the National Championship. F$(K!

But it was around this time that I started creeping in to the severe depression that almost claimed my life. It had nothing to do with my missing SU winning the championship in person, but a lot of internal baggage. Just prior to going to Indy, I had told one of my closer friends in the
group, that I was suicidal but could fight it. But if I wanted to be left alone, please let me be. He understood.....for the time being.........It was just week's later that I had my first appointment
with a therapist.

In late 2005, I had start my hormone regimen. I was officially in transition. March 2006, a group of us to St Patrick's Day off from working. We were doing a Manchester pub crawl and catching with one eye, the NCAA opening rounds. My friend, Mike, was staying at my house, because he had returned to college, in Montpelier, VT. The next day we went out for lunch and to watch the NCAA before going to a matinee Monarchs hockey game. Then out to watch more NCAA games and to see a friends band, The Rezidudes.

Quite a busy weekend. Sunday, when Mike left that morning, I cleaned up my playroom where he had stayed. I then retired to watch the second round of the NCAA tournament, but quickly remembered it was a free HBO weekend. Instead of watching the tournament I loved and spent thousands of dollars attending, I found myself watching a kid's movie about a dog on HBO. Here I was, tears falling over a kid's movie about a dog, and missing the tournament I loved. WTF???

I had been prepped about the physical changes, but the mental/emotional changes were something I wasn't prepared for. It was then some thing happened that had never happened to me before....I realized sports weren't that important. All of my life I had been attending Bruins,
Celtics, Red Sox, Monarchs, Patriots games and even going all the way to Syracuse to watch the Orangemen play basketball. Now sports just weren't as important anymore. No one,
no person, no book, nothing prepped me for this. It was a shock to my system. I wound up giving up my Monarchs season tickets, mostly financial and a person bailing out on paying me for my second ticket, he promised he was buying.

I also couldn't afford the Indianapolis 500 trip anymore. Hormones out of pocket were too expensive. In hindsight, this was a good thing, as out of the group, only two still talk to me like I'm human, the rest avoid me like I have disease. Like a lot of people (not all, by any means) in auto racing, if you can contribute or help them, you're a friend. If you can't, you are quickly discarded. I've claimed for decades, I have a lot of friends, but my best friends are racers. This
holds true to this day, but I was shocked to see just how many "hanger-ons" there are and just how selfish a lot of racers are. The ol' "what can you do for me next" syndrome.

But racing (as discussed in previous blogs), hockey, football and NCAA hoop had lot their appeal with the hormones. Granted I still did watch football and occasionally hockey, it didn't
hold my interest like the earlier years. NEMA screwed me and kept me working for them two years longer than I wanted, only to stuff my loyalty to them up my own butt.

In 2007 for the first time in nearly 20 years, I didn't put in a single NCAA bracket pool sheet, never mind the multiples I used to play. I didn't even watch a single game of the tournament. Not one. I just didn't care. I hardly watched any sports, other than the races I worked.
Thanks to Patriots fever, I did stay connected to football.

In fact when Dr Brassard's office called to book my surgery date, I chose the first available. January 28, 2008. It was only after I hung up the phone....oh gawd, I'll be in Montreal recovering during the Super Bowl. It in hindsight also featured my two favorite NFL teams. The New York Giants and the New England Patriots. I was the only one at the convalescence home to even care about the Super Bowl, post surgery. Here I am, in a foreign country, in a hospital, by myself, SOBER, watching my two favorite teams play each other in the biggest game of the year.

But being in Montreal, also gave me my taste for hockey again. In Canada, you can usually find three NHL games on per night. Even on the rare occasion I had to watch a broadcast in French, at least with hockey, I knew the names and hand signals, so I always knew what was happening. It gave me a taste for hockey again.

I'm back to watching the Bruins and the NCAA, but the estrogen in my system has taught me, it's not a priority anymore. If I have a chance to spend quality time with friends or doing something better, I will. Life doesn't revolve around making the next ISMA race. (Sorry Bobby G, it's a fact)

Yes, I'm watching the Boston Bruins and the NCAA tournament again. I'm even playing the bracket pools again. But just doing it with less regular season home work than ever before.
Who knows I may even repurchase my Monarch's season tickets or go to Syracuse to see the
Orangemen play basketball. But rest assured, I'll be going to Syracuse to visit my friends as much as seeing the game. Games only last minutes, true friends last forever. It took a complete hormone change to understand, what's truly important.

But no, I still won't watch The View, reality tv, or Sex In The City.

The View From MySpace

GOD can I relate! Since absorbing myself back into music (my first love), racing has taken a back seat. I miss terribly a lot of the people in racing... my "friends". I have good reunions with those that i don't get to see nearly as often as i used to. But the ones that keep in touch are few and far. Bobby G, Sink and you are about it... maybe a few others, but not many. I too have been victim to the "what will you do for me next" syndrome... especially as a photographer. I get to be known as "the picture guy". I brought some (ok... maybe a LOT) on myself. But I mostly crave the camaraderie of those racing folk. Anymore, I'm more into football... U of M and our bumbling Lions.

Robert G.

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