This is an entry in Fangirlish’s What Sports Mean To Me series, where our writers discuss memorable sports moments and how sports have impacted their lives.
It’s likely anyone that knows me knows the answer to this question. I was never one to be shy about anything, especially not crushes. But there’s a funny story behind my first sports crush, one I haven’t really been able to make sense of till my adult years.
Because, you see, I had a crush on Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones. I can admit that. I watched every Braves game I could for a few years there, and thanks to TBS, the number I could was high, and I had posters, and trading cards and I think I might have even printed out articles talking about him.
And oh, of course, I asked for tickets to Braves games as my quinceañera present, because that’s the kind of nerd I was, and when I got them, you bet I was waiting by the players entrance hours before the game started to get a glimpse of him. The whole deal.
But at the same time, I didn’t even find him that attractive, physically?
I know, I know, this is the weirdest story ever. How is that even a crush, Lizzie? Bear with me, and I’ll try to explain.
First part of the explanation is – I was a kid, a really young kid when this whole thing started. I fell in love with the Braves, a team I’d already been sort of following, on Saturday October 28th, 1995, when they beat the Indians 1-0 in that World Series Game 6, with Tom Glavine displaying the kind of masterful pitching he’d continue to display for years. So it wasn’t about Chipper then, not for me.
Long-lasting sports love hardly ever is about one player, no matter what the trolls might say.
But he helped, and he helped a lot, when I started to pay attention in spring training of the next year. Maybe because this was a team made up of superstars, and he felt like the most relatable one, even coming off from a Rookie of the Year campaign. Maybe because he was the golden boy, and he got to be in front of the cameras a lot.
Or maybe because he had a nice smile. Perhaps even all of those things combined.
What I do know is that for the next sixteen years of my life, till the end of 2012, when Chipper retired, there was likely not a Braves game going on that I wasn’t paying attention to, one way or another. And there are 162 games a year, so you can imagine how much time I spent paying attention to the Braves.
And when he retired, I didn’t stop paying attention completely, but I will admit I zoned out more games than I ever did before.
So, in that regard, I guess we could call Chipper Jones my first sports crush, even if I never kissed his posters on my wall and was always more interested in his stats than his smile.
I wasn’t watching because he was cute, but because, in a way that I still cannot explain, he was my gateway to loving a sport, and a team. And fall in love I did, and in love I have remained to this day.
Whatever works, right?
P.S If the Braves could reward my love at some point, that’d be good. You might be starting to get the idea that I root for a lot of teams that make me suffer. You would be correct in your assessment.