By Steve Connolly
Having spent my early years in Miami, I have many fond memories of the city. I found Miami an ideal city for a boy to grow up in. We lived on the edge of the Everglades, in a then small suburb, only a short bike ride to the wilds of the Everglades.
They were filled with dense trees and inviting canals. It was years before the exotic snakes and other wild things began to encroach on the landscape. Gator populations were lower, too. Occasionally, we would come across a snapping turtle. Having no fear at that age, we would sneak up on them, touch their backside with our foot, and watch them jump into the canal. We would spend hours exploring, climbing trees and digging under rocks. To a kid, it was like heaven. I hated that we soon left Miami and moved to northern New Hampshire.
Before I knew it, I was grown and in college. Seeking a less expensive way to pay for college, I left New Hampshire briefly and was living back in Miami. Being a student, there was always a shortage of funds for gas and entertainment for a young fella. I found myself working a part-time job at a large bank in South Miami. Because they had a drive-in facility with extended hours, I found it worked perfectly for students.
During this time, I bonded with my coworkers, also students. What I soon learned was that everyone was “into” football games at the University of Miami. I had always been a Dolphins fan and had not paid much attention to college ball. But the enthusiasm among everyone was at such a high pitch it soon rubbed off on me.
Everyone planned to attend the Saturday afternoon games at the Orange Bowl to watch the Hurricanes challenge their weekly teams. At first, I did not want to think about driving west of downtown to see the games, not the best part of the city.
And parking? I remember going to Dolphin games. Besides the dolphin tanks at the end of the field, one thing that stuck in my mind was the nightmare of parking. Hey, at the time I owned a classic Mustang and I was quite fussy about it getting banged up. You know how the priorities of a young teenage male run.
However, with a bit of prodding, I soon gave in and found myself volunteered to drive a bunch of us to a Saturday afternoon game. I found a spot in the surrounding neighborhood where I could safely park my car. I was never much on parallel parking and the spot I’d chosen would require skills in driving I had not yet obtained. It would have been easier to slide my car in sideways if that were even possible. But after a lot of biting my tongue to keep from cursing I got the car parked.
It didn’t take long for the infectious atmosphere to catch me. Everywhere I turned there were hordes of laughing students all hyped up and ready for the game to begin. Climbing into the stands, our gang became just like the rest of the fanatical fans. Yelling Go Canes! Soon I was filing the names of the players in my memory banks so it would seem I was totally engaged in this game. And you know what happened? I got bit by the college football bug. All these years later you’ll find me on a Saturday looking at schedules to see who’s playing and what time the games begin.
What further ingrained this fanatical love of the college football was our move to Alabama a few years back. I tell all my out-of-state friends that before you can officially become a citizen of Alabama, you must sign a declaration of what team you will support, Alabama or Auburn. I have often thought of making up such a document to further emphasize this point to my friends. Of course, I declared my support to the Alabama Crimson Tide. My son, however, declared his loyalty to the Auburn Tigers. But that’s another story!
Last year, I went to my first Alabama Crimson Tide game in Tuscaloosa. As I stood in the crowd waiting for the players to take the field I was overcome with excitement. I guess the infectious cheers of the crowd took me back to those days at the Orange Bowl. Except for sitting in the nose bleed seats (which I did not budge from), I had a great time.
Recently, I decided that I needed to go back to my roots and support the team of my younger years, the Miami Hurricanes. Part of my justification is that it would drive my friends crazy, and would separate me from the never-ending feud between Tide and Tiger fans. By supporting the Canes, I can harass them all. It is all in good fun.
What about the professional teams? Yes, I still enjoy them as much as the college teams. And love to see the college players who get booted up to the Pros do a great job. What team do I support you may ask?
Go New England Patriots! Go figure…
Writing Prompt: I ran to the middle of the football field, clutching my Miami flag, when suddenly…