“This is way more junk than I expected.”
That was my thought as I stared at the boxes piled high in my garage. Clearing out my house in preparation for a move, made me come face to face with the harsh reality of just how many things I actually own.
There were several items that flat out needed to be trashed, while many others made for great garage sale material. However, there were a couple enormous boxes I didn’t even think about tossing, donating, or selling. These were the special boxes, the “don’t you even think about throwing that stuff away” boxes. Those squares of cardboard contained all of my sports tokens, souvenirs, apparel, memorabilia, and mementos.
I wouldn’t call it a collection. It’s more of a random gathering with absolutely no rhyme or reason. There are the obvious items like the jerseys and the posters. There are the things which take me back to my childhood like the football cards, the action figures of my favorite players, and the stickers I used to put on my closet door. And then…well, then there’s the other stuff. I don’t know why I have this stuff, but I don’t want to get rid of it either. I have a souvenir baseball from the Class A Clearwater (Florida) Threshers. Long story, don’t ask. There is a single golf ball commemorating the 10th anniversary of Texas Motor Speedway. I’ve never been to Texas Motor Speedway, never teed it up, don’t need it, but kind of like it. And speaking of worthless, look no further than the 2007 Indiana Football Media Guide. I picked that up at the Insight Bowl a few years back when the Hoosiers faced Oklahoma State. Haven’t looked at it once, not quite ready to chuck it.
I acknowledge that I have a problem, but I also feel like these things tell my own personal sports history. They are the fabric of what makes me a fan. I don’t know if you can put a price on that. All my stuff is worth a couple hundred bucks, tops. In other words, its junk. But there’s a difference between junk and stuff I have a connection with.
Take for example, the old wooden racket I picked up at a thrift store. When I showed it to my dad, he told me it was the exact frame he played with when he was in high school. Now I’ll never look at that racket the same way. For three bucks I got myself a reminder of my father, the man who got me started playing the game I love so much.
Unpacking the boxes, I stumbled across a dozen different Dallas Cowboys’ hats. They were dirty, sweat stained, and beautiful. As a young Cowboys fan, I would watch every game with several hats at my disposal. If my ‘Boys weren’t performing well, obviously the hat wasn’t performing well, and so a change needed to be made. This hat rotation went on for years and I’m so glad I still have every single one. Maybe I can pass them on to my son one day, and tell him about the tradition as we suffer through Cowboys games together.
My girlfriend doesn’t understand this obsession. My mom really wishes I’d stop using my old closet as a long distance storage space. They don’t get it, but they don’t have to get it. I need these things to feel at home, to feel like myself. I like to walk into my apartment and be surrounded by my stuff. Maybe it’s wrong, shallow, superficial, and psychologically weird, but my stuff is me. The pennants, the pucks, the sweatshirts that don’t fit anymore, it’s all me. The golf club head covers, the stained coasters, and those stadium cups you get with your nine dollar soda (I’ve got six), all me as well.
I’ve got the ticket stub from every sporting event I’ve ever attended. I’ve saved countless issues of Sports Illustrated, and cut out newspaper headlines from some of my most memorable sports moments. The one that stands out is from the front page of the Calgary Sun on June 6th, 2004. It’s a picture from game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals with my beloved Calgary Flames and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The photo shows the puck resting on the goal line as two Flames’ players crash the net. I was in Calgary that day, ready to erupt with the rest of the city. My brother and I promised each other we’d find a way to make it to Calgary if the Flames had a chance to win the Cup on home ice. Tickets were too expensive, but we settled into a sports bar, just two anonymous fans in the “C” of red. The puck didn’t go in. Tampa Bay won the game in double overtime, and won the Cup in game 7 two days later. I’ll never forget walking the streets of Calgary with my brother, consoling complete strangers, and reliving every moment of that game. The headline reads, “THAT CLOSE.” Funny how a piece of paper can connect me to one of the best and worst sports memories of my life.
I don’t have the space right now, but maybe one day I’ll realize the dream of displaying all my stuff in one big room of my house. It will be like my own personal sports bar, the man cave of all man caves. Until then, I will continue to search, clip, buy, and yes, save this stuff.
I want to know I’m not alone. Please tell me about your weird sports collection, or that one item that means the world to you, but very little to anyone else. Leave a comment, tell me your stories, or just tell me about something cool you stumbled across at an estate sale. Make me feel better about myself, don’t let me think I’m the only sports hoarder out there.