My five siblings and I spent the majority of our growing up years without a TV. It wasn’t until I was a tween that my parents invested in a small-enough-to-carry-with-one-hand black and white TV, to be used mostly by my Dad, and on special occasions.
As soon as I dared, I started to sneak the TV out of my parent’s room by quickly grabbing it (did I mention it was TINY??) while they were distracted with other things. I would haul it downstairs to my bedroom where I would watch re-runs of ‘I Love Lucy’, the news, and anything else I could find on the five or six channels that were standard.
I remember vividly the first time I clicked the dial over to a Utah Jazz game. There, with the rabbit ears pointed toward the ceiling, I found myself mesmerized by the sound of Hot Rod Hundley calling the plays of the Jazz. He kept using the nickname “The Mailman”, for one player, and over and over again this athlete would make basket after basket.
Curiosity and I finished watching the game. A game won by the talent of Stockton, Malone, and their coach Jerry Sloan. A coach who was competitive, and not afraid to yell in the name of unfairness.
That was the day I became a fan.
From then on, as often as I could, I would grab a snack and sneak the TV to my room to watch the Jazz play their game. If I was lucky my brother Justin would be home, and we would watch the game together.Most nights I cheered alone, but it didn’t bother me in the least. They started to become my team, and I grew familiar with their faces, their names, and their talent.
Now my son is the age I was when I first started watching, and he quite possibly cares more about the Jazz than anyone I know. He breathes in the statistics each morning while pouring over the nba.comsite; simultaneously eating his breakfast cereal. He strategically envisions where the Jazz will be placed if they beat the next opponent. And he proudly displays his green Utah Jazz flag next to his bed, signed just last year by Coach Sloan himself.
On the afternoon of Feb.10th I told my son, who was just getting in the door from school, to turn on the TV and be prepared to be upset. He switched the TV on to Channel 5 and said, “Mom, it’s ‘The Nate Berkus Show’. Oh. Wait. NOOOOO!!!”, and then in an instant he was on the floor pounding his fist into the carpet.
His orange leather world had stopped turning.
He too, is a fan.
We may never know the real story of why Coach Jerry Sloan stepped down, or the drama that followed soon after, but certainly, fans everywhere know the bigger story of the rest of his 23 seasons and 1,127 wins with the Utah Jazz. Of the team he built on fairness, farm taught toughness, hard work, and love of the game. Of the infectious smile that grew across his face like nothing we had ever seen before when John Stockton finally sent the Jazz to the NBA Finals. Of the heartache he shared with us when his wife Bobbye faced, and ultimately lost to cancer.
And for each game, with his tie half tugged off, that he gave us his very best. Win or lose.