As a kid, I really never had the opportunity to attend as many sporting events as I would have liked to. I can still recall my father, an immigrant factory worker from the Middle East, saying to my mother, "Why does he like sports so much? Are you sure he's our kid?"
After that my family just sort of bought into the fact that I was the type who ate, slept and breathed Boston sports. I always found myself sitting way too close to the television, hanging on every pitch hurled by Pedro Martinez, every touchdown pass by Drew Bledsoe and every hip check delivered by Boston Bruins enforcer P.J. Stock.
Long before the recent success of the New England sports teams, I remember the many seasons of mediocrity, when making the playoffs and being eliminated in the first round was a privilege and an honor. Youngsters today are spoiled with the recent success of the local teams. Yes, I realize to some of you reading this column I, too, am just a young whippersnapper in the early years of his roaring 20s.
I was raised in Clinton, the youngest of three children, with a brother 11 years older than me and a sister separated by eight. I decided with such a close knit family, I needed to get away from New England for a while. And it is great to be back.
A little about myself, guys: I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. If you think our nickname is the Tar Heels, shame on yourself, that's Chapel Hill, folks -- we're the 49ers.
While at Charlotte, I served as the sports editor of my school newspaper and hosted a weekly television/radio syndicated show that spotlighted the university's division one athletic teams.
In addition to my work with student media, I volunteered as a play-by-play broadcaster for the Charlotte 49ers baseball, soccer and softball teams. All of their games were streamed live on the athletic department website and could be heard within a one-mile radius of the stadium on the FM radio dial. In that time, I was given the opportunity to call two NCAA mens' soccer college cup games and two Atlantic 10 tournaments. I even had the chance to attend round one and two of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in Charlotte as a member of the media (for the record, the spread of food was lackluster).
You guys are probably all thinking, what's this young journalist know about sports. Well, I played football at Clinton High School, under the late legendary head coach Archie Cataldi, and let me tell you, I learned some life lessons, and a boatload of obscure phrases, that as a 17-year-old football player you just cannot seem to wrap your mind around.
I also was a wrestler in the 189-pound weight class for Nashoba-Clinton's first cooperative wrestling team during my freshman and sophomore years. Walking into that Chieftains' locker room at Nashoba, the first day of practice was strange as a young Gael. Just a month earlier, I was going toe-to-toe with some of these guys on the gridiron for the Courier Cup Rivalry Trophy. Now we're teammates this should work out great. And, the funny thing is, it actually did. I still have an immense amount of respect for the guys I trained with. Wrestling definitely made the trash talk come football season that much sweeter, that's for sure.
I regret not continuing onward with wrestling, as it was a sport I found a great connection with my father. I still remember looking up into the stands in the dimly lit Nashoba gymnasium, seeing the smile on my dad's face when I pinned a Tewksbury grappler in the first period in my last match of my sophomore season -- the last match of my career and the last match my father would ever see me wrestle.
I gave up the sport after his passing in May of my sophomore year and decided to pick up more hours at my job at the mall. I did continue playing football, only because it enabled me to work longer shifts on the weekends with the games being on Friday night. The passing of my father, a man who taught me how to respect and be friendly with everyone you meet, really shaped me into the driven person I am. I am always willing to help someone with a smile, if they need it, hold a door. Niceness goes a long way.
I strongly encourage everyone to email or tweet me some topics on professional sports teams that you would like to read about in my column. I look forward to standing back with my journalistic lens and scribing about the local athletes, coaches and people of the Nashoba Valley.
This column in the future will be used as a way for me to vent my passion for New England sports. I don't have the opportunity to do that with my family, because, well, to put it frankly, they really could care less about the Red Sox implosion or the NHL lockout. So sit back, relax, grab a cup of joe, and let's talk sports.
Ed Niser is a new sports writer for Nashoba Publishing.