A tradition unlike any other...
Growing up a sports fan in Wisconsin in the 1980s meant a number of different things.
Bad football was one thing we all collectively suffered through. Winter, of course, was another inescapable hazard of the Badger State in February as well. Spring training was something to look forward to, but before the first pictures from Sun City appeared in the morning Milwaukee Sentinel, there was something else for children of the Reagan Administration to look forward to.
Yes, part of my childhood that has always stayed with me, much to my very conservative parents chagrin, was the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And while I haven't actually owned an issue for at least ten years, memories of my childhood in winter time centered on being one of the kids that would sneak the issue into school for my jealous friends who did not have access to Paulina, Elle, and Kathy to look at.
Allow me to rewind.
My birthday is in November. The year I turned 13, my father got me a one-year subscription to SI. As far as gifts go, it was nothing short of spectacular. For one, of course I had an interest in sports journalism even at that age, but the photographs brought the words of the legendary writers to life.
Leigh Montville, Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, Jack McCallum, Ron Fimrite, Frank Deford, Alexander Wolff, and Steve Wulf were just some of the names whose work I devoured every Wednesday when the mail would come.
The tales they were able to weave made being a sports journalist glamorous to me. It gave me a path I wanted to pursue as a career; first in electronic media, then later in my career in print.
For this, my father was grateful. For years my parents had been told that I was smarter than my grades indicated, but I just didn't apply myself. Of course I can fully admit today that was true; I was an underachiever simply because I didn't have a passion for science, math, or social studies.
But I loved to read. And essay tests were always my forte, in part because I learned sentence structure and grammar from reading sportswriters. I was a mediocre student in almost every subject in school except for Debate and English simply because I didn't care about subjects that I knew I wouldn't need later in life.
Because I finally showed some direction and promise, however, my parents had no problem whatsoever letting me read these great sportswriters. After all, what difference did it make what I read, as long as I learned something useful, right? So, every Wednesday after school, my parents were thrilled I was reading instead of playing video games or getting into some other kind of nonsense kids find themselves into.
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"That was my story and I was sticking to it anyway." read a different way that's a pretty funny statement given the topic.
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