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  • Writer's pictureLeigh Gerstenberger

Real Sports Fans

Even though I’m a Pittsburgh native, I’ve thought for some time that our society’s interest in sports is overrated. Oh, don’t misunderstand me, I follow the Pirates, Steelers and the Penguins (but only when they get into the NHL playoffs). So, I do have a fair amount of civic pride in my city’s major league sports franchises.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers having six Super Bowl victories to their credit, I’ve frequently referenced that I’m from “Six-burgh” when introducing myself to people I meet, particularly if they’re from the Cleveland or Baltimore areas. However, my interest in sports is mostly good natured.

Recently I was reminded of the difference between my approach to being a sports fan versus what real sports fans are like when I learned that legendary baseball manager Tommy Lasorda had passed away on January 7, 2021.

As a Pittsburgh native, I thought I understood what being a sports fan meant until an experience in the Philadelphia airport in the early 1990s.

While I don’t remember the exact year, I do remember that I flew into Philadelphia on a spring day when the Philadelphia Flyers were in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Philadelphia 76ers were wrapping up a good season and the Philadelphia Phillies were off to a good start.

As I disembarked from my flight and began my walk through the concourse of the bustling US Air Terminal, there was a buzz in the air. Listening to the background noise I overheard people talking about their favorite sports teams…the Phillies, Flyers and 76ers. But then, as I made my way to baggage claim, I began to hear the words “Lasorda” being repeated by sky caps, shoe-shine attendants, security personnel and gate agents.

As I neared the end of the terminal the din grew louder. The crowd grew deeper as I observed people in the concourse becoming more animated. And then I spotted him.

Legendary Dodger’s manager Tommy Lasorda was holding court surrounded by Philadelphia sports fans. While signing autographs and exchanging good natured barbs Lasorda offered insightful comments on everything from the Dodger’s upcoming battle with the Phillies to the likelihood that the Fliers would win the Stanley Cup.

His good-natured banter with Philadelphia sports fans of all stripes only served to endear him to them more with each passing comment.

The buzz in the air was palpable and I distinctly remember experiencing a contagious enthusiasm for sport that I had never before known, which gave me an appreciation for the adrenaline rush that must keep the “true sports fans” coming back for more.

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