I’m not sure if you all browse ESPN.com as much as I do (which is to say, constantly), but if you do, then I’m sure you noticed something strange last week: A formal introduction from Michael Wilbon on the front page of the website.
Granted, that’s pretty weird. Especially considering that Wilbon is a household name, and about as popular with sports fans as Justin Bieber is with 13-year-old girls. But since it was his first official assignment for the website (beyond his TV duties), he felt the need to give us a brief introduction. And I for one enjoyed it.
It also got me thinking, should I do the same?
Now understand, I’m not arrogant enough to think that people are as interested in what I have to say as they are with Wilbon. They’re not. I get that.
At the same time, I do think it’s important. How can I expect you all to come to this site, read my opinions, feel comfortable enough to share yours, and hopefully come back tomorrow to do the same, if you don’t know where I’m coming from? What my allegiances are? Where my thoughts lie?
So I figured let’s try this out. After running this site for over a year, it’s about time I introduced myself.
Pardon the interruption, but I’m Aaron Torres…
And I’m sure like most of you, I grew up dreaming that one day I’d be a professional athlete.
Unfortunately, as you might be able to tell, that didn’t happen. It turns out I was too slow, too weak and too 5’10 to play any sport beyond high school. At some point since then, I decided that writing about sports was almost as good as playing them. Honestly, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I’m a product of the great state of Connecticut, which might not mean much to you, but means a damn lot to me. I may not live here the rest of my life (it’s a little chilly in the winter for my taste), but I wouldn’t want to come from anywhere else.
Growing up in Connecticut means two things as a sports fan, the first (and most important) is that Jim Calhoun is a God. That isn’t opinion, but fact. At least within the four borders of this state.
I don’t care what’s happened with the NCAA over the last couple years, but anyone who has ever been to the University of Connecticut knows that Calhoun’s two National Championships at this school in particular, is the greatest accomplishment in college basketball since John Wooden retired. Period. When Calhoun arrived in Connecticut, the school didn’t have the historical advantages of Kansas, UCLA or Kentucky, nor the geographical charm of North Carolina and Duke. All it had was a beat up campus in the middle of the woods, with cold, dreary winters. Yet all Calhoun has done is win in Storrs, and given my home state an identity in the process. Calhoun is, and always will be my favorite figure in sports.
Growing up in Connecticut also means that I’ll always have a soft spot for baseball, even if I know that deep down inside the sport is screwed up. Possibly beyond repair.
Since I was little, my team has always been the Red Sox, but interestingly enough, I actually watched the Braves more in my younger years.
Now I know you probably think that makes me a lousy fan, but here’s the truth: As hard as it might be to believe now, back in the early ‘90’s, you couldn’t get every game your team played on TV. At least I couldn’t. I did get the Braves though, since the team was owned by Ted Turner, who also happened to own TBS, and filled his airwaves with as many Braves games as possible. Other than UConn basketball, the Braves had the biggest impact on me growing into the sports fan I am today.
With all that said, college football is still my favorite sport. How that happened (when there wasn’t a Division I team in my home state until I was in my late teens) remains one of the great mysteries in life. Right alongside the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot and how Greg Robinson keeps getting plush coaching jobs. Nobody has an answer to it.
Of course being a college football fan means I’m asked the same two questions constantly: Do I think players should get paid, and do I think college football should have a playoff. I’m very contemporary on a lot of issues, but on each of those, my answer is an emphatic no. Let me explain.
Personally, I’m not a proponent of paying players, for the simple fact that giving these guys money on top of a free scholarship is insulting. It’s insulting to any parent or kid who has paid for higher education out of his or her own pocket, and more importantly it’s insulting to every athlete in a non-revenue producing sport that is on partial scholarship or paying their own way through school.
To me, playing college football or basketball is no different than taking an unpaid internship as a business or law student; it’s just part of the process of getting to where you want to go professionally. If these kids want to get paid, let them go out and get a job, and see how much closer that gets them to the NFL or NBA.
And oh by the way, for every one Cam Newton who’s getting screwed by the system, there are 80 guys that he shares a locker room with who will need their degree later on in life. Remember, even if you do make it to the NFL, most guys don’t earn enough money to support their families forever. They’re going to need to get a “real,” job at some point, and it’s hard to get a good one without a college education. Let me wrap up this rant with one final point: If someone came to my mother or me as I was getting ready to go to college and offered a full scholarship, free room and board plus books, the last thing either of us would’ve asked for is more money. And I bet most anyone who has paid for college out of their own pocket would agree.
As for a playoff, I simply think it’d do more bad than good.
If you think coaches are getting fired at a rapid pace now, imagine what would happen if they weren’t getting their team into a playoff every year or two? Schools already go through coaches faster than Justin Timberlake goes through beautiful actresses. With a playoff, wouldn’t it be 100 times worse?
Really though, I’ve got a bigger beef with a playoff. Yes, we can all agree that a playoff would produce more money for these schools. I get that. My problem is that the extra money generated wouldn’t go towards the places it should, like creating more scholarships, or even giving a weekly or monthly stipend to all athletes (Which I’d support by the way). You know where playoff money would go? Into the pockets of the athletic directors, school presidents and board of trustee members. Do those guys really need newer cars or another vacation home? I think not.
Besides, with no playoff, college football instead has the best regular season of any sport. Simply put, college football’s playoff starts the first week of September and ends the last week of December. Anyone who doesn’t understand that doesn’t understand college football.
While we’re here, if college football has the best regular season, college basketball has the best postseason, and the NCAA Tournament office pool may be man’s greatest invention since sliced bread. Is there a better way of tricking women into watching sports, than having them fill out a tournament bracket? How many times have you said something like this to your significant other: “Honey we’ve got to watch the tournament tonight. If VCU beats Georgetown, you’ll be third place! You want to win the pool, right?” It gets them every time.
As for professional sports, my heart isn’t in them like the college games, but I still watch none the less.
I love baseball for all the reasons I mentioned before, plus the symmetry of the scheduling. There’s something soothing about coming home and being able to see my team play at the same time, every night. It’s a nice security blanket.
I watch the NBA because the sport has the best athletes in the world, by far. How often in everyday life do you meet someone who is 6’8, let alone someone who is 6’8 and can run and jump the way these guys do? It’s incredible.
Finally onto the NFL, and I’ve got to be honest (that’s what this column is about, right?), I can’t find one compelling reason to watch until the playoffs. And believe me, I try every Sunday, I really do. But since I’m not much of a gambler, and don’t have a fantasy team (That story is complicated), I just can’t get invested in these games. If that makes me less of a man, so be it.
Away from sports, I’m a relatively normal dude in a world full of them. I put on my pants one leg at a time, usually drive too fast, and when I was in college, I may have been the best pound-for-pound beer drinker in the world. Of course that changed as I got older, and now two beers constitutes an entire Friday night, rather than one half of my pregame before I go out to the bar. For you kids in college who think that’ll never happen to you, believe me, it will. It’s called getting old.
In regards to TV, honestly, other than sports, I don’t watch much. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, or enough quality programming to fill those hours to keep me invested.
If I do commit myself to a TV show, it better be funny, damn interesting or both. I’m partial to How I Met Your Mother, reruns of Seinfeld and am proud to say that I’ve never missed an episode of Entourage or Curb Your Enthusiasm, despite having never had HBO in my cable package. I also can’t get enough of Jersey Shore, and find Keeping Up With The Kardashians wildly entertaining. Again, judge me if you want, but I will tell you this: Watch one half hour of that show and you’ll be hooked. It’s like crystal meth. Only if crystal meth had fake boobs and spent a half hour yelling at itself each week.
As for movies, well forget about it. If I can’t sit still for 30 minutes of a TV show, how do you think I handle 90 minutes of cinema? If I don’t see a movie in the theater, there’s about a 99.999998 chance I’ll never see it period. The idea of flipping channels on a lazy afternoon, stumbling across some movie I've never seen before, and committing two hours to it is absurd to me. You’ll see Jenn Sterger and Brett Favre team up on Dancing With The Stars before that happens.
Otherwise, there’s not much to me.
I love dogs, and am convinced that anyone who doesn’t, either has never been around them, or doesn’t have a heart. It’s really that simple.
I like to eat more than I do to exercise, meaning that whatever woman I trick into marrying me better watch out. I may have a 34 inch waist now, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion I’m going to look like Rex Ryan sometime around my 35th birthday.
I love to read, and am currently just finishing up Lou Holtz’s autobiography. Why did I choose to read a book written by Lou Holtz, about Lou Holtz? Because I think the guy is hysterical, that’s why.
Maybe my favorite book ever is “The Business of Happiness,” by current Washington Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and buy it now. That book alone shaped a big chunk of where I am in my life, and where I’m hoping to go. It also prompted me to create a list of over 100 things I want to do before I die, just like Leonsis did. I figure it’s pretty hard to accomplish your goals if you don’t know what they are, right?
Finally (for anyone that didn’t stop reading five minutes ago), I absolutely, positively love running this site, and interacting with all you guys. It doesn't matter to me whether you agree with my opinions or not, just know that I appreciate all you taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Also, understand that I get way more out of this site than any reader does. You guys educate me, enlighten me and flat out keep me in line when I need it. I’ve become a better writer, thinker and person because of each and every one of you.
Anyway, this article has probably gone on about 1,000 words too long, but thanks again one last time. I don’t know where my writing career will take me, but I know that it wouldn’t be where it is without you guys.
I just hope you know me a bit better than you did a few minutes ago.
Also, for his continued take on all things sports, as well as updates on his articles, podcasts and giveaways, be sure to follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook.com/AaronTorresSports or by downloading the Aaron Torres Sports App for FREE for your iPhone or Android phones!)