St. John’s Red Storm Creating Fans and Bonds Since 1999

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

(Warning: Fluff following)

Everyone has a story on how they have become a fan of their favorite team. It could be as simple as it’s the local organization in which you grew up only a few minutes from. Some have been given teams to root for since birth, thanks to one of their parents forcing their favorite down your throat. Maybe you’re a player guy and not a team person, just following certain folks careers as they continue on their journey. For some of us, it was a single moment(or game) that chose the team for us.

College basketball gave me that moment in 1999. You see, my father doesn’t have a particular college basketball team he follows. Growing up, under his sports tutelage  I quickly learned he enjoyed the Big East as a whole and just in general, bashing the Syracuse Orange and Jim Boeheim(This was all before he won a title. My father was always quick to point out that, while Boehiem won a lot, he could never win the big one, which in turn, made him a bum).

We used to take his love for the Big East on trips to Madison Square Garden very often while I was growing up. Tickets to see the St. John’s Red Storm play were fairly cheap at the time and the only thing my father loved more than sports was a bargain(One day I’ll tell you how I became a Denver Bronco fan because of how a Steve Atwater jersey was cheaper than a Jerry Rice one).  Every year we would go see a few games featuring the Red Storm, however it was usually against pretty uninspiring competition. At the time they weren’t even “my” team, I was leaning towards rooting for the Villanova Wildcats because of Kerry Kittles (1992-96). I thought they were the cooler than a cucumber, although any loyalties I had towards them were broken just a few years after Kittles left for the NBA.

If you’re a St. John’s fan you know this date pretty well, January 24, 1999. My father got a hold of some tickets to see the Duke Blue Devils travel to New York to play the Johnnies in MSG. I was 16 at the time, far to old to have no allegiance to a basketball team yet. But regardless, Duke was was the second ranked team in the country and the Red Storm were eighth. I’d have to be a moron(Still am) to not realize how one of the biggest games of the season was being played on the biggest stage. A sane person wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to this game, I was pretty sane at 16, so off to New York we went.

This line-up of St. John’s players, which would ultimately end up being my favorite of all-time, featured Ron Artest, Lavor Postell, Erick Barkley  and Marvis “Bootsy” Thornton. A slew of attitude driven guys whose in your face demeanor on the court was only trumped by their talent (Even though they were coached by the diabolical Mike Jarvis).

Bootsy scored 4o points in an overtime loss to the Blue Devils. It’s funny though, I can’t actually remember the game nor how Bootsy scored a single point. The only thing I can recollect is the electricity the Garden had that day, how my father got caught up in the moment yelling out Bootsy’s name, and how I fell in love with a school I had zero direct ties towards.

Ever since that day I have been a St. John’s fan to the point where my bias shows in my writing. I always start my preseason thinking, and telling everyone, how the Red Storm have a certain player that’s going to help carry them deep into March. Then, usually around the beginning of conference play, reality sets in and I find myself rooting for a team that’s in a fight just to make the tournament(I have faith in Steve Lavin, he’ll turn this puppy around).

However, it wasn’t Madison Square Garden, Bootsy Thornton, or the St. John’s team that made me a fan, it was my father. They did have a hand in it though. They made me see my father in a different light for the first time, as an actual person, not a slew of other things not fit to write(Not bad things mind you).

We all have these stories on how we have become fans of whichever teams we root for. Mine, with the exception of one, are all linked towards my father. We grew up in a town where there is a church and a bar on every corner, around here you learn pretty quickly what’s expected of you. Work hard, go to church, only to play even harder when the night comes. Over the years me and my father have grown tighter and have a weird bond that is tied around my area’s philosophy.

We didn’t share a ton of father-son bonds when I was a child, that St. John’s game might have been the only one. For giving me that moment, the Red Storm have my loyalty for the rest of my life.

Since I’ve been covering the Big East for Rant Sports I’ve been told often that I only write negatively towards the conference. That might be right, but it’s only because it has meant something to me for a long time. I only shared this with you so you’ll have a better perspective on why I go so hard with all Big East topics, they gave me in essence the greatest moments of my feigning youth.

I would really like to hear how your favorite team became, well, your favorite team. Please let us know and leave a comment or tweet us.

Joe covers the Catholic Seven for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone

 

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