You never forget your firsts

When it comes to sports, is the expression really true?

Mike Schopp
June 07, 2017 - 9:12 am

Photo: David Kohl - USA TODAY Sports


When you search "you never forget your first" on Google, most of what comes up are allusions to love and sex. Well believe it or not I'm not here to ask you about your "first time", and I'm most definitely not here to tell you about mine.

Instead, I'm talking about first times at sporting events.

Many people say they remember details from the first game or games they went to. I'm one of those people, but I don't know that well if I'm right.

Today I want to test that.

By sport, here's what I remember about my first games, and then -- as we live in a time where everything but the meaning of life itself can be looked up -- what actually happened in them.


Sabres 10, Red Wings 1. I think it was 1979. I think Danny Gare scored three goals. It was at Memorial Auditorium, and my dad and I sat in the blues, about at the blue line. (Note: I can't check with my father about these details because he couldn't care less what happened that night. It's always been my thing to care about that, and the farthest thing from his. If this game had been played last night and I asked him this morning who won, he may not remember.) I remember wondering -- if not at this game, my other early visits to The Aud -- why I couldn't hear Rick Jeanneret call play-by-play from my seat.

What really happened: It actually was 1980 so I was a year off. Gare did score his 50th goal that night but I can't verify that he scored a hat trick. My memory here isn't perfect, but it's also not bad.

For the record, Gare remembers the game. "I believe it was against Jim Rutherford," he says. Rutherford was a goalie on that Red Wings team, with Rogie Vachon.

"On my way to 56," Gare says. "You need a few hat tricks."


Dolphins 9, Bills 7. Definitely 1979, and I was almost 8 years old. It poured all day and everyone in that huge stadium wore ponchos. I went my parents' friends, the Millers. I have no idea how it ended up that the Millers took a 7-year-old kid to a Bills game, but that's what happened. Tom Dempsey, the Bills' kicker, missed a field goal at the end that would've given the Bills the win. From our midfield seats I couldn't tell if the kick was good. The bench we sat on was so cold. I just remember Miami players celebrating.

What really happened: This one checks out -- probably because through work I've relived this memory many times. It's an easy one because the next year the Bills beat Miami to end a 20-game losing streak to them, and all good Bills fans know about "0-for-the-70s". I had no idea until checking that the Bills had five first downs in this game -- that's really bad. Pro Football Reference says it was 74 degrees that day so I don't know why I remember a cold seat.

Also cementing the memory is a conversation I had once at a golf tournament with the late Garo Yepremian. He said Miami cut him prior to that season and that the Bills, in need of a kicker, were down to he and Dempsey for the job. The Bills went with Dempsey, and Yepremian recalled to me watching the game on TV and being happy Miami won because of that.


Reds vs. Mets, around 1980, sat in left field. Couldn't tell you who won, or the score. Dave Collins was the Cincinnati left fielder. I saw the Reds a few times growing up because my mother's parents lived in Southern Ohio. I remember buying a Dodgers helmet because I liked that blue so much, and my grandfather groaned. I used to tell a story that I changed from it to a Reds cap during that game and that Collins looked back and gave me a thumbs-up. If pressed I'd say Craig Swan pitched for the Mets.

What really happened: Swan pitched once in 1980 at Riverfront Stadium, but it was in May and we usually went to Ohio during summer vacation. Collins was on that Reds team but in the one game Swan pitched at Cincy that season Collins played center. So my memory here is way off. There is also probably very little chance that during the game Dave Collins actually acknowledged me.


I'll let you know tomorrow. My first game is tonight.

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