How I got hooked on sports: The old man who couldn’t speak and a curse lifted

I’m a proud Colorado native and have never lived outside the state. As a kid growing up south of Denver, football and baseball consumed my time.

In football around ages 7-10, I loved to tackle as a defensive lineman and my mother would tell you I liked to tackle so much, I would tackle my own quarterback from the offensive guard position so we could get back playing defense.

I became more of a team player in the ensuing years when the coach made me a running back and I became the one trying to avoid the tackle. I was really good at bowling over defenders to feed my need for contact. I loved football for the release.

When fall/winter turned to spring/summer, baseball was beautiful at Southeast Denver Little League, and my Italian grandfather taught me about the Red Sox. His family emigrated from Italy and he was born in Boston’s North End, right across from the Old North Church.

The family moved to Denver and started a wine and liquor business before my grandfather suffered a stroke before I was born.

He had expressive aphasia (you know what you want to say, but can’t) and I never really understood a word he ever said to me. But I knew how he felt after he watched me play baseball on a Saturday when the Red Sox weren’t on TV.

I’d walk up to him and before I could say “Thanks for coming, Grandpa,” he would grip my face with both hands and passionately kiss me like a long, lost love. Sometimes he became so emotional our baseball caps would collide, and I’d have to collect his Red Sox cap off the ground.

I thoroughly enjoyed making the old man who couldn’t speak so happy. And long after he died in 1988, you can imagine how hard I cried when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004 to end the 86-year Curse of the Bambino that John Anthony Carbone was so tied to.

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