Family Fanatics: We're Wicked Big Sports Fans!

Sports are a big part of my life and always have been; I not only played them a ton when I was younger, but I still stay active both for the health benefits as well as sheer enjoyment. And of course, I've been a dedicated fan since as far back as I can remember. So when I was approached by Fanatics asking if I would participate in their Family Fanatics campaign, I jumped at the chance. Fanatics is a leading online retailer for sportswear and apparel, not only of all of the major sports leagues, but college and international sports as well. The invitation to contribute to the Family Fanatics campaign was to write about experiences where sports have brought our family together, which seemed interesting and can read my contribution below!
There are numerous reasons why I always feel that I've been very fortunate to have lived my entire life in New England. One of those reasons has to do with being a sports fan. We're a very provincial region, loyal to and proud of our traditions and where we live, and one of the ways that this is manifested is in our devotion to our sports teams.  Here in New England, we've got some of the oldest teams in each of the "Big 4" sports leagues, including a founding member of the NBA in the Boston Celtics, one of the original American League baseball teams in the Boston Red Sox, a founding member of the AFL (which was later absorbed into the NFL) in the New England Patriots, and an Original Six hockey team in the Boston Bruins. We're devoted to our teams and support them rabidly in good times and fair-weather fans here! Having grown up a sports fan and rooting for these teams, I've been able to share that passion for sports with my wife and now we are raising our four children to be fans, too. From our son constantly wearing his Red Sox hat and Celtics shirt to our daughters loving the Red Sox shirts they got after the team won the 2013 World Series, being a New England sports fan is something we do together as a family.

Luckily for our kids, they're growing up during an unprecedented run of success for our local teams. As a kid myself in the 1980s and 1990s, the only winning I knew was the sustained excellent of the Celtics, where they made five NBA Finals appearances, winning three of them. I also knew heartache, seeing the Patriots lose two Super Bowls, in 1986 and 1997, watching the Bruins come up short in the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals, and the ultimate heartbreak that was the Red Sox and the 1986 World Series. However, my fandom never wavered, and starting in 2001 our four teams have appeared in a staggering ELEVEN championship finals combined, winning eight of them. I've been lucky enough to be able to share in watching all of these with my wife (who was a big sports fan herself before we even met) and, for the more recent ones, our kids as well. Our oldest two daughters had a lot of fun watching World Series games with me last year as we cheered the Sox on to victory again, and they had a blast at "Red Sox Day" at their school the next day, when they wore their favorite Sox shirts and hats to school. They've also known the heartbreak of defeat, seeing the Bruins lose in the Finals in 2013 and the Patriots in 2011, but that's okay...while obviously we would have been happy had our teams won, learning to lose with grace is an important life lesson; they've learned this through their own experiences playing on soccer teams, but losing as a sports fan is also good lesson for anyone to learn, especially since at the end of the day it's all in fun.

The beauty of sports is that we can sit and watch them together as a family and really have fun with it. We even have a family tradition that we started years ago that all of us really look forward each and every NFL Sunday: whenever the Patriots are playing, we have pizza delivered and enjoy a "picnic" in our living room, where we all sit in our favorite seats and have either a late lunch or early dinner (depending on whether it's a 1pm or 4pm game) of pizza while we watch the game. We have so much fun doing this, none more so than our kids, who even now are asking me how many weeks are left until football season starts again so we can resume our tradition!

In addition to watching sports as a family, we also like to participate in them together. In 2011, I decided to get back in shape and started running...I ended up losing a lot of weight, which I've kept off, and I've continued running regularly to the present day; it's something I can't imagine not doing for the rest of my life. Since then, the whole family has taken to running 5k races together and we have had a lot of fun doing it. It's also been a great way for us to set an example for the kids that regular exercise and a healthy and active lifestyle should be an important part of their lives. This summer we had our most fun yet, participating in the Finish at the Fifty race at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots, during the Independence Day weekend. Even though it was the hottest day of the summer (at a scorching 95 oF with unbearable humidity), we had a blast spending the day together.  Our three youngest kids did the fun run, my wife and our oldest ran the 5k, and I ran the 10k.  As an added bonus, all of the races ended on the field at the 50-yard line and it was a real treat to be able to walk and run on the same field where we watch our beloved Patriots play every week during football season! The entire experience was great for our family in many different ways. In preparation for the race, my wife and two oldest daughters started running a few days a week in order to get ready for their 5k, while I ramped up my mileage in order to prepare for the 10k.  On race day, we arrived early in order to enjoy the family activities that were set up all over Patriot Place before we got ready to run.  First, our youngest three did the kids fun run, then my wife and oldest did the 5k, and finally, I ran the 10k. While the oppressive heat and humidity made the running quite miserable (if I'm being honest) and we all ran slower on purpose in order to avoid heat-related exhaustion, overall the day was a ton of fun. We cheered each other on during our races, proudly wore the medals we received, took pictures of each other crossing the finish line...the best part was just spending a wonderful day together as a family. Even the hour-long drive back home later that night was fun, since we were all so excited about what we had done and it was a relief to spend the time in an air-conditioned car! What it really showed us is that not only does being sports fans bring us together and allow us to spend quality family time, but so does participating in them!

Pat Patriot getting everyone pumped up to start! He must have been HOT in there!

Stella and Sophia getting ready to watch the Fun Run

Penny showing off her medal after the Fun Run while Evan checks his medal out
Evan proudly showing off his medal

Me with Penny and Evan walking off the field after their run

Trying to pose for a picture, but they weren't sure where to look!

Stella getting ready to run her race

Stella after the race!

Kristie and Stella after Stella's Fun Run

Kristie and Sophia crossing the finish line!

Me and my number, getting ready to run

Me crossing the finish line after the 10k
Me with my medal