Wonder(ful) Women: Mothers in Sports

By Kyle Means, Regal Radio

The song above asks an essential question — where would one be without their mother? Unimaginable for most of us, me included, I know I wouldn’t be as much of a lover of sports without Wanda Bridges.

Mama never failed to indulge me in my growing sports obsession, whether it was supporting me at my Little League games at Summit Park or acting with just as much enthusiasm as I did whenever the Bulls clinched a title — for her it was a big moment so I had no choice but to put more weight on the situation.

I’ve gotten drips and drabs of my mama’s personal relationship with sports, in passing she’s described herself as a bit of a tomboy through her childhood and that she could handle herself on the softball field.

This column below, which I wrote for the Stevens Point (WI) Journal on June 27, 2008 (no link, sorry, the internet and Gannett’s endless online redesigning ate it up a long time ago), is anchored by a revelation she provided me during a visit back that month, back when a certain North Side baseball team was doing much better than it is now.

By the way, me, moms and another great mother I know — my Aunt Eula — did the Mother’s Day thing last night, we saw 42 and ate at a Bar/Grill/Bowling Alley. It was the least I could do, looking at her you would have thought I took her to Paris.

Ma, where would I be…indeed.

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Sports and sports coverage is mostly about the stories behind teams and individual athletes — where they come from, what they’re doing now, what’s their potential for the future.

This work is done for the fan’s sake — those who invest so much of their time and energy behind certain colors and logos. We writers love the fans and we could never separate ourselves from them because we are fans, too. Because of that its always good to know the story behind why a person loves a team the way they do. That which brings a team and a fan together can be as random as what brings two lovers together.

A stringer for this paper, a young man born and raised in Wisconsin, roots for the New York Yankees. He knows little of their winning tradition, saying that he didn’t start rooting for them until after their latest run of World Series titles in the 1990s. His reason for being a Damn Yankees lover: He knew that they were the most hated team in sports.

Myself, I’m a baseball anomaly: a Cubs and White Sox fan. I have every reason to be just a Sox fan — raised on the South Side of Chicago, have only been to U.S. Cellular Field (I’ll always call it Comiskey Park) to see a game and I’ve seen much more winning from those guys since I started watching the game, including the only World Series title I may ever get to claim. That night in 2005 was a time of joyous relief for me, but if the Cubbies do that this year, I’ll feel the same way.

The Cubs aren’t as cuddly as they once were, but they give you many reasons to root for them. You try not feeling something for an operation that gave you Harry Carry announcing three home runs for a guy named Tuffy on opening day of 1994. This past weekend, I found out that my mother, another native South Sider, is a Cubs fan. Never did she push it on me, but her allegiance was obvious when she responded to the Cubs’ big wins over the Sox last weekend.

Her reasons extend beyond what I can probably fit into this space. They go to Jack Brickhouse and afternoons after school in front of a WGN telecast. They go back to childhood and seeing the first wave of black ballplaying stars in the city — Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins — all in Cubbies blue. They go to stories of violence against blacks who dared venture into Bridgeport, where the Sox’s stadium always stood. That neighborhood has changed, but memories don’t.

It’s not always that deep, but the stories behind every fan are a big part of why we love sports — the things that keep us motivated during bad seasons and occupied during timeouts and meetings at the mound. So at the big Legion game tonight, if you see someone in all Plover gear that you know was born and raised in Point, don’t look at her like a clown. Ask them why they root the way they do. Odds are, you’re going to get a good reason.

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More quality links for this Mother’s Day: Carrie Muskat of MLB.com provides the great story of the Rizzo family, as in Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs. Rizzo and his mother, Laurie, had dual bouts with cancer at the same time. They’ve both survived and now are doing great work raising money for cancer research and awareness.

Cataloging the most powerful and inspiring moms playing sports, workingmother.com shouts out Candace Parker and Dara Torres among others.

And Mashable.com provides some sweet photos from athletes with their beloved mommas that are on Facebook, including Brittney Griner, Iman Shumpert and Skyler Diggins (fine Mama + future fine mama).

And of course, the only way to close out a salute to mom, momma, mommy, ma, mum or however you call her. Hope you enjoy a game with her today.

Follow Kyle Means on Twitter @Wrk_Wrt

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