Aside from family, and maybe in some cases more than family, my uncle Bobby loves two things above all others in this world: Washington-Baltimore-area sports, and Bruce Springsteen. I don’t mean love in the way some people love Girl Scout cookies or old boots. I mean love like this: He’s in his 60s now, still wears an earring like Springsteen, and spends summer nights as an usher helping people find their seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
My mother and Bobby were two of five children, but when their older brother Lonnie died unexpectedly in his 30s long ago, they became two of four. That’s how I knew them when I was growing up in the 1980s: Janet, who lived in Ohio and sent us Buckeyes gear every Christmas; Mary Anne, who loved the beach and built a tiki bar in her backyard; and Bobby. He’d shoot hoops with me and my brother for hours, play records loud, and always had the best stories about meeting our sports heroes.
We rarely had everyone together, but when we did, we were in my grandfather’s house in Silver Spring, Maryland. Granddad loved his golf, his Redskins, his Italian opera, and his marching bands (they were all his), so we’d go back and forth between listening to Pavarotti and “Hail to the Redskins” while the adults drank and told stories until someone cried.
Occasionally Bobby would plop a Springsteen album on the record player when the old man wasn’t looking, but my point is sports and music often existed in the same room in our family. They made sense as a couple, each floating into our heads as a series of high notes and low notes, stories and characters.
That’s carried through to today. Every year on the first Sunday of NFL season, a friend sends me a text message before 7 a.m. with an audio file of “Hail to the Redskins.” Every year on baseball opening day, I’ll blast, “Orioles Magic.”
And every year at the start of the NBA season, I’ll pull up the YouTube of “Bullets Fever.”
The last one starts like this: “Bullets Fever! Happens to me every year.”