Passion: Remembering A Brothers Love For Sports
Written by Jeff Demers on 08/26/2016
If you’ve followed me during my time as a sports show host, then it’s no surprise to you that I speak openly about my love for all sports. But until recently, I’ve never really shared where that love came from. I grew up a little differently than the normal New England kid. I was a foster child. Passed between family members, and different homes. I wasn’t an only child, as I had three sisters; Kimmy, Chrissy, and Holly. I didn’t live with them, and rarely saw them as I was growing up. But I never forgot them. Today I maintain contact with two of them through social media and phone calls. My life didn’t really have any stability as a kid until I started living with (at the time) my babysitter, and her family. And with that family came two more sisters. And I also now had a new brother. Thank GOD I had a brother! Looking back, with a total of five sisters, and numerous cousins who were female surrounding me, I really don’t know where I would be today without my brother! I’d probably own a dress shop or something.
I can remember the very first football game that I sat down to watch with my brother. It was the 1986 Super Bowl between the Chicago Bears, and the New England Patriots. The funny thing is, my brother was a huge Walter Payton fan. He even wore #34 playing football, both in Jr. High, and in High School. And yes, he was a running back, and a damn good one at that. I know because he always came home with the VHS tape of his last game to show me. “Rewind that play….” he would always say to me. “Watch me on this play,” he’d say. And it would show him trucking some poor defender from Nashua, or leaving the entire Exeter defense behind him for a long run. His favorite player may have been Walter Payton, but if I had to pick who I thought he was like, with my current knowledge of the game….
I’d say that he ran like Larry Czonka, and attacked every play on defense like Dick Butkus……and he was just a teenager. He was just that tough, and everyone knew it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a true story: I remember my brother, in high school playing football. One day he comes home after a game talking about he has a sore leg. He plays the next game, again starting at running back, and then comes home saying his leg was sore after playing the entire game. Then he plays the entire next game, over 100 yards once again, and comes home with a cast on his leg simply saying “yep, it’s broken.” Three games he played with a broken leg, and ran for over 100 yards in each game! “Tough” didn’t even begin to describe this kid. Hell, NFL players today are out a full season with a hairline fracture! He played three games with a broken leg as a kid!
He was the leader of the pack, as I recall. Do you know how many fights I didn’t get into as a kid just by saying who my brother was? With my mouth, I probably should have been beat up about 100 times before 6th grade!
I remember when I was a Freshman in high school, just a year after my brother graduated, and I had bumped into one of the defensive lineman for the high school team. I was having a bad day already, and when he said something to me, I got mad and threw a Coke in his face. The next thing I know, there were about eight guys holding him back, and there was one guy (smaller than me) holding me back. Why? Because of who my brother was, that’s why. He didn’t even go to the school anymore, and he was still in their heads. The next day, I went up and apologized to the kid (I think his name was Shane). He said “don’t worry about it.” But he said it without looking at me, and with a small growl under his breathe. Like he was saying “I’d kill you right now, but I value my life more.”
The funny thing is, if my brother knew I was using his name to get through, he probably would have told Shane to kick my ass just to teach me a lesson, but then again, maybe not.
I remember wanting to be like him so much as a kid. I remember playing peewee football as a kid for Flanigans. The first day I came home with my helmet and pads, I thought I was just like my brother now. He had me put the helmet and pads on and told me to come at him. And the mistake I made that day was…..
I actually did.
I was met with a fist, not a forearm to the chest, a fist…..and all I remember after that was getting up with my helmet sideways, and my shoulder pads barely staying on me. Apparently that was his way of telling me that my form was bad. And then for some reason, when he said to hit him again…..well, I don’t remember much more about that lesson. Let’s just say he had asserted his dominance over me at a very young age. Although I do believe to this day that my mother was the toughest one in the house, but that’s a story for another time, and after about a dozen rounds of something that can degrease an engine block.
But the one thing that we always had in common, regardless of how many years had passed, was sports. He took me to my very first Red Sox game at Fenway Park. And I remember most of it like it was yesterday. Driving toward the park, I could see the giant Citgo sign that sits a ways from the Green Monster. It was just like I saw it on television. And walking up to the ballpark, seeing the street sign on the corner of Yawkey Way and Brookline Avenue. I remember the massive crowd we were walking through, and the smell of the food as we walked past the vendors to the huge green gates that led into the park. I remember we were with my brothers friend, Ted, and his father. And when we walked through the corridors, and up the ramp…..
Heaven. We came up almost right behind home plate. I remember the green seats, the cage that was set up to protect the fans from foul balls behind home plate….
I remember seeing the “Monstah” in left field. There weren’t any seats on it back in the 80’s, there was only a rope fence that caught homers and kept them from hitting the cars that had parked behind the wall….sometimes.
**Side thought… Why the hell would you park your car behind that wall? It’s like you’re begging for a new windshield!…Moving on.**
I remember the giant Budweiser sign in right field. And I remember the giant board in center field. And I remember (not sure how I remember this), but I remember seeing a solitary red seat in the right field bleachers. I remember asking my brother what it was, and all he said was “Ted Williams.” But I also remember seeing the scoreboard in the wall in left field….just like on television. I only have like one memory of the game though, and that was of a gentleman named Kirby Puckett, who hit a home run over the Monstah. I didn’t see the home run, all I saw was Kirby swing, and I heard the crowd follow it up with a bunch of “ooh’s and aww’s”…but he hit it so hard, I didn’t even see the ball. I just knew it no longer existed.
This was the beginning for my passion for baseball, and my beloved Red Sox. To this day, I have a picture of Ted Williams, and of Fenway Park, on the wall, beside my bed, in my room. Yeah, it’s that kinda love.
I remember watching Larry Bird on television win the 3-point contest against Dale Ellis in overtime. The man won it with the last shot, which was the “money ball.” But I remember my brother yelling “he knew it before it went in!” And he did. Bird put his finger in the air to claim victory before the ball even went in the net. It was unreal. Don’t believe me? Watch this:
The very next day, I was in my driveway, pretending I was Larry Bird, and shooting that final shot, and walking away with my finger in the air. I did it all day….of course I think I missed quite a few too.
I remember the parties that my brother would throw while my parents were away at Bingo. I remember because I would play basketball with his friends the entire night. And he would laugh at his friends any time I would beat them. We had an understanding, him and me. I would help him clean up from the parties, and not tell my parents, and he would let me hang out during them. This went on practically every weekend. As long as there was Bingo, there were parties. And my parents never knew they were happening. I got a call from my mother some years back, probably a year or two before she passed, and she told me my father was cleaning out the gully behind the house and found dozens of old garbage bags full of empty beer cans….and I would just laugh and say “nope, don’t really know anything about those.” That was probably around 2008 or so, decades after the parties actually happened. She knew I was full of shit though, probably wondering how the hell we kept that a secret for so long.
Every single Patriots game I ever went to, was with my brother. We only went to a few, but I wouldn’t go unless he could go. Even as an adult, I always bought tickets so he could go with me, whether it was to the Patriots, or to the Red Sox. I loved sharing those moments with him. We were at Randy Moss’ last game as a Patriot. We sat in the same end zone that he would catch his last touchdown in a New England uniform. I think that was actually the last game we ever went to together. As a matter of fact, the featured image of me taking a picture at Gillette Stadium was that very same game.
I remember in 2004, when the Red Sox did the unthinkable and came back from being down 0-3 to the Yankees……
Before I called any of my friends, I called my brother from Phoenix. “We’re gonna do it!” He said. And I believed him. And they did. They won the World Series that year for the first time in 86 years.
It seemed like no matter what was going on in our lives, or no matter how bad things were at the time, we could always talk Red Sox, or Celtics, or Bruins, or Patriots. It didn’t matter. Sports were our way of simply being brothers, even as adults. Even a few months before he passed away, last year, the last time I ever talked to him, it was about the Red Sox, and how we thought the Patriots were going to do. That was the last call I ever had with him. And the weird thing was, I told him that I loved him. We never said that on the phone, or really anytime. The weirder thing was, he said it back. All the years of showing how tough he was, and all the years of me looking up to him because of how tough he was…..and following what would be our final sports conversation, he told me he loved me.
My brother passed away on November 1st, 2015. And to this day, I haven’t been home since. The memories of our conversations, of seeing him sitting next to me at Fenway, of me trying to get him to sing Sweet Caroline during the 8th Inning, of being in his Patriots jersey at Gillette, of playing basketball with me in the driveway as a kid, of him running for a touchdown in Junior High, of us playing catch with the football, or with the baseball in the back yard at home…. that’s how I want to remember my brother.
Initially, he was just my new brother. Today, he was my brother, my friend, my sports buddy, one of the reasons that I am who I am as a sports show host, a reporter, a writer, and a Director.
I miss you bro! Go Sox, go Celtics, go Bruins, and go Pats! And if you can do anything from up there to make sure Tommy gets his payback against Goodell, and all the Patriots haters, by all means, I’d love to see it!
Love you bro!
In memory of George E. Demers Jr.
March 3rd, 1972-November 1st, 2015
By Jeff Demers
Heroes Media Group Sports
Director of Sports Entertainment