I'm a Boston Celtics fan because that's what tall blonde headed white kids who grew up in the 80s and played basketball were. Larry Bird will always be my favorite athlete because he's the one who dominated my childhood and played the sport I loved the most. But I was just barely too young for Bird in his prime; I know all about the '84 and '86 Celtic teams not because I saw them live, but because I watched the VHS highlight tapes two or three times a week while spending large portions of the summer on my grandparents' farm, who love the Celtics just as much as I do. I've seen Bird steal that inbounds pass against Detroit literally thousands of times and memorized Johnny Most's words.
The Bird I saw live was older, at the end. The Celtics of the late 80s and early 90s were too old, finally surpassed by the Pistons with Jordan soon to follow. And so the moments were smaller: Bird coming back from a faceplant on the parquet floor to outduel Chuck Person and the Pacers in Game 5 of the first round of the '91 Playoffs. 49 points and a ridiculous buzzer three to force overtime against Portland in '92. And finally, The Dream Team, the perfect farewell. I knew I had missed Bird and the Celtics at their best, but I still enjoyed getting to see him win something in Barcelona, and by the end with his back betraying him even 10 year old me knew you had to savor every chance you got.
So I have no doubt that somewhere right now there is a 10 year old Tennessee fan whose parents have raised him or her well. They may not have seen Peyton Manning in college, they may even have been too young to see him win the Super Bowl in early 2007. But they're behind him now in Denver, because that's the nature of fathers and sons, parents and their children. You don't need to be old enough to have seen it all; the stories, the present, and the bond they create are always enough.
At the start of this year we were writing stories like this one: