You won’t see my name appear all that often under the sports category. For the most part, I couldn’t give a hot shit about sports one way or another. Now, I’m also not one of those folks that like to get all sanctimonious about it either, like all y’all sportball types are some kind of mouthbreathing numbskulls or something; I’m not here to suck all the joy out of the air. So yeah, this isn’t me knocking sports, but just pointing out that I’m pretty much completely and utterly unqualified to discuss much of anything sports wise 99% of the time. Except for my hatred of Christian Laettner. That guy can still get bent for life.
Cut to 1992. I’m eleven years old and grounded af, which was at the time my de facto state of being. My parents set some Mission Impossible style traps around my Nintendo, which was the first piece of my punishment always. Get a bad grade (C or below)? Grounded. Step out of line? Grounded. I was once so grounded that I was restricted to my room with all my toys taken away with the imminent threat of my books going next.
That Nintendo punishment cut deep though. I was late to the Nintendo party to begin with and was at that time an avid gamer. Grounding meant it was taken out of my room and placed on top of my parents wardrobe on a mirror. To ensure that I wouldn’t just sneak into their room and snag my NES to play it in secret, they would literally check the dust around the system. It was like that.
My parents were going on a date the night of the game and my cousin Donna was coming over to babysit. At the time, she worked at a store in Jefferson Mall called Babbages, which was the precursor to places like Gamestop. She used to bring me video games home to play for the night when she babysat, which I thought was the coolest. I mean, it is, right? She would bring something home, I would get to unwrap and play it, and she would take it back the next day, re-shrink wrap it, and put it back on the shelf. You can re-shrink wrap things? My eleven year old mind was blown.
I called Donna before she came over that night and requested Mega Man 6. I couldn’t tell you why I was excited for that particular installment. Mega Man games were built to confound and incense; why can’t a sophisticated robot duck, goddammit? It just doesn’t make any sense. Just duck the bullets already.
Donna complied. When she arrived with the game, my parents caught her up on my grounding: I was not allowed to play video games no matter what. Donna was cool though and after my parents rolled out, she told me that if Kentucky won the playoff that night, that she would let me at it. I’ve never cared more about basketball in my life before or after, so you know where this was going. I could feel it. I was on the edge of my seat and could basically feel the jagged edges of my worn NES controller gracing my hand when Christian Laettner erased all of that in under, I think, one second.
I felt that there was no way she would dog me out, but she held to it: no Nintendo. And with that, I went to bed crushed, with a heart full of hatred for Christian Laettner and his Mega Man crushing shot. To quote The Wrath of Khan: “From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee, for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”