A Christmas story, circa 1980s: Sports were just getting big to the little boy. Come to think of it, Michael Jordan was just getting big, too.
So when the boy and his brother unwrapped the shoe boxes, and each found a pair of the original Air Jordans, pandemonium ensued.
“That was awesome, man,” the recipient says almost three decades later. “Those were cool shoes.”
They wore the Air Jordans around the house that day, playing Nerf basketball and sticking out their tongues, trying to kiss the plastic rim.
The boy didn't grow up in Chicago, but he was quite the Jordan fan. To this day, he argues that Jordan is the greatest of all time. Transcendent. What Muhammad Ali was to the boy's father, and what Tiger Woods is to a later generation.
That doesn't mean the boy was always a Bulls fan. He grew up just outside Cleveland. The Cavaliers and Bulls had some momentous showdowns in the 1980s. Including Jordan's game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo to win a 1989 playoff series.
“Why they put Ehlo on him … you talk about mismatches and you talk about scheme,” the boy now says. “Because even I knew, back then, Ehlo was not a good matchup on that cat.”
Maybe that's what piqued the schematic side of sports for Mike Yurcich.
A Christmas story, 1988: Three Notre Dame players – Frank Stams, Michael Stonebreaker and Andy Heck – were named to the AP All-America team, which in those days meant an appearance on “The Bob Hope Christmas Show.”
So the Irish trio flew to Miami for the taping.
They were coming off quite a season. Notre Dame was 11-0 and ranked No. 1. They had beaten mighty Miami 31-30 in one of college football's greatest games, a showdown dubbed Catholics vs. Convicts.
In Miami, a local picked up the Notre Dame trio in a limo. The Miamian had grown up in Minnesota a Notre Dame fan.
He took the Irish out on the town, for stone crab and to Little Havana and for drinks everywhere they went, calling the shots “Hurricanes” no matter what they were.
The Notre Dame players developed quite the affinity for their host, especially since they had met him before, on the field in South Bend, where the Convicts had been quarterbacked by Steve Walsh.
A Christmas story, 1995: The Army brat was five years old, living in North Dakota, and got his favorite Christmas present ever. A new bike.
But let's review. Christmas. In North Dakota. Not exactly prime bike-riding weather.