Saturday, June 13, 2009

Time out for sports

Lately, this blogger has been concentrating on the political scene and the issues facing all Americans.
My first love of writing is truly sports writing. Twenty years ago, I began working part-time for a local newspaper covering local sporting events. After several years writing about the local high school heroes on the baseball and football fields and basketball courts, etc., I went ahead and stayed focused on my current occupation.
Looking back, I wonder what might have been. However, I did get a taste of the scene at the professional level as a sound engineer at Chicago Stadium and the first season at United Center with the Chicago Bulls.
Those were happy memories when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were dominating the NBA.
Recent times have brought out the harsh realities of the world, both politically and in sports.
The growing steroids problem in baseball is still dominating headlines, evidenced by Manny Ramirez' 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball for enhancing performance products usage.
I would like to reflect some on the good old days of sports... going back to my youth when summer arrived and I always looked forward to the train ride from the suburbs to Chicago and the ride on the subway train up to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field to see the Chicago Cubs.
Ernie Banks was hanging it up by then and legendary manager Leo Durocher was fired midway through the season. That was also Ron Santo's final season with the Cubs as he was traded to the White Sox in the off-season.
Speaking of the White Sox, they were also fun to watch back then. The old Comiskey Park, where you could always smell the hot dogs cooking and the atmosphere surrounding the ball yard.
The late, great announcer Harry Caray (pre -Wrigley field) would belt out the tune "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" while clutching a "cold one" in one hand and the microphone with the other. Wilbur Wood pitched BOTH games of a double-header that season while winning and losing 20 games in one season. Dick Allen put up big numbers while gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated with a cigarette in his mouth. In today's politically correct world, that sort of thing is taboo.
The South-siders would schedule twi-light night double headers, with the opening game beginning around 4:30 p.m. and then the nightcap following shortly after. My parents, brother and myself would get back home around midnight.
The Oakland A's and Cincinnati Reds (the Big Red Machine) were the dominant teams the first half of the 1970's. That was before the free agency era came into being and completely changed not only baseball, but all the major sports.
It is enjoyable to go the games today as well, however there seems to be something missing from the atmosphere in today's games. You don't see the fans inter mingling with players signing autographs (for free) before games any more. The timeouts and the time between innings at baseball games is filled with advertising in one form or another.
Turn off for this sports fan. Just give me the game.
And while I'm at it, here's some random thoughts from yours truly... Cal Ripken's record of 2,632 consecutive games played streak will not be broken, nor will Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak be broke any time soon. Cy Young's 511 career pitching victories will never be approached.
No one will ever score 100 points in an NBA game, so Wilt Chamberlain's mark is locked in immortality. How about Wayne Gretzky's 92 goals in one season? SAFE!
There are so many more... in football, Dan Marino comes to mind with 5,084 passing yards in one season. That may fall this season, however in the age of the pass in the NFL.
Eric Dickerson's 2,105 yards rushing in a single season still reigns supreme in football, but that too may fall real soon.
There is one NFL defense that stood out to me as a youth (not the 1985 Bears either) as far as sheer dominance over a stretch of a season. The team didn't even win the Super Bowl that season either.
But what the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers defense did for nine games is simply awesome. The Steel Curtain dominated the NFL after the Steelers stumbled to a 1-4 start. Over nine games, they allowed just 38 points TOTAL and recorded five shutouts and also no touchdowns for a still NFL record 22 quarters.
That's a quirky one, I will admit, but to this sports fan it stands out.
I am sure many of you have tons of your own sports memories, and that truly is the great thing about sports.
For a few hours, we can escape the every day goings-on in life and root and cheer for our teams and the memories are forever lasting.
I can still hear former legendary Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse yelling "Hey! Hey!" after a Cubs home run and then regardless the outcome of the game, his smiling face on camera... wishing everyone well and "once again (insert final game result here), this is Jack Brickhouse saying so long from beautiful Wrigley Field."
So long Jack.
That's why sports is near and dear to my heart even in the turmoil of today's world.
The memories are lasting and that can never be taken away.
Now, let's go grab a hot dog.


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to sports and our heroes. You do a perfect job summing it up. You are right- there is something about escaping for a few hours at a ball game that revives the spirit. I love it. My ex son-in-law played NBA ball and it was exciting being part of the game.
    Thanks for sharing and the memories!!!!!

  2. Thanks for the comments... just to add that NFL Films had a All-Time Top Ten Defenses in the NFL... top three were as follows: 3. 1969 Kansas City Chiefs... 2. 1985 Chicago Bears... 1. Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970's aka The Steel Curtain and in particular the 1976 Steelers defense was mentioned as quite possibly having the best run ever for the nine-game stretch mentioned in the post.