Magazine article USA TODAY

Geeking for the Old Days

Magazine article USA TODAY

Geeking for the Old Days

Article excerpt

IT WAS GETTING on toward dusk; it was early spring and comfortably cool. My middle son and I were having a catch to loosen up his arm after a winter of baseball inactivity. Junior high school tryouts were the following week. He was going out for catcher. Since the JHS plays on a major league-size field, the throw from behind the plate to second base would be a long one. He soon was rifling pellets to his old man stationed at the top of the diamond, who then put the tag on imaginary base-stealers. These alone-with-my-boy moments usually spur a familiar conversation starter: "When I was a kid...." Trevor does not roll his eyes at this juncture. He's ready to listen, and so am I (to his questions about what life was like when, as he likes to say, "Dinosaurs roamed the Earth"). He accepts the fact--actually, I think he enjoys it--that I've become one of those sports geeks who can tell you precisely what happened 70 years ago but does not know last night's scores.

A man walking his dog ambled by; he was wearing a New York Yankees jacket and cap. "When I was a kid," I began, "if my [San Francisco] Giants were the defending world champs [as they are now], and had won it all two of the last three years [as they have done], man would I be giving all of my friends at school the business."

"In what way?" asked Trevor with a knowing smile. Trev is a Toronto Blue Jays fan. He won't admit it, but his choosing an American League team is his way of giving me the business. He knows I am a born-and-bred National-Leaguer. (Yes, who wins the All-Star Game does matter--a lot.) Sometimes, you do things because your father does them. Other times, you do things because your father would never do them. My father's favorite sports teams were spread across the country; so are mine; and so are Trevor's. Still, there's that pushback: I did it to my dad in so many ways, and Trevor has begun to do it to me with his Blue Jays.

There's the saying that "those who claim they've worn out life in actuality have been worn out by life." I'm feeling a bit of that these days, at least when it comes to sports. When I was a kid (and a young man) the passion was incredible. The arguments with all of those hometown Met and Yankee fans were long and hard--and frustrating. Their teams were winning pennants and World Series titles; mine was stumbling to also-ran status. Now, though, my Giants are defending champs, having swept the Detroit Tigers last fall in a big-time shocker. Two years prior, they won their first Fall Classic since 1954, and yet I do not feel the exuberance that I had anticipated, just a sort of quiet satisfaction.

Maybe it's the fact that the modern athlete spends more time preening than playing hard--I know the high salaries don't bother me--or perhaps it is that interleague play has become the norm. (When I was a kid, the only interleague play was in spring training and during the World Series.) Maybe it's because, a few years back, an American League team (Commissioner Bud Selig's Milwaukee Brewers) moved to the N.L., or that this season a National League club (the Houston Astros) has relocated to the A.L.--or might it be that a second wild card team has been added to the postseason mix, which could do without any wild card entries at all. …

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