Sunday, February 18, 2007

On Sports and Memories

Some of my earliest happy memories are sitting with Grandpop on his back porch listening to the Phillies on the radio. I remember feigning illness one March day and going to his house, where I had the rare treat actually watching a spring training game on TV. He explained what 'inside' and 'outside' pitches were and endured my endless questioning about all these players I had never heard of.

I really loved listening to the west coast trip games under the covers after I was supposed to be long asleep. I can recall setting my alarm to wake up to listen to a Steve Carlton vs. Jerry Reuss and the Dodgers matchup when I was about 10 or so. Given that I was listening to the Phils, most of those West Coast games were losses. I'm pretty sure my folks knew what I was doing, but who knows?

And how much fun was it to play around with the AM radio to see what stations you could pull in on summer nights? I know I had a list for a while of the places I had heard games from. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Chicago were easy. Boston was usually possible. Sometimes I could get Carolina League games. I knew all those teams long before Bull Durham came out. When we would vacation in Maine, my other grandfather (pictured right with me in about 1977) and I would regularly listen to the Phils playing back home via the amazing 50,000 watts blasting their signal out all over the Eastern seaboard.

Every time I listen to a game on the radio, I remember both of them and wish I had the chance to listen to just one more game with them. They'd be excited over the prospects for this summer's campaign and I would love to share it with them. I know they would also share my pride that my son is a baseball fan, though they would certainly be chagrined at his fervent love of the Yankees.


In thinking about this today, I think I vaguely remember watching the first nationally televised NASCAR race in a hot living room my brother is probably currently slumbering in. This race is legendary not because it was the first race on network TV, but because a brawl broke out on the last lap when some of the best drivers of the day wreck on the backstretch at Daytona.

I'll admit that I may not ACTUALLY remember this, but I want to. Why? Well, first it's a great memory. Imagining my grandfather and I gaping as the 'hillbillies' duked it out on CBS is more than a little funny. But it also goes to my desire to figure out where my interest in the sport comes from. How did a college-educated guy from the suburban Northeast become a NASCAR fan? I have always pointed to the fact that I was very moved by hearing NASCAR great Ned Jarrett call his son home to the 1993 Daytona 500. But today, in remembering all the games I watched at 3447 Mt. Vernon as a child, I am virtually certain I was watching that February afternoon in 1979 when NASCAR hit the national scene.

It doesn't really matter. My son John and will be watching today as Daytona kicks off the NASCAR season. Emma and my girlfriend are headed to a baby shower, so the boys will sit on the couch and do what millions all over the world will be doing. Holding out breath and shouting for our guys, #44 and #20.

Have a good one!

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Hillary said...

hiya - had to say hi and "nice pants".

also - wanna know a secret - if i could be anything in the world - a NASCAR driver is my 2nd choice!

Take care -

Chris said...

ok - so let's see some late 70s pictures of YOU! you should see the First Communion outfit of mine...

Matt P said...

i have some great memories of watching the phillies with grandpop in what is now my living room too. and yeah it was pretty cool to hear the phillies radio broadcast from all the way up in maine. that's even more amazing today.

glad to see that another generation is picking up the tradition of baseball in america. i think john will grow up to be a bigger fan than any of us.

my new favorite car jockey is the guy who finished 18th--by crossing the finish line upside down and on fire.