In 2019 we have access to everything - it sure didn't used to be that way.
Our connections to the world come in many ways. In the dim past it was primarily print. Then came radio, television, and now the Internet and social media. One advantage of the radio and early TV eras, at least before the 24/7 coverage of everything, was how it amplified, rather than replaced, our own imagination. In my childhood, TV gave only glimpses of the sports heroes so many of us tried to emulate.
Hard to imagine for today’s young people, but back then we didn’t have every football or baseball game on TV. Games were broadcast mostly on weekends, other than the World Series. I still remember hurrying home from school in time to watch my idol, Mickey Mantle, beat St. Louis 1-0 with mammoth homerun on a late fall afternoon. If you were lucky you could tune into clear channel AM radio stations with the power to broadcast baseball long range at night.
That’s why, as a lifelong Yankees fan, I also become a White Sox fan; it was the only reliable network I could pick up on my transistor radio. Sometimes the Cardinals or Braves networks would penetrate night-time static to bring me brief audio glimpses of the names I read in box scores printed daily in the newspaper. I realize the last few sentences might be incomprehensible to younger listeners, but you old folks followed just fine.
The recent death of the great Green Bay Packers quarterback Bart Starr brought all this back to me. Starr underperformed for much of his early career, including at the University of Alabama. But under the tutelage of Vince Lombardi at Green Bay, he became one of the best in NFL history, and MVP of the first two Super Bowls. He was also known as one of the best and nicest men ever to play the game. I remember reading about the first time as a Packer he joined the huddle (oops, that’s another anachronism in today’s no-huddle game). Anyway, the quarterback is supposed to take charge, so Starr runs out there and says to this group of toughened veterans, “Hush up, ya’all.” They cracked up, but soon Starr was leading them to unprecedented heights. He was leading me, too. One of my proudest possessions in middle school was an official Green Bay jersey featuring Starr’s number 15. I ordered it through the mail from a Green Bay catalog I had also requested through the mail. Again, this may sound like gibberish to young people. Catalog? Mail order?
Recently, one of my sisters-in-law related that one of her sons had to ask where you put a stamp on an envelope, being unfamiliar with such antiquated technology. But back when we had no cell phones to captivate us I spent hours after school wearing that jersey and driving my imaginary football team to glory. (In the summer, I spent hours bashing a tennis ball over our backyard fences with a plastic bat, switch-hitting like my hero Mickey.) In Bart Starr mode, I had a rubber football that fit my hand, and our driveway featured a series of conveniently spaced shrubs to serve as my wide receivers. I never had a great arm, but those hours of throwing to spots, under incredible pressure from the defense, turned me into a pretty fair sand lot football player (sorry, there’s another anachronism in this day of six-year-olds in full uniform in organized leagues). Anyway, those days on my driveway are some of my fondest memories. So far as I recall, I never lost a game.