LONGSHOTS: I'm so old, I remember ...
by Dave Long
I saw this column written by Kevin Cullen in the Boston Globe a while back that I really liked, in which he started each sentence with "I'm so old that" to show how much has changed around Boston. So after giving him the credit for the idea, I'll appropriate it for a sports version.
I'm so old that after only seeing games on black and white TV, when I went to my first big-league game in person the vibrancy of the colors just exploded on my eyes as I walked into Yankee Stadium, like they do when Dorothy steps out of the bleakness of her world and into the land of Oz as the movie goes from black and white to color. And even though I see it almost every day on color TV now, I still get that same feeling when I catch my first glimpse of the Green Monster every time I go to Fenway — which means things haven't changed that much, I guess.
I'm so old I saw the first game ever played in the eighth wonder of the world on TV when the Astros opened the wondrous Astrodome in 1965 in an exhibition season vs. the Yankees. That that technological marvel and first domed stadium was destroyed after being deemed antiquated a few years ago makes me feel even older.
I'm so old a retired Senator from New Jersey — Bill Bradley — was first favorite college basketball player while a junior at Princeton. Even then everyone was certain he would be president of the United States some day. But that didn't happen because he let Al Gore throw far more elbows at him in the 2000 primary than he ever let arch-enemy Jack Marin do while playing the Baltimore Bullets. Something Barack Obama might keep in mind because that's the page in Al's playbook that Hillary is using this time around. The hoop-loving Obama may yet win the nomination but Bradley was the one with real game.
I'm so old I remember when the Bruins and Montreal met every spring, especially when just-out-of-college sensation Ken Dryden led the Canadians to a spectacular upset of Bobby Orr and the big bad Bruins in 1971. Though given what happened between the teams this year, I guess the more things change the more they stay the same.
I'm so old I remember when people were shocked if the Celtics did not win the NBA title at the end of the year and the Patriots were the joke of the town.
I'm so old I remember John Clayton's first column in the UL. That is, I mean, the first first, not the first one after the shortest retirement since Joe Namath quit football after Commissioner Pete Rozelle told him to sell his bar because he didn't like the underworld element hanging out at Bachelor's Three.
I'm so old I remember Bachelor's Three.
I'm so old my greatest Olympic memory is the joyous time at the 1972 games in Munich before Arab terrorists shockingly took the ill-fated Israeli team hostage in the Olympic Village. It was the gripping 800-meter race where Dave Wottle came from waaaaay back in last place after 500 meters to kick his way past the diving Russian favorite at the tape to win by .03 seconds. And most amazingly, it was as exact duplicate of how he won in the semifinals too. To fully appreciate it, you have to know what the Cold War did to the competition and U.S. rooting interests. But I still got goosebumps when I checked it out on YouTube. It was absolutely the best 90 seconds in sports I have ever seen. And nothing is close.
I'm so old I was in the house when Secretariat won the Belmont Stakes by an astonishing 31 lengths to win the 1973 triple crown. If you were there you understand how ESPN included the chestnut colt in its list of the 50 greatest athletes of the 20th century. The stunning performance was to horse racing what Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game was to basketball.
I'm so old I played against Auto Wash in the Carignan League with the likes of UNH football coach Sean McDonnell, Billy Tateau and Ron Beaurivage. Though, I'll point out I'm not nearly as old as league legend Billy Tynion or, as he's now better known, The Couz.
I'm so old I remember when the NFL played two days after the assassination of JFK in what Rozelle called his biggest mistake. And the time it took me to walk across the street for my ride to my own football game was all it took for Jack Ruby to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald after I saw Oswald entering the basement garage of the Dallas police station on TV as I was leaving my house.
I'm so old I remember more Dallas Cowboys than even 'boys maven and Labor Commissioner George Copadas does. And before you say "No way," commissioner: Who was the only original player who went on to be an NFL head coach from the 0-11-2 boys of 1960?
I'm so old I remember when there was no ESPN. Let alone ESPN Classic, the deuce, ESPN radio, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN The E-Mail, ESPN's Web site and ESPN Zone. I also remember watching when it aired tractor pulls 24/7 and saying this thing has "no shot." A statement I later repeated on my first visit to the Black Brimmer during my first visit there — which must be more than 10 years ago now.
I'm so old I remember what it was like when the Red Sox night in and night out had under 20,000 in the stands when Roger Clemens struck out 20 Seattle Mariners in 1986.
I'm so old I remember when people actually liked Michael Jackson and that staggering losses from promoting his Victory Tour forced Billy Sullivan to sell to his beloved Patriots to the reviled Victor Kiam.
I'm so old I clearly remember the days when the Celtics and Hawks had some very heated playoff series. No, not the Bob Pettit St. Louis Hawks and Bill Russell, Tommy Heinsohn Celtics. I mean when Doc Rivers was a Hawk and all of Atlanta in the 1980s wanted to belt Danny Ainge, leading to the famous Tree Bites Man headline after 7-foot Tree Rollins bit Danny's digits after they somehow got inside Tree's mouth during a playoff game brawl.
And finally I'm so old I know that all you people out there now snickering over just how old I am are someday going to be old enough to write one of these columns yourself. And when it happens I'll be the one snickering then. That is, if I'm still alive to enjoy it.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.