May 1, 2008

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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 dlong@hippopress.com. 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.


4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag

4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did

02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon

Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat