EL BARIO, BRONX – Armageddon tired of this Snow! Weather be damned – Deacon Blaber and my sports pulpit is up ready for the masses on this 2nd Saturday of the second month in the two thousandth and fourteenth year of our Lord Yim, who for uneducated is Jim Clancy, one of our faithful correspondents and mates. Anyway…
This week the sports world lost a true legend in Ralph Kiner. His loss took me back to my childhood and the days when I fell in love with American sports. A key vehicle on that journey was WOR-TV in Secaucus, NJ, as I became a NY Rangers fan. Becoming a basketball fan took a painful turn also. Let’s take a stroll down those alleys of my mind that I have tried hide away.
Kiner’s Korner: When I was growing up we moved 3 times in 5 years (4 if you count where we stayed for a month until we got an apartment). It was hectic and though it wasn’t the worst, it is hard to make friends that way. The only sport my family knew was soccer, so we could watch the Mexican league on the Spanish channels. Therefore, my first “American” team was Cruz Azul, “viva cement mixers.” I knew to make friends I would have to get into American sports. I had to understand the national pastime. This was a time when there was no cable in the Bronx. To watch sports you had to watch regular TV. We had Mets games on WOR-TV – aka Channel 9 and I watched the Mets win in 1986 – which was part of my journey – but it was teams of ’87 and ’88 that taught me about baseball.
And the man that I grew to trust in that time was Ralph Kiner. He knew the game but he also made it easy to understand. I grew in my sports nerdism under Uncle Ralph. He had his gaffes but it just made him more lovable. It was easy; with every game, he made you believe. He was always optimistic. You never wanted to turn of the TV. I started watching him on a black and white TV with pliers as the channel changer. When we got the colored TV with the remote, it was great to see Ralph in his funny suits. Channel 9 would turn to Kiner’s Korner after games or during rain delays.
Excuse me, it got misty in here as I was typing.
I never understood the reverence people had for Vince Scully or other commentators. They were never my guys so, whatever. Besides, it was just a TV commentator – right? Wrong. When Ralph exited the booth, then you knew what inferior game-calling was. Now I understand. You hear me Ron Darling! The loss of Ralph was a reminder of how far away my childhood was and how it is slowly fading from memory. Thank you uncle Ralph, you will always be remembered.
Rangers: WOR-TV was also responsible for making me the only black kid in the hood that liked hockey. I didn’t plan on being a hockey fan but it was so easy. As a soccer fan, hockey is the easiest sport to get. It is still pass, shoot, score. Smaller field, using sticks and a flat ball – but it is easy to grasp. It was in those days that I became a Rangers fans. I remember my brother and me being fans of Tony Granato… My Bro was a huge Mike Gardner fan… I leaned toward the defending pair of Brian Leetch and James Patrick. I was shocked when Mike Keenan traded Patrick to Buffalo in ’94. I remember being such a huge John Vanbiesbrouck fan, I wasn’t sure that that new kid Mike Richter was ready to replace him. Imagine that!
Knicks: I could get into becoming a Jets fan but the morphing into a Knicks fan is more interesting. I became a fan of the Knickerbockers because I was a NYC kid and they had Kenny “Sky” Walker… Slam Dunk champion, least we forget. I knew the Chicago Bulls had Michael Jordon but I couldn’t be a lame so and so and support another city – I had to support my city. Plus Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, Trent Tucker and the Sky Walker were gonna surprise everyone. Unfortunately, they never did and it was not like that team was as bad as… the Knicks now. It was just the Eastern Conference was so deep then, they had nowhere to go. Bird in Boston, Jordon in Chicago, Dominique in Atlanta, The Bad Boys in Detriot, Mark Price and Craig Ehlo in Cleveland, it was a fight like the NBA West is now.
Anyway, enough of my childhood trauma for one day. Thank you for taking this stroll down memory lane with me. If you are in NYC, we recommend you go to the New York Rugby Club Chili Cook-off at O’Brien’s Bar. it goes from 3-7p.
That is it for now, feel free to comment below and come back tomorrow for the one and only, Cheesy Bruin.