BRONX, NY – I had a really nice, and blustery, outdoor lunch with a friend the other day at a terrifically scenic restaurant on the Hudson in Dobbs Ferry, NY called The Half Moon. As we talked, she mentioned that a friend of hers was a bit triggered about the pandemic, “didn’t believe the numbers” and was upset because of the damage it was doing to her kids. My friend, who is always measured and quite awesome, calmly explained to her friend that she believed the numbers (especially from hospitals and medical professionals) and offered that the sacrifices our kids are making are not near as drastic as those in generations that sent teens to fight in wars and die as a result of health crises that had no playbook whatsoever. Kids are isolating and only seeing/talking to their friends on devices??? Wait… wasn’t this already happening?
Anyway, this all got me to thinking about how I have long complained about being born at the worst possible time in history. Too late to enjoy the free love of the 1960s, the disco debauchery of the 1970s, and just in time for AIDS, terrorists ruining air travel, mass shootings, and no one wanting to touch each other. BUT… there is one caveat. I have lived during what I consider to be the Golden Age of Sports. I actually feel bad for those people who were too young, too old, or too dead to enjoy it. Here’s just a sampling of what I got to see.
Boxing. You would not believe what a huge thing boxing was. So much more compelling than MMA, trust me. I witnessed countless must-see heavyweight fights between guys like Ali, Norton, Frazier, Shavers, Foreman, and later Tyson, Holyfield, Lewis and others. I got to see Hagler/Hearns! That is still one of the best things you can ever watch. Not to mention, Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran. Hell, I even met my wife in a bar after seeing a Felix Trinidad/William Joppy fight at The Garden.
Baseball. I saw the great Tom Seaver pitch, in person, on many occasions. Pretty much every Opening Day at Shea Stadium, Seaver pitched and won. It was money in the bank. I went to the 1977 All Star Game at the refurbished Yankee Stadium. It was hot as hell, but awesome to see guys like George Brett, Dave Parker, Vida Blue, Mike Schmidt (a reserve!), and Jim Rice face off in person. I was there when Doc Gooden was untouchable, I got to see Fernando Valenzuela do his thing, and the Luis Tiant hesitation delivery and Joe Morgan arm flap were amazing. I still love baseball, but it will never touch what it was for me back in the 70s and 80s.
Horse Racing. I was alive for Secretariat. It was memorable. Secretariat was the Ali of horse racing. You needed to see this horse do his thing. A “tremendous machine.” Here, watch.
Tennis. Borg, Martina, McEnroe, Serena, Billie Jean vs. Riggs, Chris Evert, Connors, Graf, Nadal, Federer, Seles, Agassi… I’ve seen the best of tennis on all surfaces. Bring back the wooden rackets and let’s make this thing challenging!
Hockey. Three words: Miracle on Ice. It was on tape delay, of all things. But, even though we knew the result, watching it that night was still an unbelievable thrill.
Basketball. Christ, where to start? I’m not going to be upset about missing the George Mikan era when I got to watch the likes of Dr. J, Larry Bird, Moses Malone, Magic, Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, and my Warriors. And let’s not forget the comic relief of the Knickerbockers.
Movies. Almost all of the best sports movies were made during my lifetime. Fight me! Slap Shot, Rocky, The Natural, Bull Durham, Fast Break, Hot Dog The Movie (see how I got that one in there?), Field of Dreams, Raging Bull, The Big Lebowski (bowling is a sport!), Goon, Gus the Kicking Mule, Matilda the Boxing Kangaroo, Brian’s Song, Let it Ride, (this is where I should mention Hoosiers, but won’t), Rollerball, North Dallas Forty, The Longest Yard, (Reynolds, not Sandler), and Caddyshack.
So, I guess I’ve lived a charmed life, eh?
Come back tomorrow for Buddy Diaz, who still believes the Knicks will put it together at some point… which is sweet.