The Changing Seasons
The chill of fall has finally entered the air in my offseason home of Winston-Salem, NC. It has been almost 40 days since the Salem Red Sox last played a baseball game, and midway through October, America’s Pastime remains in only four cities. The college football season is already halfway done, churning toward a chaotic conclusion that hopefully will inch us one step closer to a playoff. And in just 11 days, my beloved Boston Celtics begin their quest for an 18th NBA title. The Celts will open their journey against the new uber-team from Miami, in perhaps the most-anticipated NBA opener ever.
While it has been true throughout my entire life, it is a fact that has been emphasized since I entered the work-force (a term I use loosely, as I mostly watch and talk about games unfolding before my eyes). My life revolves around the seasons. Not spring, summer, fall, and winter, but baseball, football, basketball, and sometimes hockey. Add in Wimbledon, the Masters, and a pair of US Opens. World Cups and Olympiads also offer context to the individual years, mostly in the way of remembering a season that included an extra event from another which stood alone.
I doubt I am the only sports fan whose memory functions around athletic landmarks. For example, June 12, I watched Team USA and England kiss their respective sisters in a 1-1 draw, then witnessed Daniel Nava’s first ever big-league swing while inside the Harry Grove Stadium clubhouse. Later that night, Brock Huntzinger spun a gem in a dominant Salem Sox victory, cementing his status as a Carolina League All-Star. Five days later, the Celts dropped game seven to the Lakers. Looking back, my disappointment has clouded my appreciation for Peter Hissey, who gapped an RBI double in the last of the eighth, breaking a tie game to pave the road to a quick victory. The swiftness of the result–gratitude is also owed to Huntzinger, for dispatching the Blue Rocks speedily in most frames–enabled me to get to a television by the midway point of the first quarter.
The seasons are littered with memorable moments that live together. If you are lucky, you have a few unforgettable multi-layered experiences, of which you likely have instant recall. For me, September 1, 2007 was one of those days. On my first day at a new job as the studio host for a small-conference football team, I became a part of history when Appalachian State knocked off Michigan in the Big House. To this day, I wonder if I should have even bothered recapping scores from other games in my postgame update. At that point, who really cared about anything else than the shocking result from Ann Arbor? When the broadcast wrapped up, I drove past celebratory honking horns in Boone, NC back to Winston-Salem, where I arrived in the nick of time to catch the final six outs of Clay Buchholz’ second major league start. The enigmatic righty from Texas who had risen through the Sox system as a homegrown prospect tossed a no-hitter at Fenway. As a broadcaster, I still vividly remember the calls of the day: David Jackson’s “The Mountaineers of Appalachian State have beaten the Michigan Wolverines!!!” and Don Orsillo’s “A no-hitter for Clay Buchholz!!!”
These two moments will always be linked, just like how I will always link Hissey to the NBA finals and watching the World Cup with my family to Nava’s grand slam. Every sport has its season, but the overlapping moments enliven the landscape, helping to create the broad frame of reference for beloved memories.
Is it healthy to care so much? Probably not. But ever since I came across this quote from noted essayist Roger Angell, it has been a bit easier to explain. Angell wrote,
“It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look — I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring — caring deeply and passionately, really caring — which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete — the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball — seems a small price to pay for such a gift.”
Enjoy Rangers-Yankees. Enjoy Giants-Phillies. Have fun with college football on Saturday and NFL ball on Sunday. And take solace in the fact that the seasons are cyclical; as soon as one ends, another countdown begins.
Would you believe we’re only 175 days away from Opening Day 2011? Today is Friday, October 15, and the season begins on Friday, April 8. Only 25 weeks separate us from baseball at Lewis-Gale Field.
Until then, cherish the changing seasons, and stay in touch!
Your broadcaster and friend,
P.S. Please drop an offseason e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.