Monday, April 27, 2015
The sports landscape has changed drastically over the past few decades, as is evidenced often in my life by the contrasts in tastes and opinions between my dad, my brother and myself.
And one of the most notable has been the contraction of sporting events that truly qualify as ‘big ones’. Of course, the Super Bowl, March Madness, and now the College Football Playoff all qualify as appointment TV at the least, and full-on cultural events at their most. But what I sense from my dad, and other slightly older people in general is that in the past other, more obscure sporting events made that transition toward being serious cultural events like the Super Bowl, where even non-sports fans tune in, and the whole country pauses.
This is the type of vibe I think we’re missing on a national scale.
But this upcoming weekend, the first one of May 2015, seems like a throwback along those lines, to me at least. There are 3 huge sporting events coming up this weekend, not even considering the NBA and NHL playoffs. Those are the Mayweather vs. Paquio boxing match, the Kentucky Derby, and of course, the NFL draft.
I can vaguely remember the last time a boxing match was a big event in my life; it was when Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off mid-match. But since then, these ‘gambling’ sports as I refer to them have kind of fallen by the way side. Of course the NFL draft is always a big deal, but other than that, these more obscure, in a way, more fun sporting events like boxing matches and horse races are no longer relevant.
Why is that? Is it because neighborhood bookies have disappeared at a grassroots, local level? Do people not like the way the horses are treated anymore? Or is it something more obvious, like the fact that there are really only two charismatic and famous boxers left anymore? I really am not sure, but from my standpoint, I don’t want these types of events to go away.
I think it’s fun to let our collective hair down every now and then, put a little money on a horse, boxer, or what player your team may pick. With these types of old-school events, chances are your wife, or girlfriend, or significant other in general (any non-sports fan, really) will have ABSOLUTELY no interest in what you’re up to when you’re watching these events, and that is exactly how it should be. These are the old school type of events that tap into our most primal instincts; what’s the fastest horse, who can punch the hardest, who can take the most punches. These are the types of events that show us of the benefits of civilization, while simultaneously reminding us of the exciting parts of our more wild natures.
And for those reasons and more, I’m glad there are a bunch of ultimately primitive, old-school, and just not widely appealing sports events on this weekend. This is one for the purists, even if it is probably for the best that our collective tastes as sports fans have moved to (slightly) more mainstream areas. And of course, there’s still UFC for the rest of us.
Sunday, April 26, 2015
With the launch of the Apple Watch, there have been a handful of references in the press to the old Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio, a sort of goofy kid’s walkie-talkie popular when my friends and I were all the right age to want one. Apple CEO Tim Cook himself has described the old toy as the inspiration for the new watch.
For the completely uninitiated, Dick Tracy was a comic book detective whose signature gadget was that his wrist watch doubled as a… walkie-talkie.
The toy my buddies and I all got the same Christmas purported to be just like Dick Tracy’s, except that rather than the whole affair being contained within the watch, there was actually a transistor radio-sized transmitter you carried or wore on your belt, with a wire attaching it to the watch-shaped microphone you wore on your wrist, and a long antenna you extended when you actually used this thing, and that threatened to poke an eye out if crime-fighting prompted the need to sprint anywhere. It also had a very limited range of around 300 yards, which, since we were all living in spilt level starter houses on postage stamp lots, put five of us within easy range of each other.
And what, you may wonder, does this have to do with baseball?
Well, this. The Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio was actually only my second favorite, small, battery-operated, communication device. My favorite, and it wasn’t close, was my Sony transistor radio. Small and silver in a black leather case, it was my lifeline to baseball broadcasts. Mel Allen for the Yankees. Lindsay Nelson, Bob Murphy and Ralph Kiner for the Mets. After summer lunches, before I was allowed to go back out and play whiffle ball or detective, I would listen to day games in the privacy of my backyard pup tent with my copy of that week’s Sporting News. Night games meant my trusty transistor radio was bringing me baseball from under my pillow.
Until one potentially disastrous summer week when my radio was confiscated for… talking back? Not taking out the garbage? Messy room? Could have been anything, and should have been terrible. No baseball on my radio for a week.
Except that better minds than mine, or certainly more devious ones, came up with an ingenious solution. Each night that week, one of the guys took a turn broadcasting that night’s game from his transistor radio, over his Dick Tracy Two-Way Wrist Radio, to mine. I got to surreptitiously listen to a game every night that week, with my parents complimenting me each morning for so gracefully accepting my punishment. And though the signal was faint and scratchy, no baseball games have ever sounded better.