My 12-year-old came down to breakfast, stole the sports page
from under my eggs and said, "So, Pops, who you dissin' this
I gave him my hurt-and-stunned look.
He stuffed a half box of Frosted Flakes in his mouth and said,
"Yurnghh alghays rippinngh smmmbundy."
That's not true! Well, other than cheerleaders, hunters,
baseball, the NBA, the BCS, the INS, the IOC, the NCAA, college
jocks, pro jocks, Detroit, France, Little League and the 20th
century. I told him he had me all wrong. I told him I love sports.
I told him I love the penalty box and starting blocks and "Rock,
chalk, Jayhawk!" and NFL Films spirals and eye black and ear
holes and slobbermouth tackles and multimillionaires piling on
each other with glee and dignified CEOs sitting behind huge
mahogany desks wearing Slippery Rock boxers and how the diamond
explodes on you coming out of a stadium tunnel and long walks to
the green with your putter and crossover dribbles so quick a
mountain lion would gasp and broken bats and salt-stained hats
and Minnesota Fats and Wrigley ivy and Fenway monsters and every
blade at Augusta and DODGERS jerseys and IRV'S DELI jerseys and
Crosley and Ebbets and Shibe and the reverse 1 1/2 somersault
with 3 1/2 twists from platforms most people wouldn't even climb
and par out of the spinach and 30-second pickles and Saratoga
mudders and the Albert brudders and super slo-mo and goal-to-go
and "Yajustneverknow!" and the soft leaner in the lane and the 8
ball the hard way and how nobody eats peanuts in the shell
except at baseball games and passing the hot dog eight seats
down and the money eight seats back and "Hey, ump! Move around,
yer killin' the grass!" and bloop singles and mixed doubles and
triple OT and marathoners who run 4:48 per mile and 78-year-old
women who average 4:48 per block but finish anyway and
appreciative coyote hoots from the chair lift above and the
strut of women sprinters and the way athletes just can't stand
still for the national anthem and Student Body Left and Wide
Right and Nebraska players diving for cover as Ralphie comes
snorting by and women on bikes in flowing hair racing the bus to
the corner and 85-year-old men in white playing tennis at one
mph for the price of half an egg-salad sandwich and kids going,
"How come you always get to be Jagr?" and the way a new Wilson
Jet basketball feels straight out of the box and Stickum and
pick 'ems and "Who needs one?" and two-hand touch and
three-and-out and four-baggers and "Through the five hole!" and
seeing the breath of everybody in the stadium at once and
"Thanks for stopping by the booth" and "Dadgum, I just gotta
thank this Fram filter Champion spark plug Goodrich tire crew of
mine" and "My second favorite team is who's ever playin' Texas"
and bricks and bombs and bullets and the freshman fall football
banquet and trap blocks and swim moves and alligator arms and
the way the holder catches it, sets it down and spins it
perfectly in one eighth of a second every time and how you still
play Beat Bill Bradley in the driveway and it has nothing to do
with the New Hampshire primary and hangin' the net and coffin
corners and Madden and Summerall and a big bowl of Cheez Doodles
and the Packers' logo and a 165-pound punt returner under a
50-foot-high, 50-yard punt in horizontal rain with half the
nation watching and half a dozen 230-pound greenied-up men very
anxious to see the inside of his neck and "Who's your Daddy?"
and "Hi, Mom!" and catching a foul ball with one hand without
spilling the beer in the other and writers banging out a 14-inch
lead and a 12-inch sidebar in 25 minutes in a meat-locker-cold
press box and "Red hots!" and orange segments and the Green
Sheet and suicide squeezes and sudden death and the 100-yard war
and everybody gets to go home anyway and Tour juice and the
amazing thrill of a McGwire pop-up to short and "He's got
absolutely no shot here, Jimmy" and four tires, 20 gallons and a
ham sandwich in 18 seconds and "Thaaaaare goes Rusty!" and
"gunga galunga" and the bell and the buzzer and the beep of the
Olympic downhill starting gate and all the stuff that makes you
forget the Visa bill and the leaky radiator and the second
mortgage long enough to tingle.
My son gave me his hurt-and-stunned look.
"Dad?" he said.
"You still hate the Yankees, right?"
"More than ever."
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
I love the penalty box and starting blocks and eye black and ear
holes and broken bats and salt-stained hats and...