THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
From The Archives: If I Knew Then
How often do we say, "If I knew then what I know now..." and then follow it up with some deeply philosophical thought that shows that we were once shortsighted.
We might say it about anything in life, be it topics dealing with school, relationships, financial decisions, or anything else. It reminds us to always seek wisdom as we progress through life so that the decisions we make are better and well informed in the future. It also reminds us to cherish what we have now, for those blessings could be gone at any moment.
Along similar lines, how often do you kick yourself for not becoming involved in something sooner? How often do we think we should have taken interest in something before it got to this point, whatever that point may be? Hopefully, when we get frustrated over that, we're dealing with something a little less trivial than a life altering situation.
For me, many of these moments have occurred in the wake of non-serial television events. I say non-serial because I can easily go back and watch a television series that has ended thanks to the market flooding of series/seasons on DVD or on some streaming service. If I ever decide I need to go back and watch the entire series of "Breaking Bad," for example, I can easily do that.
An example of a non-serial television event where I should have started earlier might be Craig Ferguson while he hosted The Late Late Show on CBS. It was only due to the urging of a dear friend of mine that I finally started to tune in, and it took a dancing pantomime horse known as Secretariat for me to realize I had to watch this show. That was at the beginning of 2011; Ferguson decided to end his run as host at the end of 2015. I felt like an idiot for not watching since his debut ten years earlier.
You might have a connection with a certain broadcaster that fits this bill. It could be a news anchor you trust or a weatherman you enjoy. It could be a radio personality on sports talk radio. (I kicked myself for only starting to listen to Mike & the Mad Dog on WFAN around late 2007, only to have them break up in 2008.) Or it could be a favorite place that you hold sacred, whether it be the old Yankee Stadium or your favorite restaurant or bar that might now be closed for good.
If you're reading this, though, chances are that you have a sportscaster in mind that fits this bill. As much as I am ridiculed for it, I tear up when it's both the first time and last time I will hear John Sterling's voice each season, as his voice and predictive scripts and mannerisms remind me that baseball, specifically New York Yankees baseball, is either right around the corner or leaving me for a cold, dark, slow winter.
Being a lifelong Yankees fan, I've heard Sterling's voice for years; I began to listen religiously to him in approximately 2005, but I would obviously still listen at a less than religious pace before that too. I'll never forget his call when the Yankees won the 1998 World Series or when David Cone pitched his perfect game.
Where I kick myself is not adoring Vin Scully like he was the Eucharist.
I had heard of Scully before, but I obviously did not have access to his broadcasts for the longest time without the advent of technological advances to where they are now. I also was more concerned with my own budding baseball career and everything else in my life that I only had the time to focus on the Yankees and not another team. It wasn't until Joe Torre and Don Mattingly headed to Los Angeles that I began to pay the slightest attention to the west coast, and even then I didn't know I could listen to Scully's broadcasts.
Ever so slowly did I begin to realize there was more to baseball than just the Yankees, although my devout love for them remained. Thanks to the MLB At Bat app, I realized I could listen to game broadcasts on whichever feed I preferred. Then my new car came with Sirius XM radio that allowed me more access to games. When the MLB Network began to simulcast games, I'd catch any game I could if the Yanks weren't on. Finally, thanks to the incompetence of both Comcast and the YES Network, I could no longer watch the Yankees on YES, forcing me to purchase MLB.tv just to watch the Yankees. And thanks to the realization that certain Blu Ray players already had the application loaded on it, I could now watch every out-of-market game (which included the Yankees for me in my area of New Jersey) in high definition on my television.
In case you're wondering, the answer is yes...my social life slowed down. Thank God my girlfriend loves me (even though she's a Red Sox fan)!
I now had the opportunity to watch as many games as I could, and believe me when I tell you I took every opportunity I could to watch the Dodgers just so I could listen to Vin Scully this season.
How could I be so stupid to not appreciate this legendary voice until his 67th and final year of broadcasting Dodgers games?
For me, it subconsciously felt like par for the course. I got involved too late. Maybe that was a blessing because it allowed me to appreciate Vin even more. He was a preciously scarce resource for me, so I knew I had to be careful not to waste him.
Everything they say about Vin Scully is absolutely true, be it the descriptions of his on-air work or the stories behind the scenes. He's a man I've never met, and in just one short season, I felt like he was the grandfather I wanted to visit every day. He told stories that I wish I could have heard during every history lesson I had in school; hell, I just wish Vin Scully was my history teacher in every single grade! I would have listened to everything he said and possibly become some sort of historian!
His soothing voice was the warm security blanket I wanted in someone who I invited into my home. That's a title I've bestowed on people like John Sterling and Bob Barker, except that Scully took the cake.
I yearned for his descriptions and stories about the umpires. Broadcasters give descriptions about the players and coaches and provide color commentary on the game action. Scully did that and beyond, informing us about the careers and backgrounds of the men in black (or light blue). In fact, the relationship between Scully and the umpires garners a wave from the crew before every game, to which Scully always returns the gesture.
When some people use puns, the reaction is a groan from the crowd. When Scully used puns, I wanted to stand up and give him a slow clap. I'll never forget his story about Joe Torre in a doubleheader where he was the catcher in the first game and got banged up pretty bad. In game two of the doubleheader, Torre played third base. Scully went on to say that due to the rough first game and the position switch, you might be able to refer to Joe as "Chicken-Catcher Torre."
What makes me lose it for Vin, however, is his humble heart and his devotion to God. This is a man who is so thankful for his blessings that he made his honorary day about the fans, not about him.
You know who Vin Scully is? He is the equivalent of Bob Shepherd, the voice of Yankee Stadium. It was never about Bob; it was never about being flashy or shining the spotlight on him; it was about doing a job properly. That's Vin too.
Frequently when discussing the philosophy of role models, we mention two theories:
-We are bound to be let down by the majority of our role models because we put them up on a pedestal of perfection to which they simply cannot live up. Athletes and celebrities are usually the most guilty of this.
-If we were smart enough to realize who we should be picking as our role models, perhaps we would be smart enough to realize we may not need role models.
Vin Scully may be the asymptotic exception to these rules. If I had a child who told me his role model was Vin Scully, I would sleep very well.
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Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.