In recent years, I’ve frequently been quick to assert that the younger generation has it made when it comes to viewing sports. Football, basketball and baseball games seem to be on 24/7 nowadays …
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In recent years, I’ve frequently been quick to assert that the younger generation has it made when it comes to viewing sports. Football, basketball and baseball games seem to be on 24/7 nowadays with virtually all games televised or live-streamed.
Only in the past month have I began to rethink this assumption a bit, primarily due to my discovery of the Olympic Channel. During that short span of time I’ve watched sports such as the World Championships in Greco Wrestling this past weekend in Kazakhstan as well as archery, rhythmic gymnastics, badminton, ping pong and, even as I type at 1 am on now Tuesday morning, I’m watching World Championship Road Cycling taking place in Chengdu, China.
So how did all this make me rethink how great sports were as a child? Well, it’s what I feel was a greater appreciation of sports as well as a more rounded viewing of a wide range of sporting events.
Pretty much when I was a kid, you watched whatever was on and you loved it. I know, that sounds like Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” character on “Saturday Night Live” decades ago, but it’s true. You watched games and sporting events religiously and were always left with a thirst for more.
I’m talking about an era when a college football game was shown on Saturday afternoon, and if you were lucky, one on Saturday night. Two NFL games were shown on Sunday and one on Monday Night Football. Basketball, well in college you had a Jefferson Pilot Game of the Week featuring two ACC teams, and then local/national games on Saturday and Sunday. Baseball, well, it was Saturday during the day and Monday Night Baseball — yes, Monday Night Baseball.
In a way, all this seems agonizing right now considering when I think about it since we can see any game we want in the present day. But honestly, it made you so thankful, focused and tuned in to each and every game that you watched every play, regardless if your team was playing or not (more often than not they would not be), and at halftime, you went out side and played the game until the second half started. To this day, I’m 100 percent certain I shot the 1983 North Carolina State basketball team past Sydney Green and UNLV in that famous game which the Cardiac Pack had to rally on that crisp and sunny spring day on Sunday, March 20, before eventually going on to win the National Championship over the Phi Slamma Jamma Houston Cougars.
And the teams were absolutely loaded back then before Free Agency kicked in. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, Oakland Raiders to name a few, and the play wasn’t for the faint of heart, certainly much more brutal than the games of today that appear more like touch football. In baseball there was the Yankees, the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, the LA Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox. Basketball with Julius Irving and the Sixers, the great Boston and LA teams, and then Jordan winning the title at UNC, and later taking Chicago to the top of the mountain. And again, not for the faint of heart, the Detroit Pistons - can you imagine Lebron driving down the lane against that group (insert laughing emoji)? The millennials may go into shock at what would happen.
So far, I’ve touched on the big three sports, but I did say more rounded, and that appreciation came from us wanting more and more of sports during that time, because as stated earlier, viewing those big three were sports were obviously limited.
What that did, however, was provide time for other sports to take the limelight. I remember spending nights over at the family of David Hart, and the Dave Man loved all sports, including tennis, specifically the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. And since he watched it, us young rugrats did as well, and what a time it was. Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Billy Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova — it was awesome.
That’s just the tip. The wrestling was second to none with Black Jack Mulligan, Andre the Giant, Tony Atlas, Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, Wahoo McDaniel, Rufus Jones, Ernie Ladd, Dusty Rhodes, I could go on and on. You simply could not wait for the likes of Georgia Championship Wrestling on Saturday morning.
And who could forget the Wide World of Sports with virtually anything you could think of from strong man competitions to cliff diving to ping pong to surfing to demolition derbies to downhill skiing, you name it, that show had it.
On Sunday afternoons in the spring kids would gather around the television and watch The Professional Putters Tour, aka Putt Putt. It was held right here in North Carolina and actually began in 1959 in Fayetteville with the prize winner earning a free trip to Miami.
Hockey and soccer were also exciting during those times, with the World Cup coming on PBS every four years, and the Olympic Hockey, just awesome. The Miracle on Ice is still the most incredible sport’s memory of my life.
Then there was Evel Knievel. I mean, get out of here, that man was in a category all by himself. The excitement he generated for us kids was second to none, though it’s a wonder some of us weren’t killed or maimed after emulating him.
Bill Dance and the bass fishing tournaments were also a treat, as was Richard Petty and NASCAR.
It’s really hard to put into words what an incredible time that was to grow up with such a variety of sports. I’m not saying that I would change the present day and being able to see any game I desire to. I appreciate that, I really do. I just encourage kids to not always view the norm, take time to tune in to such channels like the Olympic Channel, the Hardwood Classic games on the NBA Network, or any of the Wide World of Sports shows — YouTube is incredible for being able to look back at these times. Take a gander of the sports world outside the box from time to time. It makes you more well-rounded, and will probably surprise you at how much fun it is to add some variety to your sporting life.