Quote of the Day “The importance that our society attaches to sport is incredible. After all, is football a game or a religion? The people of this country have allowed sports to get completely out of hand.” –Howard Cosell
October is one of the best sports months of the year. College and NFL Football are in full swing, the MLB playoffs and World Series are underway, Nascar’s Chase is winding down, and basketball camps are opening up. It’s a great month for sports, and if you’re a kid, you will remember it all in twenty years or more as a golden age.
TB’s golden age of sports was from 1970-1986. There is no chance any other time period since then or yet to come will ever be better for me. What made this era so great?
In the NFL, the Cowboys were America’s Team. They were the only team with freshly painted helmets each week. All the other teams’ helmets were beat to hell and back, tough looking, as they should be. The Cowboys could get away with the fresh look because it was unique. Back then, quarterbacks wore number 12, as God ordained. Bob Griese, Joe Namath, Snake Stabler, Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Ferguson–all number 12. Billy Johnson wore white shoes and danced in the end zone, and nobody else did, at least for awhile. Speaking of dancing in the end zone, it was an era of classic celebrations beginning with Billy White Shoes Johnson’s hands on knees dance, moving to the California Quake by Butch Johnson, through the Skins’ Fun Bunch and ending with Mark Gastineau’s sack dance. The Immaculate Reception happened during this era as well as the original Hail Mary. Saints fans started the bag over the head routine during their memorable 1-15 campaign and the Dolphins completed their undefeated season. Instead of “Ocho Cinco” and “TO” we had real nicknames like “Hacksaw” and “Mean Joe”. And of course we kept up with it all thanks to Monday Night Football with Gifford and Dandy Don and Cosell’s halftime highlights.
Baseball in this period was maybe even greater. Day games were the only option for the Cubs and were featured in the Playoffs and World Series, as God ordained. The NL and AL hotly contested the all-star game each year, for pride. The last three Dodgers-Yankees World Series took place, not to mention the greatest series ever between the Reds and Red Sox. U.L. Washington chewed a toothpick at bat, George “Boomer” Scott wore a helmet in the field and Gary Matthews flicked his helmet off as soon as he left the batters box. We had the Pine Tar game and the greatest baseball brawl ever on WTBS between the Braves and Padres. Morganna the kissing bandit showed up at all All-Star games and most Steve Garvey games. Mike Schmidt showed emotion when he hit his 500th home run. It was the first time in his life. Ozzie Smith hit his first home run in something like 95,000 at bats to win the Cards a playoff game, just after the stat was flashed on how unlikely an Ozzie homer would be. We pulled for guys called “Charlie Hustle”, “Mr. October”, and “the Penguin” instead of “Man-Ram” and “A-Rod”. And Chris Berman gave a nickname to everyone who was missing one and it was a fresh idea–Daryl “Motley” Crue, Bert “Be Home” Blyleven, Oddibe “Young Again” McDowell. The era ended with a ball rolling between Bill Buckner’s legs, and I remember exactly where I was and who I was with when it happened.
It wasn’t all about the NFL and MLB. The NBA had its Bird-Magic era, Nascar gained popularity when Cale Yarborough got in a fight with the Alabama gang, and Sugar Ray Leonard beat Roberto Duran in the “no mas” fight. College football came on TV once a week and there were four big bowls on New Year’s with one big argument on who should be the champs. And in 1980, Mississippi State beat Alabama 6-3. I wasn’t there, but I know where I was. I remember how it felt. It was golden.