Thursday, October 21, 2004

Getting emotional about sports!

Attending or watching a sports event that you have a rooting interest in is always great fun, and it's even more dramatic when there are 2 games going on at the same time that you have a strong interest in. I can think of a number of times during my "career" as a sports fan when I've been at one big game, while at the same time following the progress of another important contest going on simultaneously. For example:
December 30, 1964 - I was at the Michigan Coliseum that night for an Ann Arbor High hockey game, but it seemed like most everyone there had a transistor radio with them to listen to the Michigan-Princeton basketball game from Madison Square Garden. People at the hockey game were actually applauding when Michigan would score a basket! And as fate would have it, the two games ended at almost exactly the same time. As the icers skated off the rink, people in the stands huddled around those with radios to see if Michigan could finish off their remarkable comeback from 18 points down. It was the legendary battle between Cazzie Russell and Bill Bradley, and I can still hear Tom Hemingway's description of the last shot - "Russell in the corner with a shot at the buzzer - IT'S GOOD!!!!" A big cheer went up in the Coliseum, and as we walked through the lobby on our way out, the atmosphere was electric!
November 20, 1965 - It's hard to believe that there was ever a Michigan-Ohio State game where the fans seemed more interested in another game, but such was the case this day. Michigan State and Notre Dame were battling that afternoon in South Bend, and most portable radios brought to the stadium were tuned not to Bob Ufer on WPAG but to Bob Reynolds on WJR describing the other big game. I was rooting for Notre Dame that day - it was sort of like having to choose between the lesser of 2 evils, like Bush or Kerry. For whatever reason, most people at the UM-OSU game were pulling for the Spartans and a big roar went up when MSU scored the clinching touchdown. Oh yeah, and in the game we were watching the Buckeyes kicked a late field goal to win, 9-7.
November 22, 1969 - Now don't get me wrong, there was only one game I was interested in that afternoon, the one that resulted in the greatest win in Michigan history 24-12 over Ohio State. But there was another sports event played in Ann Arbor that day and I went to that one as well. Pioneer played Windsor Riverside that evening at the Coliseum and the delirium that engulfed Ann Arbor following Michigan's win was still very much in evidence. When I walked in the rink there couldn't have been more than 100 people in the building but there was this buzzing sound in the air as eveyone talked exitedly about the football game. Then when it came time for the national anthem to be played, as often happened back then the announcement was made, the lights were dimmed - but no music - somebody in the office either misplaced or forgot to put the record on. But what happened next was amazing - the Pioneer cheerleaders sitting in the front row began to sing acapella "Oh, say can you see..." and soon the whole crowd joined in. It was such a remarkable and moving moment that Pioneer coach Art Armstrong wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor News detailing what happened and stated that it was "the biggest goal scored all night." As for the goals scored on the ice, the winning one came off the stick of a sophomore forward who would go on to star for the Michigan football team and ironically would never taste victory over Ohio State - his name was Don Dufek. But that night the Pioneers prevailed 2 to 1 - how could an Ann Arbor team possibly lose on that day!
November 23, 1985 - It was a tough choice for me to make - in Lansing that day my favorite football team, the defending state champions from Ann Arbor Pioneer were playing Traverse City in the state play-offs. Meanwhile in Ann Arbor it was the annual showdown between Michigan and Ohio State. If Pioneer had been playing in the state championship game that day I would have been there, but it was the semi-final round for the preps so I went to the Big House. The high school game wasn't on the radio but they announced the score twice at the Michigan game - at halftime, and then the final. Pioneer was trailing at the half and at the time the announcement was made, Michigan was down in their game too so it was shaping up as a potentially disasterous day for me. Fortunately the maize and blue came back to win 27-17, though Pioneer didn't get a victory that day.
March, 1992 - This was my favorite. I went to Joe Louis Arena to see the Michigan hockey team take on Northern Michigan in the NCAA Regionals. At the same time, the Michigan basketball team was playing Ohio State in a March Madness regional final. Late in the second period things looked bleak for the Wolverine icers, trailing 6-2. When an announcement was made that the Michigan basketball team held a slight lead with about a minute remaining there was a stampede of Michigan fans up the aisles and out into the lobby to watch the end of the basketball game on TV. You may recall that OSU took several shots in the final seconds but couldn't score, and when Michigan came down with a rebound to seal the win the fans in the lobby let out a roar. I walked back into the arena just in time to see Michigan score a goal with 1 second to go in the second period, narrowing Northern's lead to 6-3. There was still hope, and during the intermission the Michigan pep band played "The Victors" with renewed vigor. Then the impossible happened - in the third period, Michigan scored 4 unanswered goals to win 7-6. I and the other Wolverine fans in attendance were delirious. In about an hour's time we had seen the Michgan basketball team qualify for the Final Four and then saw the hockey team rally to qualify for the Frozen Four! But my great night wasn't over yet - driving out of Detroit on the freeway I had the radio tuned to a show called "Back In The 60s" hosted by legendary Motor City disc jockey Lee Alan. It was a Sunday night and it brought back memories of listening to Lee's Sunday Night Solid Gold show nearly 30 years before on that same freeway. As a child we would often go to Detroit on Sundays to visit relatives, and I'd listen to Lee's show on my little Sony transistor in the back seat as we headed home Sunday evening. As I listened to him in 1992 I was thinking "it doesn't get any better than this!"
But it did. About a week later I met someone new - a woman named Vicki who would become my wife!


Blogger Dale R. Leslie said...

If a "blog" was meant for anyone, Jim, it's you. For someone who depends on the spoken word for his income, you sure can turn out the copy. At first blush, to register a comment on your blog, there seemed to be a "clog". I didn't realize I'd need to set up a password to comment. I hope this doesn't mean I receive an old Spors or General Merchandise catalog in the mail. Remember those?

7:57 AM  
Blogger Scott Westerman said...

Absolutely terrific! I could smell the hot chocolate in that old machine at the coliseum... Remember the one with the smiling lady on the front with that very 60s perm hairdo? My first experience there was watching my cousin Ken play hockey in 1968. I was still a Slausonite but somehow got one of those Purple Go Pioneers! Badges. I took a label maker and created a “Class of 73” sticker for the badge, which made some of the cheerleaders laugh. Remember how each class designed their own badge back then? Hey Dale, you’re next… When will we see your blog?

12:27 PM  
Blogger Spartytown said...

for jim,
re; remember those peek'size football guides.
Go to

Chris from Spartytown!

11:05 AM  

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