Why We Are Fans

    November21/ 2007

    Under siege from the yucky aspects of sports.  Drugs, sex, money, scandal, strikes, bad boyz aplenty, TV calling the shots, buy-out clauses and avaricious agents.  I decided to list the “special good stuff” that still draws me to a stadium, arena, racetrack, golf course or just to the flat screen in my home theater (aka “den”)    Your list will certainly be different but the title of this website is BobLeeSays …. This is my list!

    Baseball ….. the 5 – 4 – 3 double play ….. wicked groundball down the 3rd baseline.  3rd baseman dives to his right, stabs it, rises to his knees and fires to 2nd.  2nd Baseman catches and fires across his body in one smooth motion as he pirouettes in mid-air over the runner coming in spikes high ….  1st Baseman at full extended stretch to meet the ball as the batter is one stride from the bag ….  Bang – Bang – Bang  ….. Yeah, I like that a lot. …. Somedays there IS “joy in Mudville“.

    Golf ….. a 430 yard Par 4, slight dogleg left …. Tee at the tips set back in a tree-lined chute of stately pines.  Gallery hushed as Joe Pro uncoils …. The sound of clubhead to ball cracks and echoes among the pines like a 30.06 from a deer stand on a frosty morning.   Fifty yards off the clubhead the dimpled Titliest kicks in its afterburners and becomes a micro-dot against the sky.

    Thoroughbred Racing ….. “Call to the post” …. When that lone trumpeter blows those familiar notes ….. it is totally specific to one event.  Goosebump moment!

    Basketball …. (gotta be college!) …. Time-out, time for one final play.  Inbounds play from midcourt.  Coach is kneeling in front of his chosen five, rest of team forms a wall around them.  15,000 going nutz but kneeling coach and his team locked into total concentration.  Like a chief surgeon outlining each intricate incision and stitch, “the coach” goes over each player’s responsibility for “the play” they practice every day.  The passer, the cutter, the decoy, the screener, and “the shooter” …. Five pairs of eyes locked into one pair of eyes.  Five young athletes in total trust that “coach” says this will work.

    Saltwater Fishing …. The lines are baited and trolling out behind the boat.  The charter boat captain is crisscrossing the familiar patch of open ocean.  The first mate is doing first mate stuff as you and your party are lulled into a salty trance by the roll of the boat and the midday sun ….. then you hear the unmistakable whine as the line fights the drag.  You plop into the fighting chair and pull back on the rod, feeling “him” for the first time. …. And then he breaks water in a majestic tail walking ballet. …. I spent a year of my mid-life crisis in Manzanillo Mexico catering to the bloodlust whims of wealthy ugly Americans.  I must have seen fifty sailfish caught …. That first tailwalk with each one was magnificent

    NASCAR ….. The 40 high octane chariots in the starting grid take their warm-up laps.  150,000 fans watching the “flag man” in the Finish Line Stand.  His hand signals are the key …. 5 – 4- 3 – 2 and the one finger for this is the Go Lap.  The RPMs whine as the cars come out of the backstretch and around the 4th turn …. 150,000 screaming the name of their favorite, or just screaming.  The flag man has his Green Flag whipping through its figure eight as the 40 cars hit 200 mph roaring passed the grandstand just inches apart.  THE #1 full sensory overload in all of sports.  

    Basketball …. (gotta be college, again!) …. Down by one, a second left …. On the foul line w/ one/one.  Nine men in assigned spaces …. One player “on the line”.  Ref checks everyone and passes the ball to the shooter who goes thru his routine, takes a deep breath and ______ !  Basketball’s “frozen moment”.

    Football ….. As you know it’s all about color and pageantry for me.  I do enjoy the official entry of the marching band …. A slow methodical drumline erupting into a madcap frenzy as several hundred band geeks take center stage before 60,000+ on an autumn afternoon.  I always imagine that among those 60,000+ are the proud parents of that chubby flag girl, third from the left.  To them she is definitely “the best one” by far. …..  I was stunned at Carter-Finley that the State scantily-clad majorettes actually did a fire-baton routine.  America needs more scantily-clad majorettes throwing (and catching) flaming batons.  I wonder if muslims are opposed to flaming batons. I hope not ….. Notre Dame and Ohio State do “the band entry” the best I’ve ever seen.

    Baseball …. Walking thru the tunnel and coming out in to the stadium in all its manicured grandeur.  The players mitts popping as they warm their arms …. “ball park chatter” …. The infield freshly dragged.  The batters box and foul lines freshly lined.  Concession vendors barking their wares …. “Cold beer here, getcha cold beer here” … “Red hots red hots, getcha red hots” …. The incredibly intoxicating aroma of a major league baseball park   NOTHING smells and sounds like a major league ball park.  Scott Boras or Barry Bonds be damned …. Baseball Is Special!

     Football …. The ball is on our own 20 or thereabouts.  It’s 2nd down.  The drama of the game situation does not matter as the play stands alone.  QB under center barking signals … the snap …. He drops back, looks left, looks right, cocks and fires …. All eyes were on him but now follow the oblate spheroid as it begins it’s unmistakable parabolic arc far downfield …. 100,000 eyes shift to see the speeding target racing to its intended rendezvous with the ball.  Each fan calculates the angle of the parabola to the speed of the receiver and senses the likelihood of “the long pass play” ….. Football’s Home Run.   Ball and receiver intersect 50+ yards from the point of origin nestling like an egg on a feather pillow.  The uniformed gazelle in full sprinter stride with the ball crosses the goal line together ….. even the wheelchair fans are on their feet screaming.

    Pond Fishing ….. Eastern NC is dotted with feed lot ponds ideal for drowning worms and introducing small boys to the joys of fishing.  My dad and I were working the banks of such a pond on a Saturday morning about my 9th or 10th summer.  I was using a “mepps spinner” on an open-faced Zebco reel.   I pitched it out about 20’ pretending I knew what I was doing and began a slow retrieve ….. about 8’ from the bank it seemed to snag …. then all hell broke loose.  Queequeg harpooning Moby Dick is the only apt analogy.  The placid surface of the pond erupted into an angry froth as the imperiled leviathan fought for its life with all the power in its 4.6 lbs.  It was a Hemingway moment.  In truth the struggle was short-lived as small boy conquered gigantic (!!) bass in less than a minute. ….. a near by farmer came running attracted by the screams.  What screams ??? …. From a feed lot pond to a place of honor on the wall in my sanctum sanctorum ….  Dad passed on many years ago …. but the specialness of that moment we shared lives on.

    …… The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat and the first time we saw that skier fall down the mountain on Wide World of Sports …. The Gillette commercial – “To Look Sharp and Feel Sharp too …. Gillette blue blades are the ones for you ….” …. Dizzy and Pee Wee …. Ray Scott high above “the frozen tundra” …. Johnny Most as “HAVLICEK STEALS THE BALL” …. And the first time you stand under the big live oak behind the clubhouse at Augusta National and look out over golf’s most hallowed grounds …… it ain’t all bad …. 


      Don Denkinger …. 6th game 1985 Series – Royals v Cardinals …. Jorge Orta’s routine grounder to Jack Clark who flips to Todd Worrell covering first to beat a speeding Orta by a full step ….. oops, not so fast my friends! …. SAFE!

       In case you missed it …. A memo was issued from the UNC SID office late Saturday afternoon.  The official name of the University of North Carolina Football team has been changed to “The Young & Inexperienced Tar Heels”.  Nike is redoing the unis to reflect the permanent name change.  “We have been calling ourselves this for the past nine years so we are just making it official.”  noted SID Steve Kirschner.  Jimmy Sexton immediately copyrighted the new name and will receive $1.50 every time it is used.


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