As a sports talk host, sometimes you know when a topic is pretty much requisite --- that is to say you are talking about it because it is one of the biggest stories of the day. You have to talk about it; you can't go a show without talking about it because, well, the sports world is talking about it. Think Antonio Brown's maybe-divorce from the Steelers right now. It feels like a drama with daily twists and turns. You must talk about it. It is required.
Then there are topics you take chances on. Some that fall flat; some the audience really, really warms up to.
On Tuesday on The Cook and Joe Show on 93.7 The Fan, I thought host Joe Starkey positively hit a home run. He had to know it, too. Sports talk hosts know when they step up and hit one clean on the screws that flies over the wall. Joe, in his whimsical way, asked callers what they miss about sports. I don't know if Joe was feeling nostalgic, if he was tired of the AB drama, if he had seen an old highlight in the recent past or if it was a combination of all of those, but the topic really worked. The phone lines buzzed. Joe lit up. Ron Cook ripped through his list and maybe even smiled. It wasn't just a trip down memory lane on the radio (which many times can be really boring) but it was a conversation piece that we all can relate to. It had me thinking that people in offices all over the listening area and parents at youth basketball games and practices on Tuesday night looked at each other and said, "did you hear what Joe Starkey was talking about today?"
And then after that, they laughed and smiled and regaled each other with their own list of things they miss about sports. As I was driving in my car and listening to Joe list all the things he missed, naturally it forced me to think about the things that I also miss about sports. Anyway, here goes ...
- Big League Chew
- Pitt Stadium. Everything about Pitt Stadium. From that entrance on Cardiac Hill that was essentially a garage door (that opened right to the field where you could go through if you knew the right person) to the bleacher seats to the mural painted just beyond the one wall. Man, I miss Pitt Stadium. I miss everything about it. I miss the troughs in the men's room even. I will never forget being about 9 years old when Pitt played host to Purdue in the first night game at the place --- they actually trucked in temporary lights for the game. I remember looking over into the student section inside Pitt Stadium and seeing a couple kids with a FULL SIZE keg of beer and they were pumping it and pouring cups from it. I will never forget thinking, "man, I guess that's what college is?" ... it was mesmerizing. I guess I thought you could just take kegs into a stadium? Heck, I didn't know what I really thought --- but it was something to see. I miss Pitt Stadium something terrible.
- I miss, right before Little League games and high school games and Legion and AAU and college and all the baseball games I played in --- I miss right before the game was played seeing the perfectly lined field and manicured dirt. There is something about that field just before you run onto it. Something about that perfectly straight and bright-as-can-be white chalk line.
- I miss seeing high school basketball teams wear candy-striped warmup pants. Apparently the team at Latrobe still does this. Those were so wonderful. I also miss the tearaway warmup pants you could just pull hard and they'd snap off.
- Playing Indian Ball. I have been told some people call it 'Rolly Polly' or something like that. But we played hours of Indian Ball on the streets of Sharpsburg.
- Playing tackle football without pads with a bunch of friends on the weekend or when there was a day off from school.
- Playing street hockey with friends on a cement basketball court or tennis court.
- When you could slip an usher at a stadium a couple bucks and actually move down into nice seats. Heck, there were times at Three Rivers you could slip the ticket taker a couple bucks and get in the place free for a Pirates game.
- Managers and umpires arguing regularly.
- All-Star voting before the Internet when everyone used a real, paper ballot.
- Riding your bike with your baseball glove interlocked into one of the grips of the handlebars on your way to the field.
- Seeing those game balls in Little League wrapped in that tissue paper and then unveiled to see how absolute white they were. It was stunning. Every time.
- Playing pickup hoops at the outdoor court and getting the ball wedged, on accident, between the side of the rim and backboard and --- because you were all too small to jump up and get it --- having to get another ball to throw it at the stuck ball until you hit it and it became, well, unstuck.
- Going out on the street (or yard) at halftime of the Steelers game with all the other neighborhood kids and having a quick game before the second half started.
- Spinning a football on the cement, then quickly backing up a few steps, then kicking it to the other team before the ball petered out and quit spinning. We called it a "city tee."
- Getting a real baseball bat as a giveaway at a Pirates game.
- The smell of the Civic Arena. I could recognize that nachos, cold cement, old beer, furnace-kicking-on smell right now if it hit me.
- When the Pirates were in the NL East.
- The Dapper Dan Roundball Classic when it was a really big event.
- When Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and SPORT really meant something.
- Three Rivers for football. I honestly think it was a better venue than Heinz Field for Steelers games.
So those are just a few of things I miss about sports. I'm sure I will think of about 2,924 more today.
What are some of yours?