GRIZ GRIT: Simpler Times

By Beacon Staff

Life was so much simpler then in what I also thought were simpler times.

I relished the arrival of the “Boys of Summer” and couldn’t wait to listen to those scratchy radio voices whose every word I devoured. But I preferred to hang around Indian Stadium at the Spokane Interstate Fairgrounds watching Los Angeles Dodgers minor-leaguers engage in a peppy game of pepper while kibitzing with the few fans who arrived at the park in time to watch batting practice.

I hadn’t discovered the fledgling National Football League and a Sunday game on black-and-white television was a rarity since the inaugural Super Bowl hadn’t yet been contested.

But when the Washington State University Cougars faced off with a Pac-6 opponent at what was then called Memorial Stadium (now Joe Albi) there was no way I was going to miss it. And once there, I perused the program like a Bible.

And it indeed was a rare Saturday night when I didn’t make my way to the old smoke-filled Oak Street Arena in West Spokane to watch the Flyers meet Rossland, Nelson, Trail or Cranbrook, their north-of-the-border rivals who I grew to hate but loved to watch play amateur hockey in pursuit of the Allan Cup.

And since both the Spokesman-Review and Spokane Daily Chronicle had separate and competitive editorial departments, I devoured the sports pages twice daily, reading every box score and examining every statistic.

Yes the days were simpler then for those of us in our “retirement” years who wonder, often aloud, when we became our father.

I never dreamed that I would meet and interview Don Larson, the New York Yankee who pitched the first perfect game in the history of the World Series in 1956.

In that era, sports fans, especially young ones, adored their heroes. I surely didn’t know anything about holding them up as role models, I dreamed of someday being one of them and mentally and physically practiced getting that big hit or catching the winning touchdown, scoring that crucial goal, or making that last second impossible beat-the-buzzer upset shot.

There was no 24-hour sports channel or a national newspaper – let alone a talk show on any medium.

Additionally, there was no talk of drug or alcohol abuse while I’ve come to realize it has always been present in every aspect of sport. I mistakenly believed that the people who played sports had to be in prime physical shape and I distinctly remember the first time I saw a baseball player smoking in the dugout. I was horrified and shocked to disbelief.

Yes those were simpler times.

If sports figures were in Washington, D.C., they were there to be celebrated for their achievements not to testify before Congress about whether or not they cheated to get an edge at their game.

Heisman Trophy winners were to be celebrated as the finest player in their sport that particular year and statistics provided an accurate historical perspective to the games we all loved.

No women were allowed in the locker room after a game because there were no female sports reporters. Journalists who had access were considered insiders, traveled with the team they were covering and turned a blind eye to anything negative or hurtful.

Yes, those were simpler times.

While I would be foolish to believe they were better times, sometimes, especially with all the recent media hype surrounding athletes’ misdeeds, I miss them anyway.

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