I Hate This Is Happening!

"Yeah, right. Been there, done that. You call that football, son?"

“Yeah, right. Been there, done that. You call that football, son?”

Clinton, S.C., Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 11:49 a.m.

One common experience of advancing age is that one finds himself talking about all sorts of things that others don’t understand. It is intensified because they weren’t yet born when these things happened. Mysteriously, it doesn’t seem as if anyone pays attention to history anymore.

This is just the latest in my continuing series about how the ever-expanding wealth of information paradoxically seems to make the world progressively dumber.

Someone says that LeBron James is “arguably” the greatest basketball player who ever lives. It turns into a LeBron vs. Michael Jordan argument.

“How about Bill Russell? Or Wilt Chamberlain? Or Oscar Robertson?” I ask.

“Well, we never saw them play.” They might as well add “Pops” to the end.

It’s no excuse. The first sports book I ever read was about Mel Ott. He had a rivalry with Chuck Klein, another slugger. They’re both in the Hall of Fame. I know very few people who have heard of them. I never saw them play, but I know that Ott, a left-handed batter, raised his right foot before he swung, just like the famous Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh.

If I told this story, oh, practically anywhere, the reply might be, “Oh?” (I couldn’t resist.)

Part of it, of course, is my fault. I haven’t come to grips with the simple mathematics of being in my 50s. I saw Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, John Unitas, Dick Butkus, Bobby Orr, Rod Laver, Arnold Palmer and Jerry West play. I saw A.J. Foyt, Richard Petty, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart and David Pearson race. I saw Willie Shoemaker ride and Secretariat gallop, though not at the same time. I saw Muhammad Ali box.

I only saw newsreels of “The Galloping Ghost” (Red Grange). I remember Jim Brown and Gale Sayers.

The years got away from me. Unitas is as relevant to the kids of today as Grange was to me. The elapsed time is about the same.

But I knew about Grange. I read about “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” which was played during my first year on earth. I knew a home run by Bobby Thomson was “The Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff” even though I was born seven years too late. I knew Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games and Cy Young won 511.

Two weeks ago, I watched a ballgame with someone who had never heard of Howard Cosell.

I wonder sometimes if all knowledge about sports today is derived from video games. A kid’s favorite player is as likely to come from “Madden ’13” as the Super Bowl.

What prompted this topic was the fact that a remake of “Brian’s Song” showed up on TV. I had never seen the remake, though the original, a TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, was a national sensation when I was 13. The remake, starring Sean Maher and Mekhi Phifer, isn’t bad, but it’s the same as most remakes. “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,” starring Gary Cooper, was remade as “Mr. Deeds” with Adam Sandler.

That’s about the same as comparing a sonnet to a limerick. Or a sonata to a ditty.

I know, of course, that I’m not objective. Part of my view is that I have greater perspective, but part of it is also that I’m turning into a grumpy old man, ready to pounce on any topic with one of those wearisome clichés like “back in my day!” and dreading the first time he actually hears “keep off my grass!” come out of his mouth.

I still want to be cool, but it’s getting harder and harder to pull off.

About Monte

For 20 seasons, I mostly wrote about NASCAR. I'm still paying attention, but I'm spending more of my time these days writing novels and songs. I try to blog regularly on whatever happens to strike my fancy.
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8 Responses to I Hate This Is Happening!

  1. Andy says:

    I’m unable to understand why not knowing a current musician/actor marks you as an old coot who doesn’t keep up with the times. But you mention a musician/actor from 20 years ago to someone and they haven’t heard of them, they tell you you’re an old coot who needs to step out of the past and keep up with the times.

    Just pop those people in the nose. They’ll be surprised at how quick a man of your age can be.

    PS: I know who Mel Ott is and I have never followed baseball. Although I think it’s from his short broadcasting career. And I’m 57.

  2. Carol Dahlberg says:

    Part of the issue is that you are an educated, well-read man, Monte. Nowadays, Children are not required to read; they are taught to the test and play video games.

  3. Peter Romano says:

    The teams, the players, the musicians from the 60s when I was a kid are what I remember the best. Part of the sports fanaticism though was learning the history to understand the present. Nobody bothers with that anymore. My personal fun fact is that I will have seen every Super Bowl(even when it wasn’t called the Super Bowl) in my lifetime. Even though I live in metro NYC, I rooted for the Colts against the Jets in 1969. Yup, just another Johnny U fan after reading “Great Quarterbacks of the NFL” as a kid.

  4. Monte says:

    Johnny U. was probably my greatest hero. Then there were Pearson and Yaz, Jerry West, Foyt, Darrell Royal …

  5. Al Torney says:

    Ah the memories. Being a teenager growing up in Baltimore during the ’50’s was as good as it gets. The rebirth of the Orioles, Colts and the beginning of Rock and Roll. Wow.

    As I grew older and talked to younger folks I soon realized that they weren’t interested in the older times. It took a while for it to sink into my thick skull that they were living what would be their memories in the future. And that they would be telling younger folks of their younger days.

    Every generation has their day. I guess it’s because the media back then talked and wrote more about the old stars more then the media does today which in turn aroused my curiosity. Times change and so do people. Time marches on.

    I bought a book about the Baltimore Colts and Johnny U. Had a book signing at a local book store. I went over bought the book and had Johnny sign it to my son. I thought it would be a nice thing for my REDSKIN loving son to have. He could car less. I have the book.

  6. J. Bosworth Carruthers, Esq. says:

    Congratulations! You have achieved curmudgeonship!

    Your official Old Farts Club membership card, secret decoder ring and three-month supply of Metamucil will be forwarded to you within the next 10 business days.

  7. Monte says:

    Unitas was just the greatest.

  8. Tony Geinzer says:

    I know I am still fighting the good war with Auto Racing,Monte, but, I don’t have a stomach for Extreme Sports intrusion of Auto Racing (Duh, they lowered the Olympics) and I am 2 Years from 30. I feel Sports and Football Histories are not a fashion statement.

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