The Agony of Defeat
I grew up in a small farming community in Idaho. At the time I thought I grew up in a big city in Idaho but it wasn’t until after I graduated from college and moved to Arizona that I realized that the entire population of my home town would fit within the confines of Chase Field and it would not be a sell-out. I then had to come to grips with the fact that I was from a hick town in Idaho. Living in Idaho was kind of like living in Bedrock with the Flintstones. I take that back, even the Flintstones had phones even if they were made of rocks and shells. There were places in Idaho that did not get telephone service until this century. We did however get television. Not cable mind you, that would have to wait until my senior year of high school before that arrived. No, television in our day consisted of 3 channels: NBC, ABC, and CBS. Wow, I sound so old when I say that. My kids would say I wasn’t really living at that point; it was more just a matter of survival. They may be right. Whenever I go back to visit my parents I feel as though I stepped into a time machine and am teleported back into the dark ages. I half expect to turn the corner and see them burning a witch at the stake or something.
Growing up I have two distinct television memories. The first was the NBC baseball game of the week. Every Saturday morning I would get up early and get my chores done so that I could spend time watching the game of the week. I loved Curt Gowdy and Joe Gargiola and their commentary. I was introduced to this program by my grandfather who nurtured a love of baseball within me that continues to this day.
The other program that I watched religiously was the Wide World of Sports hosted by Jim McKay. Each week Mr. McKay would take us to what I considered exotic places and introduced us sports I may never had an opportunity to witness. Travel was extremely limited in those days. The farthest we would ever travel would be a couple of hours to go fishing or three hours to visit relatives. The thought of someone travelling the globe in search of sports and athletes was incomprehensible. I lived vicariously through Jim McKay dreaming of being there watching the various sports that he found or seeing the sites that he described. When ABC happened to cover the Olympics I was further mesmerized by Jim McKay as he took us to each event. I was there in 1972 in Munich when he reported the Israeli hostage situation and its demise with the loss of the athletes. He reported it in such a way that everyone the world over mourned not just the loss of these athletes but the changing of our world forever. No program and no announcer ever touched my heart the way he did in my youth. When news arrived today that he had passed I could not help but think that Jim McKay has begun yet another journey spanning the afterlife looking for the constant variety in sport. He will be sorely missed but he will never be forgotten.