It's 1988. What a slice of time in Los Angeles!
Gretzky, Lucky Luc and McSorley on Wednesday. Magic, Coop, and Big Game James on Friday. The Bulldog throws 59 scoreless innings and Vinnie sings, "She is gone!" to Gibby's miracle at the ravine.
And while the late '80's may not be music's golden age, for a young sports fan in Los Angeles, it's Nirvana. We even had an NFL team!
Flash Forward: 2009 post-gig. Pulling onto the 10 West out of Palm Springs and scanning the dial for some company while I drive home.
Though the Dodgers and Rockies are battling for the division, I'm only mildly interested in the game itself. Eventually I find what I'm looking for. Vinnie's still singing.
Listening to Vin Scully makes me feel good. When he goes, so will a chunk of the hometown heart. I'm not alone in treasuring each story, strike, and stretch these days. Perhaps it's because he's my last connection to my sports puberty, perhaps because he's just the best.
Golden ages are gold for a reason. They shine and increase in value over time. We forget the bad, remember the great, and embellish the rest.
Here in my forties, I still watch and enjoy sports. I can't help it. My hat size was imprinted on The D.C. Westin's ceiling after Derek Fisher's Game 4 OT three against the Magic. Ben Howland's Bruins, MikeScioscia's Angels, even my Kings show promise, so I'm still holding on.
Lord, what's happened to hockey? What used to be major sport number four is now channel four hundred seventy three. David Crosby gets more pub out here than Sid.
You couldn't get a ticket back in the Gretzky era, which began in August of '88, right between the Lakers' second straight NBA title and Gibby sparking the Dodgers to that improbable Series triumph. In time, there were more Kings flags flying down the 405 than Lakers flags.
During the run to the Stanley Cup Final in '93, the Forum Club was a nightly Oscar after-party, and when Montreal's Patrick Roy winked at Tomas Sandstrom after snaring Luc's shot in Game 4 OT, the city's pain level reached that of a Gerald Henderson steal.
Sports pages led with puck, soccer moms wore McSorley sweaters, and Bruce McNall was a free man! Now my Kings are a scrappy young bunch who will struggle once again to contend for a playoff spot while lost in the consciousness of a number two market. But at least the Dodgers and Angels are in the postseason, right?
Last month, my nine-year old asked if the "guy batting after Manny is a cheater, too." That statement alone saves the two-paragraph rant about new millennium baseball. Even with all my Laker love, it's still hard to go all-in after that Kobe-Colorado thing. David Beckham's recent jaunt? A reality show too lame for VH1.
Have you tried to bring your family to a game this decade? Tell me the fan's not getting priced out of the market. Kurt Warner's is a jersey I'd love my kid to wear and tons of athletes do great work for important causes and our troops, but beloved SportsCenter is more often an episode of COPS parading the latest "role model" to the pen. Even Brett Favre has become annoying.
Maybe I'm full of it. Maybe I'm out of touch. In Pittsburgh, Penguins fans are reliving Super Mario's old magic through Sid and his sidekick Malkin, and the Steelers are Super Bowl champs. Our hated rivals in New England have had a run this decade with KG's Celtics, Big Papi's Red Sox and Tom Brady's Patriots, and Big Z's Bruins are looking like Cup contenders.
Dynasties abound in other places: Tiger Woods. Jimmie Johnson. Michael Phelps. And there's always hope everywhere. Heck, Arizona Cardinals fans were a play or two away last February. (Cubs fans, try cryogenic freeze).
We all have our slice of time -- check out this gallery -- and now could be yours. It's not all bad these days. But for me, it ain't 1988. Even the UCLA Bruins football team was ranked #6 in 1988! It ain't Showtime.
With age comes a natural cynicism fed by foul balls lost and perspective found. But with all my bitching, I'm still cruising the windmills, the Dodgers on the air. Content in the melancholy, with Vinnie taking me home.
Singer-songwriter John Ondrasik is the voice and creative force behind the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling band Five For Fighting. His new album Slice will be out on October 13.