Friday, July 15, 2005

How Do I Love Sports? Let Me Count The Ways

I have been married for nearly 13 years, and that's approaching 5000 days, and I bet you I can come up with about that many things that I love about my wife. It's the little things that do it, you know -- like the way she looks when she sleeps, or her homemade Fettucine Alfredo or the way she stares wide-eyed at the television when she's watching something that interests her or how much she loves children and animals. And on and on.

But before I get too sappy, and at the risk of making a gear change here that would blow out most transmissions, I submit to you that there are lots of those little things that I love about sports as well. Are any of these on your list?

I love a puck being swept the length of the ice toward an empty net, and the brief feeling of tension and gasps from the crowd as it slides just wide of the goal. I love a home run off a foul pole. I love a hot dog at the ball park, and I love how money and change is passed down the aisle, person-to-person, to the vendor, who passes the dog the same way, only in reverse. I love going to a football game and watching the players doing their calisthenics and stretching sans shoulder pads long before kickoff. Speaking of kickoffs, I love the moment when you realize your team's returner is going to go all the way. I love when a basketball bounces high off the back of the rim and drops straight down through the hoop as if it was a piece of laundry down the chute.

I love a head football coach who doesn't wear a headset on the sidelines. I love how a manager or pitching coach talks to his pitcher on the mound long enough that the home plate umpire has to intercede, only to leave right when the ump arrives. I love a goal that is scored SO top shelf that the water bottle gets knocked off the top of the net. I love it when the holder bobbles the snap during a field goal attempt and has to improvise. Same with punters. I love the sound of a metal wood "pinging" off a ball during a blast from the tee. I love it when you realize the seats you have at a game are freaking awesome. I love how an NHL referee makes the signal for a penalty as he casually skates by the penalty box. And I love it when an angry player skates into it and slams his stick down inside it. I love college football on a crisp Saturday afternoon, and I love how kids still toss those plastic miniature footballs outside Michigan Stadium, as I did back in the mid-70's.

I love that we were blessed to hear Bruce Martyn's "He scooores!" and George Kell's "There's a LONGGG drive!" and George Blaha's "Four and fifteen remaining" and even Mark Champion's disgusted "And it's....CAUGHT" as the Lions' opponents convert another 3rd-and-17. I love a good bounce pass in basketball and a crunching hip check in hockey and great pass protection by the left tackle and good run blocking by the right guard in football. I love that I can enjoy curling without understanding it, mainly because of those sweeper guys. I love a draw play for a first down on 3rd-and-6, and I love it when you see that your team's screen pass has caught the defense off guard and it's going to be a long gainer. I love the fact that the NBA shot clock is 24 seconds, because absolutely nothing else in life happens in 24 seconds other than a pro team trying to get a shot off. I love a strike thrown by anyone who throws out one of those ceremonial first pitches at a baseball game.

I love how a kicking team's players manage to stay onside as they rush downfield as the kicker approaches the ball. I love looking at a small child at a baseball game, with his oversized mitt and mustard on his face. I love a well-executed bunt and a 3-6-1 double play and a pitcher picking off a runner at first. I love a fastbreak executed so well in basketball that the ball never touches the floor. I love the chill you get when an NHL referee points to center ice, signaling a penalty shot. I love it when you turn on the radio just as the announcer is giving the score of the game. And I love that Ernie Harwell used to give the score almost as often as that female recording gave the time over the phone. I love a perfect faceoff win that leads to a goal from the point -- bang-bang. I love it when announcers still refer to high hoppers in baseball as Sunday hops and lazy fly balls as cans of corn. I love that Ray Brown can be 43 years old and still be a serviceable offensive lineman.

I love batting practice and I love watching a coach hit fungoes to the outfield. I love a tomahawk slam on a put-back of a missed shot. I love that hockey's on-ice officials stay on their skates the whole damn game, even as the players are changing every 45 seconds or so. I love when the visiting team's coach or one of its players gets a technical foul because it ignites the crowd even more. I love it when a golfer sinks a 20-foot putt. And I love it when I sink a six-footer. I love how golf cameramen can keep that tiny white ball in their frame off a drive. I love that I can tell my grandkids that I saw Barry Sanders' entire career, every year of which he was in his prime. I love that I can say I saw the Tigers play at Tiger Stadium and the Pistons play at Cobo Arena and the Red Wings play at Olympia Stadium. And I love the fact that the Lions played at Tiger Stadium, even though I never saw them play there.

I love a 55-yard field goal attempt that's successful. I love a 20-yarder that's not, because it's so rare. I love it when people actually keep score at a baseball game. I love it when a horse race has a photo finish. I love how hockey players will play even if their arm is dangling from its socket. And I even love that a baseball player will sit out if he has a paper cut. I love a bicycle kick in soccer. I love that soccer halves are 45 minutes and the clock never stops, and it counts up. I love sipping hot chocolate during a cool night at a baseball game. I love that the Tigers haven't changed their home uniforms since.....practically ever. I love it that the Yankees refuse to place names on the backs of their jerseys. I love a defensive lineman returning a fumble for a touchdown, because you just know that he's in seventh heaven.

So there you have it -- some reasons why I love sports.

But as much as I love sports, it still can't make Fettucine Alfredo better than my wife.

Here's to another 13 years, sweetie.

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