I don’t watch sports as I once did. Growing up down South some of my fondest memories were of the World Series, and the radio connection through Al Helfer, Red Barber or Mel Allen. I can still hear those voices. I know there are fewer and fewer of us who recall those moments, but those still around recognize my sentiments.
The interesting thing to us “Bubbas” down South was that the Series was typically between two New York franchises: The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees (our beloved Cardinals struggled in the early fifties).
But we did love the National Pastime (no longer such, sadly) and for us often the battle lines were drawn between the Yankees and the Dodgers, with the split being about 50-50. Personally, my brother and I favored the Yankees, with Berra, Mantle, Rizzuto and a cast of powerful pinstripes (we thought of them in pinstripes even on the road) against the dangerous and talented Fiends from Flatbush: Snider, Campanella, Reese, and the smoking fastballs of Newcombe and Erskine. That bunch, too, had a helluvah baseball team.
Those days of the World Series are gone for good, and in the words of Douglas MacArthur, “I listen now, but with thirty ear,” for those grand times of athletic talent coupled with humility and grace.
The NFL has captured the National pastime with its playoffs and grand climax, the Super Bowl. And who could not be captivated by the comeback of those New England (dare I say Boston) Patriots. They should play “The Impossible Dream” nonstop on any and every conceivable medium; for Julian Edelman if no one else (except maybe Robert Alford).
I found myself somewhat disinterested in either team, although I did watch, but was told by a friend that Atlanta was the Southern team. No. Atlanta was not, and is not a Southern team. Atlanta was burned many years ago and has been rebuilt in another image. And a Southern gentleman (again Robert Alford) would have never performed a happy-dance into the end-zone following a “pick six.”
Southern teams have gone the way of the SEC with the Ole Miss Black Bears, nee, Rebels, and Alabama Cringing, nee, Crimson, Tide leading the charge down the hill fueled by timidity and weakness and, of course, money. We no longer have rivalries of North and South. Hell, we are not even allowed to play “Dixie” except on my cellphone.
I found myself cheering for the Patriots who played with pride in whom and what they are and what they were, and fans who did the same; while the quailing Atlanta Falcons representing a sprawling monstrous city of lights and cameras and scalawags and carpetbaggers, now missing agrarians, former peach growers, all crying because they got outplayed by men who played the game better.
I could write of a once proud people, proud of their culture, being and their localism. But details would get a combination of boos and/or rejection and the screech about a past that was not the South but is constantly promoted as such.
So Atlanta, New Orleans or Houston can play, and even hope for the Super Bowl. But they must remember that they are part of the NATIONAL Football League.
I really do miss the World Series and the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. But mostly I think I miss my St Louis Cardinals, and Enos “Country” Slaughter, and Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizell and Vern Benson and those guys . . .