Friday, May 24, 2013
On the day that I was born, the Boston Red Sox swept a doubleheader from the Cleveland Indians, winning 5-1 and 2-0. The wins put the Sox 1.5 games ahead in the American League East. They went on to lose the division by a half game to the Detroit Tigers, and I was officially a member of miserable Red Sox Nation.
Monday is my 40th birthday. I don’t look 40, or so I’m told by the people who don’t see the flecks of gray coming in around my temples. I don’t feel 40, at least on most days, although my left knee makes a funky clicking sound when I flex my leg, and sometimes the knee cracks and sounds like a boot going through a thin layer of ice.
I was born hours after the biggest fraud in the history of the Olympics, the 1972 men’s basketball gold medal game between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the U.S. ahead 50-49 in the closing seconds, the Soviets were given three tries at the final inbounds pass by R. William Jones, then head of the International Basketball Federation, who came out of the stands and demanded the refs put three seconds back on the clock.
On the third try, the Soviets finally scored the winning basket, and Team USA players still refuse to accept their silver medals. There’s a good life lesson for the kid born in the shadow of this debacle: The world is not fair. It owes you nothing, and does not like you.
Sports have always been a big part of my life. In my lifetime, the Red Sox are 20-18 on my birthday. This year, the wretched 2012 Red Sox have my birthday off, and since I’m not going to get a pony, that’s the greatest gift of all.
Sunday, Sept. 10, 1978 was the final day of the Boston Massacre, the infamous four game sweep by the New York Yankees in Fenway Park that pulled the Yanks into a tie for first place in the American League East. Thankfully, I have no recollection of this.
So many memories, good and downright miserable, involve sports.
Sports has broken my heart a few times in my 40 years, but more often than not, sports has delivered me joy. I’ve seen all four of my favorite professional teams win a championship, although the Boston Bruins took their time about it. The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in ‘72, months before I hit the scene, then took 39 years to hoist the Cup again.
I’ve seen games in eight Major League Baseball parks and three NFL stadiums. I saw the Bruins in the original Boston Garden and the Boston Celtics in the Hartford Civic Center, back when the Celtics would play a handful of home games in Hartford each season.
I sat in the upper deck of the Bradley Center in Milwaukee and watched Jim Montgomery take over the third period of the 1993 NCAA national championship hockey game, leading the Black Bears to a title. I sat in the Fenway Park bleachers and watched Derek Lowe throw a no-hitter on a warm April afternoon in 2002.
I threw snow in the air and learned the NFL’s tuck rule at Foxboro Stadium on a January night in 2002. I witnessed three AFC championship games, and hugged strangers like they were family when the New England Patriots won each.
I’m fortunate that I get paid to stay involved with two of my favorite things, sports and playing with words.
I remember my father’s 40th birthday. His friends slapped our home phone number on a prominent sign in downtown Barre, Vt., where we lived. We received calls for days, wishing Dad a happy birthday. Unfortunately, caller ID hadn’t been invented yet.
Forty doesn’t feel as old as I thought it would. It’s been a good four decades, and for that, I’m fortunate and grateful.
The world doesn’t owe me a thing. But I wouldn’t turn down another 40 years.
Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242