Friday, May 29, 2009

Weekend Assignment #269: Good Sports

Later and later! Computer problems, a brain glitch and a whole lot of photo editing have pushed this Weekend Assignment all the way to early Friday evening. Sorry! Last night I absolutely could not think of a topic, despite the fact that I had one all planned out a week ago, only to postpone it. Carly came to my rescue with some topic ideas, which we will get to in due course. First, let's get on with the topic I spent and entire evening planning and photographing a week ago:

Weekend Assignment #269: Are you a sports fan? If so, what's your favorite? Do you follow many sports, just a few sports, or only one? If not, what is it about sports that leaves you cold?
Extra Credit: If your organization, your family or your friends had a mascot, who or what would it be?

A week ago Thursday, John and I went to kind of a watershed sporting event in Tucson: the return of the Tucson Toros I've written about the Toros a number of times before, but here is the short version. Having had a number of lesser teams sporadically over the decades, Tucson got a triple-A baseball team called the Tucson Toros in 1969. The guy who won the name the team contest, Clarence Dupnik, went on to become the sheriff of Pima County, which he still is. Anyway, the Toros won two championships in the early 1990s, but in the mid-1990s were sort of systematically dismantled. The team changed its owner, major league affiliation, team name, ballpark, general manager, radio announcer, team colors and mascot, all in a two year period. Fans abandoned the team in droves, and never really came back, even when the Tucson Sidewinders won another championship in 2007.

From the Picasa album Return of the Tucson Toros

2009, and the Sidewinders have changed names again and split for Fresno. Who needs 'em? Former Sidewinders owner Jay Zucker has retained the Toros team name and brought them out of mothballs, this time as part of the independent Golden Baseball League. The Toros have basically the same logo as before, the same colors, the same ballpark, and good old Tuffy the Toro as mascot. If you ever wondered about the origin of my old dog Tuffy's name, now you know.

The Toros' original mascot greets the current Tuffy.

The reconstituted Toros' home opener was scheduled for Thursday the 21st. That was the same day that the skies over Tucson opened with a record amount of rainfall for the date. Uh-oh! But the rain eased off in the afternoon, and the game was on!

Baseball is nothing if not traditional, which probably helps to explain why Tucsonans feel so strongly about Toros team history, what the team should be called and where it should play. Beyond that local stuff, there are all sorts of rituals baseball observes, on and off the field, all across the country. First the visiting team is announced, coaches, bench players and starting lineup, and come out to stand between third base and home. Then the home team's coaches and players are individually announced, and line up between home and first base. (I suppose in some venues they might line up elsewhere.) A military color guard comes out, and we have the national anthem. There is a ceremonial first pitch, the umpires congregate for a last minute chat, and then, PLAY BALL!

Once the same begins, it's all about balls and strikes, fair and foul, outs and hits and errors. Even children can follow what's happening, and soon learn the beauty of the game reduced to numbers.

But it's more than that. It's a handshake or an autograph from the team mascot. It's hot dogs and beer (or soda). It's free T-shirts shot from a launcher. It's the dizzy bat race, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and autographs after the game.

And it's also best of your team actually wins the game. The Toros won their first game, behind a rather good starting pitcher, thanks to a couple of really good hitters, and no thanks at all to several relief pitchers who gave up lots of runs. One pitcher has since been released.

And I love it. There was a time when John and I used to go to every Toros home game. I sat there and scored each game in a score book, and passed notes up to the radio booth. Then the Toros went away, and with it my baseball mania. I'll probably never be as into it as I once was, but I really, really enjoyed Thursday's game.

Now understand: I was never a sports fan. As a kid I was vaguely aware of a few players' names: Mantle and Mays, and Syracuse University football stars Little and Tittle, Brown and Czonka. But I didn't go to games, I was terrible in gym, and hadn't the slightest interest in any of it, except, maybe, maybe, about 1% interest in baseball. Heh!

Oh, and my mascot? Who else but a certain dog? And I don't mean Tuffy.

How about you? Are you a sports fan, a sing sport fan, indifferent or disdainful Tell us about it! Write it up in your blog, and please remember to include a link back to this entry. Then leave a link to your entry in the comments below. I'll be back in a week with the results. Here, meanwhile, is last week's results:

For Weekend Assignment #268: A Parade in Town, I asked for your interactions with parades. Here are excerpts from the two replies:

Julie said...

I grew up in the Girl Scouts, so we marched in several Fourth of July parades when I was a kid. As an adult, I was in a couple of parades. Back in the late 1980s The Texas Broadcast Museum got to bring up the rear of the Cotton Bowl Parade. We had a 1948-vintage television remote truck, which was really a bus that had been gutted and made over for the purpose. The truck had a large platform on top. Paul drove the truck, and a couple of us climbed up on the platform. One had a camera, and I had a microphone. It was a lot of fun, but we froze various bits of our anatomy off. It had actually snowed a bit overnight, and it was darned cold.

Mike said...

When I was younger we used to go to the Fourth of July parade up the street from our house. I think the only reason I went was for the candy that they would toss out. Oh, and one year my friend's little brother was in it. He was in some drum and bugle corps thing. I never really got a big thrill out of them though. I'm not sure why.

I'm still dangerously low on "guest professor" suggestions for these Weekend Assignments, so I ask again: please, please, please, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE email me some new ones. I warn you, I will continue adding another please to the previous sentence each week until someone suggests something. Save us from the invasion of the pleases!



barrettmanor said...

Running late again!

Call me Paul said...

Well, it's not the weekend anymore, but allow me to introduce your readers to The ABCs of Curling (so far).

Florinda said...

Here's my slightly tweaked approach to this Assignment.

Mike said...

Okay, I'm up.

And Paul, if you see mine, I'm sorry. I mentioned curling in mine All in jest of course.