It’s a fine whine, but it is reality: In 25 years working in baseball, I never had the chance to see a World Series game live and in person.
Between my time with the Cubs and volunteering to assist the National League multiple times during the postseason, I worked plenty of playoff games – and had champagne poured on me on numerous occasions by players heading to the World Series. Some of those times, I even knew the players.
Let me tell you, when it’s someone you knew, that champagne didn’t smell too bad – because you were really excited for the opportunity they were getting. In other words, it was a former Cub heading to the World Series who was dousing me.
And when I had champagne poured on me by actual Cubs players after the Wildcard win in 1998 – and after clinching the division in 2003, 2007 and 2008 – that champagne smelled really, really swell.
Suffice it to say, I have plenty of great baseball memories I can tell – and laundry tips about what to do when you’re covered in champagne and want to save your clothes – but I never did get to that elusive World Series game.
The Super Bowl, though … that’s a crown jewel of an event that I did get to witness in person. And I was able to cross that off the bucket list as a 17-year-old high school senior. And I even brought my camera to the Miami Dolphins/Washington Redskins gridiron tilt in Super Bowl XVII.
Back in the glory days (cue either Bruce Springsteen or Al Bundy), I attended Mather High School on the far north side of the city. I was NOT an athlete, so unless I actually wanted to practice playing a musical instrument, it was important that I had an afterschool job.
For a couple years, I worked in the stockroom of a shoe store. That’s about all I’ll say about that.
The summer before my junior year, though, I got my big break – one that really started me on my dual journalism and sports career. Through connections that I don’t want to divulge (OK, my mom helped with the connection), I was able to land a part-time job at Pro Football Weekly – an Arkush Family-owned newspaper that was at the time located directly across the street from Mather High.
Pro Football Weekly was the first step in opening my eyes about the work done by professional teams and by media organizations. I can’t even begin to explain all the knowledge I collected from the Arkush brothers – Dan, Hub and Rick – along with the great staff they had assembled. Hopefully at some point I’ll do my due diligence and write about my PFW days.
During my second year there – in the fall of 1982 – the NFL had a work stoppage, which significantly shortened the season. After a few days of inactivity, PFW asked me to stay away until the resumption of play. (Note to Chuck: Don’t include that in any future stories about PFW).
I was brought back a couple months later, and several people there really felt bad that I had been laid off. A promise was made when I returned: We’ll make this right. Just trust us.
OK, I thought. What did I know? I was the little ol’ high school senior, just helping out after the school buzzer rang. They really didn’t owe me anything.
They kept reminding me that they were going to take care of me. But I wasn’t going to ask.
So I waited.
In early January, I finally got my answer. They were taking me with to Pasadena to be part of the Pro Football Weekly coverage. I would get to sit in the media scrums and tape the player sessions. I would get to go to the Super Bowl Week parties. And, while I wouldn’t officially be on duty for the game being played at the Rose Bowl, I would get to watch Super Bowl XVII from the stands.
I think it’s safe to say that I was OK with that. Miss a week of senior year to go to the Super Bowl? That was pretty sweet.
I wish I had done a better job of chronicling that week in my life. It was a blur – but certain events stand out.
The Super Bowl itself was memorable in numerous ways – mainly because of my end zone seat and the touchdowns that were scored coming right at me. Remember John Riggins’ fourth quarter fourth-and-inches run for a 43-yard touchdown? Ran right at me. Remember Fulton Walker’s 98-yard kickoff return? Ran right at me. Heck, even a touchdown pass to Jimmy Cefalo was close enough to me that I was able to take a snapshot of it.
I’m sure I’ll watch Super Bowl LI with interest Sunday night. But as big a spectacle as it will be, it can’t touch being there in person as a high school kid. Glory days, indeed.