Saturday, July 18, 2020

Missing Baseball

I am surprised that I have made it this far without missing baseball, but I realize now that probably that was just denial.

Things were going well…I was photographing Cactus League games in Arizona, writing stories, chatting with players, fellow photographers and fans. I was living the baseball-associated life that started nearly 70 years ago in my front yard in Endicott, N.Y.

On March 12, I got a text from the Arizona Diamondbacks that they were rained out. Spring training games are not played in the rain. No big deal, there would be a game tomorrow.

But, baseball-wise there was no tomorrow.  At four P.M. Eastern time, just when the D’backs game had been scheduled to start, spring training was canceled by Major League Baseball.

So, that was that.  Spring training was over, and the season was postponed. Along with it went minor league baseball, college baseball, high school baseball, Little League…baseball itself was on extended hold.

I pretty much dismissed that as the way it should be…health above all else.

Now that it has continued into July, I am able to reflect.  Much of what we have lost in society is below the surface a bit.  The domino effect of deprivation extends deep into our culture. What I have lost does not compare to the tragedy hundreds of thousands of people have suffered, so this lament is merely a personal observation that I share in common with many of those in the “baseball niche” of society.

The thing about baseball is that it tends to be there. It tends to be the constant in our lives. It is the conversation starter, (How ‘bout those Yankees?) the argument thesis (Willie, Mickey or the Duke?), the rallying cry (Let’s go, Mets!). 

It is the go-to for an evening out, the TV remote’s target, the crossword clue (Alou and Ott are favorites of the New York Times).

It is the “old North Side ball orchard.” It is the city park. It is the neighborhood. It is the backyard. It is the ambience at NBT Bank Stadium, at Falcon Park, at Doubleday Field, at Phil Winters every park in every town. It is unique to each and the same for all.

A few days ago, the Syracuse Mets hosted a CNY Food Bank giveaway…some 1,000 cars snaked their way through the parking  lot in line for boxes of much needed food. I was on hand to photograph the event, part of a gallery of my photos of good works being done during  the pandemic. It was a line reminiscent of fans streaming into the parking lot for a July ballgame, but inside, the ball park was empty and silent.

I made my way inside, walked along the silent concourse, now filled with construction material instead of fans. The results of current park improvements are evident. The field was green, but dry, daily manicuring currently unnecessary during this extended off-season.

The schedule said it was the All-Star break, three days for the best of AAA baseball to compete while the rest relaxed with three off days. It would have been an empty stadium anyway, but only for a few days.

I sat in a new grandstand seat to soak in the silence. I realized that even with the empty field, the stillness of the air, the complete silence, there was an energy that only a ballpark can hold.
I strayed into the part of my mind where I go to seek poetry. That is where the other side of the game resides, the part that it is not on the field. That is where I am reminded that I miss the essence of the game more than the game itself.

I miss the three mile drive to NBT Bank Stadium, and the brief conversation with the people in charge of the parking lot. I miss unloading my photo gear before being wanded by the security people. I miss the ticket takers and office workers as I enter. I miss chatting with fans on the elevator ride to the top floor and I miss the ambiance of the press box. I miss the friends I have made there and the conversations on subjects far beyond the action on the field.

I miss sitting in the broadcast booth, headphones in place, spending one (unforeseen) summer in unfamiliar territory, sitting with two actual professional broadcasters and a former major league pitcher, and being allowed to talk on air about baseball from a chair previously occupied by two friends who began their rise to the major leagues there.

I miss that on my birthday (today as it happens) the press box manager would tell me in a few seconds, how many days old I was.

I miss standing on the field, ostensibly talking about grass and dirt and wiffle ball with the head groundskeeper, but really sharing the bond that brings us to baseball, an intangible affection for what takes place on that grass, and how we are part of it.

I miss chatting with my fellow photographers as our eyes dart around the field looking for the next great shot.

I miss the pregame ceremony and the Mets general manager selling the game he loves and inspiring the crowd, large or small, to love it as well.

I miss the “front office” staff that treats me so well, a staff that makes baseball happen here, working from morning until late in the cold spring and hot summer nights, and the young women and men who orchestrate the between-innings on-field games that thrill the youngsters and woo them into becoming the next generation of fans. I miss high-fiving young men, mute and unrecognizable in their guise as team mascots.

I miss being asked by the official scorer what I thought of a play, and the sense that my opinion may have worked its way into the statistical fabric of the game, and I miss being dazzled by the technical genius of the people in the computer center who bring life to the “big board” that chronicles the on-field action.   

I miss the media people whose use of cameras and computers takes the game to the fans who follow the team even when they are not at the ballpark.

I miss chatting between innings with the friends I have made among ushers and security people and I miss the fans who have become friends, an inning or so at a time, and I miss sitting with a friend of over 50 years, the first person I met at Syracuse University, talking around the game about our common life-bonds, him chiding me for missing a potentially great photo because I was explaining the infield fly rule.

The empty ballpark may lack the sounds of bat on ball, of leather on leather, of vendors’ cries, of fans’ cheers, but it holds for me the memories of seasons past and those yet to come.

The optimist in me believes that this is merely a greatly extended off-season, a time when we reflect on the past season, and more important, look forward to the coming one. For those of us with the Syracuse Mets, and those of who root for the “other guys,” and those of us who are simply fans of the game, we suffer the silence of an empty ballpark. 

But, if all goes as we hope, this particular off-season will only extend until mid-February, 2021, when, at long last, the traditional first day of baseball arrives, and pitchers and catchers report.

Friday, October 4, 2019

A Baseball...

Inspired by my summer working on the Syracuse Mets radio broadcasts, listening to PxP man Mike Tricarico describe the  actions of a baseball.

According to the rulebook, a baseball is a sphere formed by yarn wound around a small core of cork, rubber or similar material, covered with two strips of white horsehide or cowhide, tightly stitched together. It shall weigh not less than five nor more than 5¼ ounces avoirdupois and measure not less than nine nor more than 9¼ inches in circumference.

It is rubbed up,



Backdoored, changed-up, chucked, cookied, curved, dealt, delivered, doctored, emery-balled, eephused, fire-balled, flame-thrown, fork-balled, four-seamed, front-doored, gassed, high-cheesed, hosed, hurled, juiced, knuckled, lobbed, lolipopped, meatballed, overhanded, palm-balled, port-sided, quick-pitched, rainbowed, shine-balled, side-armed, sinkered, slidered, southpawed, split-fingered, submarined, spitballed, two-seamed, Uncle Charlied, yackered, yellow-hammered, whipped, whistled.

and unless it is, chased, fanned, missed, taken, waved at, whiffed,  K’d
it might be

swung on


Baltimore-chopped, banged, bashed, belted, blasted, blooped, bunted, chopped, clobbered, clubbed, cranked, creamed, crushed, cued, daisy-cuttered, dribbled driven, dumped, dunked, dying-quailed, fisted, flared, lied, flipped, fouled, frozen-roped, gapped, hacked, hammered, hooked, humpback-linered, gapped, grounded,  ground-rule-doubled, jerked, knocked, laced, lasered, lifted, lined, lofted, looped, lost, mashed, nubbed, pasted, poked, popped, power-alleyed, punched, ripped, rocked, rolled, roped, served, skied, slapped, sliced, smacked, smashed, smoked, sprayed, suicide-squeezed, squibbed, stroked, tagged, tapped, tattooed, Texas-Leagured, topped, torched, walloped, worm-burnered, zingered.

And then, maybe

backhanded, barehanded, circus-caught, flagged, gloved, nabbed, run down, snagged, tracked-down, snowconed, speared,

Fired, flung, gunned, relayed, rifled, tossed, underhanded, whipped, "wung,"
Or… badly… air-mailed, badly-thrown, misfired, overthrown, underthrown, wildly-thrown,

And sometimes they are
bad-hopped, Bucknered, butchered, bobbled, booted, dropped, erred, fumbled, kicked, miscued, misplayed, missed, muffed,


dingered, downtowned, four-masted, gone-yarded gophered, jacked, moonshot, outta-hered, outta-sighted, parked, round-trippered, salamied, short-porched, tape-measured, tatered, upper tanked,

Ballantine-blasted, Eutah-Streeted Green-Monstered, Greenberg-Gardened, Kiner-Kornered, McCovey-Coved, Monument-Parked, Pesky-Poled, Uecker-seated

and long-gone.

Card, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Pitchers and Catchers, 2019

A friend of mine reminded me that pitchers and catchers report in about three weeks, so…

Pitchers and Catchers, 2019

 There is something magic
 about the change of the calendar
 from January to February.

 There is still the pile of snow in the driveway
 and the mound of boots
 and gloves
 and scarves
 and knit caps
 next to the front door,­­­
 and the snow blower
 stands silent sentinel in the garage.

 But once the calendar changes
 it is a mere two weeks
 until pitchers and catchers report,
 and that, my friends,
 is a moment to be savored.

 The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel
 breaks through the gloom of winter,
 and the muscle memory
 of bleacher seats warmed by the sun
 revives our spirits.

 We lean forward as if to hear
 the leather-meeting-leather POP
 of the spring training fastball,
 and everything sensory about the game returns.

The familiar rhythms and rituals
 unique to the ballpark
 play out in our memory,
 a smile breaks through,
 and a contented sigh follows,
 as February moves into the lineup,
 and January takes a seat on the bench.

 Herm Card, 2019

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Sports Moments

There are moments, and there are moments. During a career in sports, in various forms, I have experienced quite a few things that stand out. I have seen in person the only game that Mickey Mantle played second base, saw Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in a World Series game, saw Floyd Little score five touchdowns against Kansas, shook hands with Bob Cousy, played, coached, umpired, photographed, countless “moments” over the years.
Recently I was among former athletes honored with awards from my alma mater, Syracuse University. Following the evening, walking to the car, I was stopped by a woman pushing an 88-year-old gentleman in a wheel chair.
"Congratulations," she said, smiling. We shook hands, she introduced herself.
"Congratulations," he said, offering a handshake.
My hand disappeared into his large right hand.…I was not sure I would get it back. The name she had introduced herself by hung in the air…”Beyer.”
He introduced himself…”Dick Beyer.”
“Dick ‘The Destroyer’ Beyer I said, an exclamation, not a question. “It’s an honor,” I said.
“Dick Beyer,” I said to my wife. “Letterwinner of Distinction. Syracuse football captain in the ‘50s, professional wrestler.”
He smiled, probably surprised that I recognized his name, and who he was…who he is.
It got better. There was something in the back of my head, some connection that was slowly forming itself. I knew he was from Buffalo…I knew he had been a big time pro wrestler before it became the farce that it is today.
“Do you know Matt Winters? Buffalo? Baseball player…scout for Hokkaido?
“Of course, he said…played in Japan…another Buffalo guy.”
“Of course,” I said to myself. “Of course.” Two guys from Buffalo who plied their sports trade in Japan and became stars.
“Of course,” I said to myself. Why not…isn’t that the small world theory, after all.
When I shared the story with Matt, he sent me this photo of them.
So…why would I not meet an 88-year-old man in a wheelchair who was a sports legend of a different era who knows a friend of mine from Buffalo that I met because of baseball and be humbled by the fact that he would congratulate me?
Partly because those are the kind of odd, yet affirming connections we make in sports.
Another reason why sports matters. Of course.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Muscle Memory 2018

When I discuss with my Newhouse students the concept that sports matters, I am always reminded how true that is.   

Muscle Memory
Herm Card, 2018

Muscle memory is the key to athletic success. It is essential to attaining the highest level of, competence, that of being unknowingly skilled. It is the result of constant practice, the repetition of a single act countless times. It allows the body to simply react to situations – to do what is required without thinking about it, to make plays automatically, to react naturally without hesitation – to flow.

Watching a third baseman make plays that I once made is, at the same time, nostalgic and discouraging.  As the play unfolds, I am able to feel the athleticism, to almost physically recall the kinesthetic sense of the play, and yet, at the same time, realize that that same type of action now would likely  result in embarrassment and possibly injury.

So I found out recently when I was asked to return to the field for a Syracuse Challenger Baseball “All Star” softball game. From the beginning I sensed it was a bad idea, but Dom Cambareri’s proposal, actually the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse, won me over.  He started by asking me if I would contact my close friend, former teammate, and part-time employer, State Senator John DeFrancisco, to get him to play.

“Sure,” I said. “He’ll love it.”

“And,” said Dom, Challenger Baseball's executive director, “You should play too. You guys were teammates at SU fifty years ago…we can stage a reunion. It’ll be great. He plays short, you play third, just like then. We’ll call you guys our ‘secret weapons.’ Perfect.”

It sounded perfect in theory, but likely imperfect in execution.

I had played baseball from the time I was seven until I was 30. After that, I played high level fast-pitch softball, then found other ways to occupy my athletic propensities. I was thirty-five years away from the last time I had fielded a grounder or swung a bat for real.

“It’ll be fun,” said John.
“No, it won’t,” said my inner voice.

Fun is, of course, subjective.

I never completely understood the concept of “fun” in sports.  I understood the concept of competition and the enjoyment of competing and the idea that it was “more fun winning than losing” but there has to be a deeper sense than fun if you are serious about it.  I was always serious about it in what I considered a controlled way. Practice was fun. Team bus rides were fun. Lobby sitting was fun. The game itself, was serious.

The Challenger Baseball softball game was supposed to be fun, and in the larger sense, it was.  The league’s coaches, parents and senior league players were on one team, local television personalities and staffers were on the other. As in Challenger games, everyone on the team batted regardless of whether or not they were also playing defense.

John and I warmed up by playing catch. Playing catch requires nothing more than throwing a ball back and forth – catching and throwing – the essence of baseball.

He is far more athletically active than I have been, even to the point of  having played in a senior baseball league in Florida two years ago. He plays tennis. He plays basketball. He plays  a mysterious game called “pickleball.” I walk through the woods taking photos of birds and through the stands of ballparks taking photos of AAA baseball players.

He threw, I caught. I threw, he chased the ball that I threw wildly past him. He threw, I caught. I threw, he again chased the ball that I threw wildly past him. The trend was clear. I painfully adjusted my throwing angle, with little success.  My arm would not respond to the muscle memory urgings. I developed a system of awkwardly arching the ball to him.

I once had a Cincinnati Reds scout tell me I had a very good arm. I still have a good arm, I just can’t throw a baseball with it.

Infield practice provided another lesson. I told the first baseman that he would have to accept that if the ball was hit to me, my throw would arrive at first base on several bounces.  Accurate, but bouncing.  Fine with him, he said. I told the pitcher that if the ball was hit to my right, I might relay it to him. Fine with him, he said.

I used to have a dream that I was back in the game. I was playing third base, completely unsure of myself, wondering what would happen if the ball was hit to me.  Athletes need “first contact” to dismiss the pre-game jitters and  inning after inning the game went on and no one hit the ball to me. The tension became unbearable – I spent entire dream-games anticipating the ball and never having the satisfaction of knowing what would happen if it was hit to me.

The leadoff  batter hit the first pitch of the game right at me.  In all honesty, it took a bad bounce and glanced off the heel of my glove.  I tracked it down quickly, but instinctively knew that my throw on several bounces, or even relayed by the pitcher, would be useless. 

The imaginary scorekeeper in my head debated between a hit and an error. Pride in my previous ability forced me to ring up an E-5. I should have had it, despite the bounce.

The second batter hit a bouncer to my left and muscle memory kicked in. Incredulously, I found myself going to my left snagging it cleanly, pivoting on the run and firing a four-hop throw  to the second baseman for the force out.

Unfortunately, he was not in on the deal I had made with the first baseman about bouncing the ball, and it bounced off his forearm.  As he tracked it down, the runner attempted to make third and the second baseman’s throw to John covering third nailed the runner. 

Running through the scoring in my head, I decided that the runner would have been safe at second anyway, so technically it was a fielder’s choice, no error,  I would be credited with an assist and the play would be scored 5-4-6. Home cooking, as they say.

After a couple of intervening plays, with two outs and runners on first and second, John fielded a two-hopper and instinctively I called for the ball. He threw to me for the force out, and the inning was over.

Oddly, I recalled my first varsity defensive play at SU on a two-out bouncer to me that I fielded and stepped on third for a force out. That moment was somewhat lessened by the fact that I had been inserted in the next-to-last inning of a 23-2 beating by Navy and that I had been so relieved to have made the play that I forgot to leave the ball on the field and the umpire had to yell for me to give it back.

The deal with Dom that the senator had made was that, similar to our long-ago lineup, he would bat first and I would bat second.

Occasionally, people ask me if I miss playing baseball.  While I may miss being able to play, I don’t miss the playing itself, but in many ways I miss the essence of playing, the tactile sensations of the game, rather than the game itself. The game and I have both changed too much.

I miss the act of putting on a uniform, the ritual associated with arranging each item just so.  In the days when baseball pants were short, just below the knee, and stirrup socks were visible, there was a technique to getting the look just right. The act of rolling them together and smoothing them out was taught to me by my junior high baseball coach, a former minor-leaguer,  who assembled the team one day and told us that looking like ballplayers would convince the other team that we were ballplayers.  “Proving how good you are is up to you,” was the rest of the message.

There were several bats to choose from. I picked them up one at a time, took a few practice swings, and settled on one that seemed right.  It felt good in my hands, muscle memory kicked in right length, right weight, right balance, right feel.

I remember the feeling of solid contact between bat and ball.  There is very little sensation when you hit the ball solidly on the sweet spot. The physics of bat and ball is such that perfect contact is rewarded with a sensation  that can only be understood when it is experienced, much like there is no way to define why the Mona Lisa is a good painting or why hot dogs taste good. The physical sense of it is  remarkably satisfying nonetheless.

I missed the first pitch and popped up the second one to the shortstop.

The sensation I got hitting that weak pop up to short was one of relief.  I had made contact. I had hit the ball fair.  I was envisioning a solid liner to left center, but the popup absolved me of the potential embarrassment of missing the ball again. Plus, I didn’t have to risk injury by running the bases.

I remembered that there were times when I would not have reacted well to popping out. I was never entirely comfortable with the adage that “Hall of  Famers fail seven out of ten at bats.”  I knew it was true, but it didn’t make much sense that failure could be dismissed that easily.

We sat together on the bench, fifty-plus years after having done it for the last time as SU teammates. 
With a hint of irony, John complimented me on not striking out. That’s what friends do. I thought about sticking around for a second turn at bat, but talked myself out of it. He batted again and hit a double. He said he would have tried for third but didn’t want to risk it.

Didn’t want to risk it? In 1968 he suffered a broken cheekbone when he was hit in the face with  the ball while trying to break up a double play against Navy. I was the first person to get to him from our bench. His face was a mess. It was pretty clear his season was over.  

He was back three weeks later and finished the season wearing a lacrosse helmet to protect his face.

Years later, with a hint of irony, I told him it was a terrible slide. That’s what friends do.

If someone had said to me in 1965 that John and I would be sitting next to each other in a dugout fifty-plus years later I would have found that somewhat unlikely, at best. Apparently the odds were better than I would have predicted.

That we were there is an affirmation that people really don’t change. Fifty-three years after we first met we are still friends. We share a similar sense of humor. Our yin/yang personalities complement each other. John is organized, I am less so. John remembers everything necessary to serve his constituents. I keep track of the less critical, but pretty interesting details to fill in.

Friendship has its own sort of muscle memory. It allows us to simply react to situations – to do what is required, to communicate without thinking about it, to react naturally without hesitation, to pick up where we left off regardless of what has intervened, to make life’s plays automatically.  It is the result of constant practice, the repetition of acts that verify the commonality of two people. It makes the passage of time irrelevant


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Assignment 1...BDJ 600/300

“Ain’t much to being a ballplayer...if you’re a ballplayer.”
                        …Honus Wagner (Baseball Hall of Fame, 1936)

I gave my BDJ 600/300 class this assignment...a third-person piece that examines what got them to where and who and what they are today.  It sounded interesting enough, so I gave it a try myself.

When he asked his grandmother what the boys in the far distance were doing, she replied “playing baseball.”  That, by itself, meant nothing to a four-year-old, but what does?  No further details on what baseball actually was were needed. No explanation of the rules, no mention of players or teams was necessary. The simple “playing baseball” was sufficient. 

Or so it seemed.

It would be very difficult  to trace back to the specific moment that turned his life in a certain direction, but there had to be a moment when a ball was thrown toward him and the inclination to catch it rather than duck out of the way took hold. There had to be a moment when the idea of throwing it back to whomever threw it his way also took hold. 

The act  itself, tossing an object back and forth…playing catch…unfolded over time into something far more complicated, yet still simple in its essence.  

In sports, repetitive, relatively simple individual actions, are designed to become exhilarating when they are successful and frustrating when they are not. He learned over time that he seemed to succeed more than he failed. That he was good at most things he attempted and he was very good at baseball.
When he was about 12, his mother’s words… “It’s possible,” (he sensed that she actually meant ‘probable’) that you might not become a professional ball player,” were softened by her thought that there might be a place for him, some other way of being “in baseball.”

But he persevered, determined that practice and repetition and dedication and all the other things that drove him would overcome his lack of size and speed and the number of others who pursued the same dream, all of them clamoring up a steep hill toward the very small plateau at the top.  

He was wrong.  He was good, but not that good.  He could play, but too many others could play better.  And he understood what his mother had meant. 

All along, he had reveled in the repetition.  He loved practice, he loved the game in its many incarnations. He invented ways to play constantly…in the park, his backyard, his front yard, his driveway, his garage. There was an inexplicable essence to the game.

He had become something of a star in Little League, and Teener League and high school and American Legion and summer semi-pro leagues. He had been a D-1 starter and letter winner in college.  He became an assistant coach at his alma mater. He played 10 years of semi-pro baseball and quit before he lost his skills.  He became an umpire so he could stay in the game. 

But his future, his reality, lay in something that had really never occurred to him.

He had taken a shot at law school and hadn’t liked it.  He had served in the military, but knew it wasn’t his life’s work.  He became a substitute teacher as a stop gap until he found a “real” job, and after being hired full time, gradually, a few years into it, it became clear that teaching WAS his real job.

He realized that he had been meant to be a baseball player, but not destined to be a great one. He came to understand that baseball had helped mold him, but only so far as to eventually set him free to find what he truly needed to be doing. Baseball had given him the gift of confidence, taught him the lessons of success and failure, and given him the sense that in the long run, the exhilaration of success overrides the dejection of failure, but both highs and lows of the past become … just the past.  

It became clear that the things he had not done were less important than the things he was doing. 
As a teacher, there were no statistics to define him, no scouts to tell him that he was too small or too slow, no scoreboard to register success or failure. There was only his intuitive sense that he was in the right place doing the right thing. And that was all he needed.

He understood that when his grandmother had pointed into the distance to tell him what those boys were doing, she was, somehow, pointing the way into his future.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Sports Matters

I have been away from this blog, but thanks to John Nicholson, my friend of quite a few years, I've been able to get my education oriented creative juices flowing, and actually able to write some things down.

Introduction to a presentation to masters candidates, Sports Media Department, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University on 7/12/17

Hermon Card, adjunct professor

In 1964, the year the professor and I arrived at Syracuse University, there were two pizza joints on the hill, Cosmo's and The Varsity.  Cosmo's is gone, but The Varsity remains and it is likely  that most you have  been there.

Long before 1964, and for many years after, The Varsity was the go-to place for Syracuse athletes, and even those of us who were not football or basketball players were welcomed by the three Delles brothers.  The photos on the walls have always been of SU athletes, the football record was, and is, recorded  by pennants over the counter, and the vibe would be referred to today as "retro."

Athletes wore letter sweaters on campus, the football team was nationally ranked thanks to Floyd Little and Larry Csonka, helped out by a guy named Tom Coughlin, and the basketball team was about to become a power, thanks to Dave Bing, helped out by a guy named Jim Boeheim.
For four years, the professor and I showed up, ate Varsity pizza, earned our varsity letters and our SU degrees and moved on, as did those other guys.

We worked in our chosen professions, crossed paths occasionally over the years, and as those years passed, the paths meandered extensively and then began to run a closer, more parallel course.
A couple of weeks ago the current path led us into into the Varsity for lunch, and as part of the conversation, the professor called my attention to a photo...this the far left of the left hand wall.

  (photos of the photos by Newhouse graduate Aubrie Tolliver)
The actual subject of the photo is Roosevelt Bouie, SU basketball star and All-American. Most people see this as a  gamer photo, an action shot of a great athlete, although now, it's of no significance in terms of outcome of the shot, or the game, or the season. 

But, because sports matters in different ways depending on your perspective, two of us in the room have an entirely different reaction to the photo, because our eyes are drawn to the lower left corner, to two men (not in great focus but what from nearly 40 years ago is?) we both knew as colleagues friends sitting at the WSYR radio broadcast table. 


Charlie Bivins, on the left, was to become the first African-American television station general manager in Syracuse, and then die, way too young, soon after. Joel Marieness, on the right, was a legendary broadcaster, a true and original "Voice of the Orange" on radio and television.

Most people to whom we could tell this, would probably say, as you may be,  "That's interesting," or words to that effect, and move on.  To the professor and me, it is interesting, for sure, but  neither of us retains any attachment to the "gamer" moment on the court.  We are attached to something far deeper, based on the fact that while our connection with these two men was based IN sports, it did not depend ON sports. It depended on the fact that because of sports, kindred spirits were drawn together, and the simple truth is that the  professor and I are able to take pride in the fact that both  of these men of stature were our friends.

The context of these relationships, both professional and friendship-based would require way too much explanation to be clear in a journalistic sense, but what is important to us is that no such explanation is necessary.

What the photo, and the memories it evokes does, is create a context for the professor and me to  understand that what really matters is that sports can be the catalyst for creating things which are far more important than what happens on the court or the field.

The stories we swap  about these two friends, and others like them, are really about our own lives...who we were and who we have become.

And the stories remind us that those of us in this business need to be aware that while our work is significant to us and our audience in the moment,  it is likely that it will be, in some unknown way, for some unknown reason, significant to someone unknown to us, in the future.

It  is essential for us to understand that  sports  provides a common denominator for people of like mind or similar inclination to explore the things that are really important in life, things more important than  batting averages or final scores or championships won.  Sports is an exploration of our humanity -- of our ability to persevere, to strive for success, to accept the outcome, and, while doing so, to behave in a manner befitting our status as a civilized society.

And how do those of us in this room fit in? By understanding that it is our responsibility to not only accurately report what happens on the field, but also to accurately reflect the importance of what happens on the field on a level that goes beyond the cheers and boos.  It is our job to understand why  people run and jump and wrestle and tackle and slide and skate  and  put a ball into play in seemingly infinite ways.

It is our job to understand sport in order to report it and it is our job to always be at our best and it is our job to remember that what we do now, in the moment, is important, but above all, it is our job to remember what we do, as part of the media profession, must be done with integrity and honesty and with a sense of commitment to the the future, because SPORTS MATTERS.