Monday, October 9, 2006
My top 10 sports memories
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
Memories are best when used frequently.
Here are my favorite all-sports memories, been there, did that, wasn't injured.
10. The horse races at York, England.
Besides betting windows, they had real, live bookies outside, not far from the rail, with their own odds chalked on boards next to their stalls, or booths.
Action with bookies was hectic, like what you would see among traders on a stock market floor.
Accents were wicked.
"Speak English," one of the British bookies yelled at me.
Euro grass-riding style takes some getting used to -- as jocks approached the wire, they were very active in the irons and frequently appeared to be warding off wasps.
After a full day of racing, hardly anybody went home, race fans stayed at the track and ate and drank and socialized; talk about civilized.
9. My first OU-Texas football game.
This is arguably college football's best rivalry because it is played at a neutral site, Dallas.
As a freshman at OU, I had no tickets and tip-toed in with the band when it went to practice five hours early in the morning, hiding most of the remaining time in the men's restroom and sitting in a stadium seat of somebody arrested the night before.
8. Practice putting a golf ball with Bill Murray at his place overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu.
I think it was a rented house. It would have cost $250,000 around here, millions upon millions there.
He was getting ready to be in a movie of a novel I wrote, Quick Change, and I went by for a beer.
This is mostly name-dropping. Not much happened. To consistently hit a glass with his golf ball, Bill turned the tall glass sideways.
7. NBA playoff game at the Garden in New York.
This was a top five experience at one time.
Then our NBA players started to lose in global tournaments to slow guys who played by different international rules: the Golden Rule, share the basketball.
6. A car race in Daytona.
To someone with a youthful upbringing that included sports with referees and umpires, which to say sports with bouncing balls, you're used to relaxing during timeouts, with the score staying the same.
But at the car races, competitors can greatly increase their positions and chances during timeouts, or yellow flags. To me, it was like losing a big lead at halftime.
Wouldn't you think that in this day and age of electronic wizardry that it would be a relatively simple process to replace cars in their exact spots on the track when trouble occurred?
5. Kentucky Derby.
Been to two of them -- they're more like socials than gambles.
At one, I sat next to a politician's wife. She was from Lexington and wanted to discuss global warming, could I get four more mint juleps down here please waiter?
At my other Derby, I spilled shrimp cocktail sauce on my linen suit jacket and it grew red rings and looked like a bulls eye.
Watching any sport in high definition is as good as life gets with one intermittent exception.
3. A round of golf in Nova Scotia.
This was played on a rocky and hilly course where the walks from greens to tees seemed as long as treks along average par 4's.
What's so memorable here is the size of the mosquitoes. You could feel the mosquitoes hit you, their bodies, not their wings. Some mosquitoes lurking in the trees appeared to be almost the size of badminton birdies.
2. Playing Ping Pong with Bud Wilkinson.
Bud coached Oklahoma out of the woods with great Sooner football teams back when.
My father was the sports editor of the Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City for 35 years. The good side of being the kid-son of a sports editor was you got to go to all the games. What was bad was if you played baseball, opponents were all the time trying to bean you and then shout, "Have your old man put that in the paper."
After football games, Bud would entertain media and guests at his home. He'd sneak away from the boring and boozy adults to play Ping Pong with me in the game room. Talk about competitive. After a big game with somebody like Nebraska, he still enjoyed bouncing a Ping Pong ball off my skull.
1. Breeders' Cup.
I've been to three, including the first at Hollywood Park, then one in New York, then the Cup day in Dallas.
At the first Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park, I bought a box for thousands of dollars. The box turned out to be some folding chairs on the apron, way, way up the rail from the finish line.
All you could see clearly were airplanes landing at LAX.
Our box seats were so bad, it was about five minutes before I knew that I had won a bet on Wild Again in the Classic -- he came through at the rail like a movie agent looking for a commission check.
What's so memorable about being at a Breeders' Cup is all the talent in an otherwise sloppy world.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org