“Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition…”
ABC’s Wide World Of Sports Opening
Stanley Ralph Ross
The walls were paneled.
The carpet was green shag.
Beef stew on the stove, “artics” (boots) drying on the radiator, black and white images on the television.
A winter Saturday afternoon in Buffalo, New York, play outside all day in leggings and socks wrapped in used bread loaf plastic bags, in when the street lights came on which was about 4pm in January.
Two cookies and a small glass of milk to “get to dinner.”
Turn the Philco TV dial to 7…Channel 7…WKBW…Buffalo’s ABC station and The Wide World Of Sports.
I was 10, 12, maybe 13 years old and what came through to me was not the score but the story of sports.
The wide world framed in the story of sports.
The story of sports showed a child the Great Wall of China.
The story of sports showed me the courage of a black man to out run the Aryan race.
The black and white images that illuminated my face told me the story of defeat, of victory.
In a house filled with anger and violence, in a house filled with caution and fear as a child some part of me needed to see how the wide world lived with thrill, lived with agony.
It was the story of sports that taught me about the game of life.
The vastness of life is to hard for us to understand, to comprehend, so we boil life down to 9 innings, to 4 downs, 18 holes, zero-t0-sixty or round and round on the quarter mile. Life is easier within the comfortable confines of the 30 second clock.
Sports, feeds our desire for life with easily defined rules, easily defined boundaries, drama with a clear beginning, a clear ending.
In all the shouting now, in all the spectacle now, in the “show” now the quiet simple human drama of athletic competition gets lost, the soul of the game, the story that mirrors life swallowed by the scoreboard.
Deep within me though sits the child listening, looking for the story not the score and yesterday at the Day 3 weigh-in for the final cut to 12 anglers I purposely stood back away from the crowd, stood off by myself and looked for the story.
Looked for the thrill.
Looked for the Agony
And found it.
Found it happening away from the reporters, the photographers, the onlookers, found it happening quietly under the big blow up Mercury engine balloon.
The human drama of athletic competition played out between two good friends of mine, Elite Angler Brandon Palaniuk and his girlfriend Tiffanie McCall.
Brandon plays as I wished every athlete who takes to their field of competition would play…all out: “My goal every year is to win every Elite event of the season.”
I know that to be true because I have told him many times if he didn’t play like that I would kick his ass. “db I know that my goal is possible but not probable (exactly what I say when I’m out on Bigfoot hunts) but why play if you don’t at least in your gut strive to win them all.”
I am at full telephoto on my camera maybe 20-30 feet behind the two and partially hidden, I have no idea who is in the lead of this shindig, what the weights of the bags are in this shindig, I’m just watching and this is what I’m seeing with Brandon and Tiffanie:
In the first shot, #2538 in my camera, Tiffanie, with concern on her face, is looking at something that Brandon is holding at shot #2540 she moves in for a closer look.
It turns out what they are looking at is Brandon’s smart phone as he follows the cut to 12…at shot #2543 she backs up and looks at her own cellphone…at this shot Brandon has become “bubble boy,” number 12 of the 12 that will fish tomorrow for the tournament championship.
Tiffanie: “If he doesn’t make the 12 cut, if he’s out he complains all day, is miserable and takes it really hard, it’s tough on both of us, it’s agony when it is this close there are four or five anglers left to weigh in any one of them can knock him out of the 12 cut.”
Brandon: “I can’t win all nine if I’m not fishing the final day of all nine, my whole season goal comes down to these next couple of minutes, I don’t make the cut, it’s over goal wise and I have to go another entire year to try again.”
Photo #2548…no explanation needed.
As I sit and write this at 4 a.m. on Sunday Brandon is fishing for the championship, that’s the scoreboard.
The story though of his day today is found in four photos.
To me, and the child within me, it is the human drama of competition that explains why they play and why we watch.
When I think back to yesterday the story of the day for me happened in the time code of my camera 6:47-7:02 p.m…15 minutes where the story of a young man’s goal for the entire season came down to agony, or thrill.
The drama of that 15 minutes will NEVER be explained by a scoreboard.
Deep within do we watch sports for the score within the stadium, or for answers for the chaos that is life on the other side of the turnstiles.
For a young child living in a tense and violent world, I took from the agony and the thrill…hope.
It was the story of sports that brought hope into my life.
For the child sitting on the green shag carpet in front of the old Philco television on the rickety metal cart it showed me that in the wide world not only is there agony…there is also thrill.
And that story, changed my life.
As I see it,
This story is dedicated to James Kenneth McManus (Jim McKay) for the sport stories in black and white that brought color into my life. R.I.P sir…and thank you.