Same age as the President

by Jim Hague

For some reason, I always thought and believed that the President of the United States was this elder statesman, this older figure, like the same age as your favorite uncle or the nice man handing out the church bulletins after Sunday Mass.

I wasn’t old enough to truly remember JFK as President, but from LBJ, Nixon, Ford and on, I always had the image of the President being so much older than me.

Today is President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday. It comes almost two months to the day after I celebrated reaching the same milestone. Yes, the President of the United States is older than me.

Now, how did that happen? I swear I was only 19 yesterday. How could I be actually older than the President. Something wrong with that. I was sure that time would stand still for me.

First, I get my AARP card sent to me in the mail and now the President is younger? Next stop? The Hoveround scooter thing. Old age is a terrible thing.
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My good friend, media guru and Broadway show producer Joe Favorito of “Lombardi”fame, made a suggestion the other day.

Favs posted on Facebook that as we all prepare for the 10th anniversary of the horrific events of 9/11, that we should take the time to watch the HBO documentary “Nine Innings from Ground Zero,” that came out soon after the end of the 2001 baseball season.

For some reason, I never saw the documentary before yesterday. I don’t know how I missed it.

As it turned out, it was one of the most heartwrenching hours I’d ever witnessed, but it was incredibly well done. It featured interviews with people who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers in the senseless terrorist attacks, people who were either Met or Yankee fans and used baseball as a source of solace and comfort.

Like every single HBO Sports documentary, this was outstanding. I must have cried about six times in watching it.

But there was one moment that really hit home. I had no idea that respected sports columnist Shaun Powell had lost his brother that day. Scott Powell was working in the Pentagon when the plane crashed into the military headquarters in Washington and he perished with the thousands of other innocent Americans on that fateful day.

I’ve known Shaun from covering events, especially the NBA, for more than 20 years. We’ve always stopped to chat in press rooms and have enjoyed a good relationship.

When I watched this documentary for the first time, my heart sank for Shaun. It then made me go to the Internet and look for the column Shaun wrote about his brother after the attacks. It ripped my heart out.

I know many of us lost so many people dear to us on that day. I lost childhood friends, high school classmates, softball teammates, former co-workers. It’s an event I still haven’t recovered from, as I have no interest whatsoever of visiting Ground Zero. Never have, never will.

I wrote stories about people who died and other stories about people who survived it and lived to tell about it.

It’s an horrible event we should never ever forget.

I watched this documentary and relived those moments. I felt for those people who lost loved ones and wanted to reach through the television to give my friend Shaun Powell a hug.

I wrote him a note yesterday to tell him how I felt and how sorry I was that I didn’t know he lost his brother that day. He said that it won’t be easy for his family to get through the anniversary of that horrendous day.

Joe Favorito was right. We all should watch that tremendous documentary before Sept. 11, just as a reminder.

And HBO never fails to get it right when they do a documentary. They did a great job with the Derek Jeter 3K show and they also did a fine job with the Curious Case of Curt Flood.

Speaking of that Flood show, it was also well done and offered sides to the troubled outfielder that I never knew.

However, it reminded me of a sports trivia television game show that I was once a contestant on. It was called “Grandstand” and was hosted by Curt Chaplain of “People’s Court” fame.

It was taped sometime in 1987 or so and I thought I was very fortunate to have Flood as my teammate. Because I figured I knew as much about baseball trivia as anyone. I figured I was a lock to win a host of prizes, like a cruise, a recliner, even a car.

The other sports celebrities on the show were Nate Thurmond and Jim Plunkett. I didn’t know as much about football and basketball as I did baseball. So having Curt Flood as a teammate was a big advantage for me.

When the game began, Flood asked me baseball questions.

“I’m ninth on the Cardinal all-time list for hits. What Cardinal teammate of mine and outfielder is first?”

Without thinking, I blurted out the first name that came to mind.

“Lou Brock.”

I then hear a buzzer sound, signifying that I was wrong.

I was stunned, much like Ralph Kramden in the “$99,000 Answer.”

I was wrong? Moi? Wrong? Wrong?!?!!?! On a baseball question, no less. I was silent as Flood then asked me the next question. The clock was ticking…bink, bink, bink. No answers…Then something snapped me out of it and I answered the next four questions right.

But it was just the beginning of the ass-kicking I received from a guy who fell down the stairs as he was being introduced. He actually knew that George Preston Marshallwrote “Hail to the Redskins.” Yes, the owner of the team actually wrote the fight song. I never forgot that little gem.

“Lucky Robert” as the man was called won the cruise, the car, the recliner, the golf clubs, everything. I finished second and got a TV and a boom box. The boom box is currently sitting on the kitchen counter and still works, almost 25 years after I had Curt Flood as a teammate.

The other part of that Flood documentary that was wild was that Flood’s wife mentioned that only one baseball free agent recognized Flood’s contribution after signing a big contract. She mentioned that Mike Torrez
gave Flood a gift after Torrez signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Orioles.

Torrez and I have become friendly since he was the general manager of the Newark Bears and I was doing the official scoring and PA. I immediately texted Torrez to see if he was watching and he was, not knowing he was going to be mentioned in the piece. It was definitely wild, all because of our associations with Curt Flood.

Again, I can’t praise HBO Sports enough for their fine work in doing documentaries.
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The NFL lockout and subsequent signing period has definitely been frantic to say the least and it has definitely caused sportswriters like yours truly to follow the activity on Twitter. I never thought I’d become a Twitter fan, but it’s almost now become a necessity if you want to do your job properly.

Amazing how the times have changed.

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You can also read some of my work at http://www.hudsonreporter.com, http://www.theobserver.com and http://www.dailyrecord.com. The Observer this week features an article and pictures about the Legends soccer game last week, when local heroes Tab Ramos, John Harkes andTony Meola returned to their roots to play in a game at the famed Harrison Courts. Check it out.

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Posted on August 4, 2011, in Jim Hague. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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