Let me first be clear on something. Growing up, I lived and breathed baseball or, more specifically, Dodgers baseball. My parents lived in Brooklyn when I was born in 1954 and when the television business moved to Los Angeles in 1958, so did my actor father Dennis and his family ... along with my beloved Dodgers. My first sporting memories involve radio broadcasts of Dodgers games, or the rare chances I got to see them in Chavez Ravine with my dad, including the World Series in October 1959.
|Football wasn't always No. 1 to Randy Cross. (US Presswire)|
That particular day was just like all the others, except that before my dad retreated to the kitchen and his cup of Joe, he remarked to me, "Be back here at 1 o'clock. UCLA is playing Michigan State in the Rose Bowl and we're watching the game, OK?" The Bruins were my dad's favorite team. Well, them and Notre Dame. We were Catholic, not like it was optional!
I was both stunned and honored by the request, because my dad had never before made such a deal about me watching a game with him. For me to watch the game meant no baseball at the park, but I guess something about the way he asked hit me right because I don't remember protesting the lost baseball time.
| Pete Stella
Pardon me while I dig up the painful memories of my youth. As a Cleveland native -- need I say more? The Drive, The Shot, The Fumble -- when I think of my long-departed love of the Cleveland professional sports teams, I remember agony and that horrible feeling of coming oh so close to making it and/or winning the big one. That's why Ohio State's national title in 2002 -03 was so special -- because an Ohio team actually WON A CHAMPIONSHIP. Read more!
I remember the setup my dad offered: "The gutty little Bruins are huge underdogs to a team full of players from Michigan State who will be pros as soon as this game is over." Hey, maybe I could do both? Watch my dad's "gutty little Bruins" and make the park for at least 10-20 innings? Perfect!
I spent that entire afternoon screaming whatever my dad did at the television, with as much fervor as my young lungs could muster, not understanding why but trying to keep up with his passion for this confusing game. The only real clear part of the game I understood was the end; the Bruins had given up a touchdown and were up 14-12 as the Spartans lined up to go for the two-point conversion. I didn't know stink about football, but I did know that zero points on this play meant a UCLA victory and two points meant a tie score.
Oh, and I knew my dad kept screaming, "If they hold 'em, you will have seen one of the greatest upsets in football history!"
Before the final play, my dad screamed, "They'll give the ball to the big fullback Apisa and he'll bull his way in! We're screwed!"
Just as the QB turned and handed the ball to big Bob Apisa, and it looked like the momentum would carry him into the end zone and Michigan State would win, a blur in baby blue and gold bolted in from the top of the screen. Suddenly, the unstoppable object was stopped -- and down. The play was over and the upset was complete.
On the ground was a little safety I had seen as that blur. Bob Stiles had knocked himself out making the tackle. It was heroic. I was the most exciting sports event I had ever seen.
And from that moment on I was in love with football.