Monday, June 09, 2008

Crabs, Anyone?

You may have heard over the weekend of the passing of Jim McKay, the longtime main voice of ABC Sports. He was in his eighties and long retired, so a little confusion about him is natural. In the 1960's it was McKay who hosted a then-groundbreaking weekly program called ABC's Wide World of Sports. They really did go all over the world, and the events themselves had a tremendous variety. McKay helped us see the world a little better through sports, letting us know in the process that it wasn't just a matter of hits, runs and errors, wins and losses.
ABC also brought us the Olympic Games in those days, and it fell to McKay to bring us first hand the tragic unfolding of the Munich games (1972), at which eleven Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered. It was one of television's most memorable moments when McKay, on the air for sixteen continuous hours, had to inform the world that the Israelis were all dead. That footage, by the way, turns up in the movie "Munich".

So now it's summer, when we look for new ways to have fun without, hopefully, giving up the old ones. Around here, where nature gives us such a boost, fun includes the Humboldt Crabs. They aren't a species of sea food, but a baseball team now in their 64th continuous season. Technically, they are a non-profit local organization assembled to provide the best baseball available to a community with no minor league attachments. The players are all in college, all spending their summers here to gain valuable experience. The team is such a great draw that almost all Crab games are played at home.
Up close and personal? Absolutely. The stands are full of all kinds of aficionados: the experts who can judge (or think they can) the potential of a major league slider, the kids who want to chase around eating bad food, the band, made up mostly of the nearby Marching Lumberjacks dressed in their yellow T-shirts and hard hats, couples of all descriptions and even single people confident of finding new or old friends at the park. Last year's team was 42-12, so there is usually plenty to cheer about.
Of course, there are a few things that could be better. The ball park, such as it is, seats only about 900 people, the stands are a rickety wooden affair that strikes me as a law suit waiting to happen and only a 25-foot fence bordering left field keeps home runs from flying onto the county's busiest highway. Temperatures around here are tricky, and it's often a tough call to tell whether or not to take a jacket. Only the earliest fans get to park near the ball yard, while everyone else walks at least a block or two.
But no one ever went broke going to these games. Tickets are $5 for adults, with a buck off for seniors! I can get there in about 20 minutes, so even the nation's most expensive gas isn't much of a problem. Selling food and beer helps make a little money, but not too much. On second thought, if these are my biggest problems, then I absolutely have the world by the tail.


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