The phone conversation was wrapping up, and for just a moment, I had one of those uneasy feelings, like a head rush that hits you a foot lower, in the chest, and then filters out through your extremities.
I was talking to an old baseball player named Buddy Biancalana. This was a work assignment, something on the 25th anniversary of the Royals’ 1985 World Series title.
Biancalana was a shortstop on that team, and he had become somewhat of an overnight folk hero in the mid-80s. He was a journeyman with a goofy name, a heartthrob to a small generation of teenage girls, a baseball player who would break into the main stream for a few weeks, even appearing on David Letterman’s old NBC show.
So I wanted to ask Biancalana how often people bring up ’85. How many times do people recognize him — or recognize his name — and ask about those three weeks in the October of 1985.
Can fame, even fame as fleeting as one memorable performance in a World Series 25 years ago, survive?
“You know,” he said, “there’s a lot of people around now that weren’t even born yet in 1985.”
“Yea,” I said, laughing quietly into the phone. “I guess that’s right.”
And then I paused for just a second. And I had that strange feeling.
You know, I wonder if this guy realizes that the reporter he’s talking to is one of those people?
A week later, I would be sitting in a frigid press box at a high school football game in Kansas City.
I was bundled up, hunkered over my laptop computer, and a little upset about the dozens of thick cords from the local television station that had to be connected to some outlet outside the press box.
These cords were keeping the door open, and it was freezing, and so maybe I looked pretty young all balled up in a black coat that would never be used in the Rockies.
Still, I wasn’t quite expecting a parent to approach and ask if I was a student at the school where the game was being played.
“Umm. No. I work for the newspaper,” I said.
This happens every once and a while — a few weeks ago I had a stadium custodian say, “You don’t look old enough to be a reporter.”
“Well, I look pretty young,” I said. “But I’m not as young as I look.”
The man nodded and walked off.
And in my head, I replayed what I had just said.
Wait, was that Zen?
So I guess this is sort of a rambling post about adulthood and age and all that.
But not quite.
It’s also a post about paths and choices and moments that point us in a certain direction.
A few weeks ago, as I was working on that story about Buddy Biancalana and the 1985 Royals, I came across the fact that “Back to the Future” had premiered during the 1985 World Series.
Maybe it was the history geek in me — or maybe I just enjoy small little connections like that — but I found this fact beyond enthralling.
So, of course, for the next 10 to 15 minutes I binged on “Back to the Future” Google queries.
I read old reviews, and found articles on the 25th anniversary, and then I stumbled upon a clip of a cast reunion from the Today show.
They were seated together, answering the usual questions you hear in these types of interviews.
“So,” the host said, “Why do you think this movie resonated with so many people?”
The camera focused in on Lea Thompson, who of course played Lorraine Baines McFly (and would later star in a forgettable ’90s NBC sitcom, “Caroline in the City,” which of course proves I watched too much television as a kid).
“I think,” Thompson said, and I’m paraphrasing here: “There can be that one important moment in your life that can change everything.”
At the time, I didn’t think much about that. Pretty soon, my caffeine rush subsided and I went back to researching the 1985 Royals.
But a few nights ago, I had another one of those uneasy moments.
I was doing some late-night reading on the laptop, searching for something — anything — that would be worth sacrificing sleep. And after a few seconds of clicking, I found a random blog post about the 10th anniversary of ESPN.com’s “Page 2.”
I don’t think about “Page 2” much these days. I do check out ESPN.com on a daily basis. And I know “Page 2” is there, just a link away. And I know there’s still content on there, a daily dose of opinion-pieces and sports and pop culture and other stuff.
But by now, it more or less fades into all the other noise on an extremely crowded and chaotic sports website.
But for minute, I remembered being 14 years old and using my parent’s old dial-up internet — I believe Netscape was our browser of choice — and stumbling upon the writers on “Page 2”.
Jason Whitlock was a contributor then, and, of course, I knew about him. So was Hunter S. Thompson, and as a 14-year-old who spent most of his free time lobbing shots at the basketball goal in my driveway and ordering JBC’s at Wendy’s with friends, I’ll admit I had hardly heard of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Of course, Bill Simmons was writing back then. Just some young guy from Boston who wrote a lot about the Red Sox and a lot about “The Karate Kid”.
It was so different* than any sports writing I had ever read.
*At that point, my sole sources of sports coverage consisted of The Kansas City Star and Sports Illustrated — and even then, I mostly just read Joe Posnanski and Rick Reilly.
And I don’t remember the day or the week or month, but I remember sitting down one night, reading Page 2, and saying, I think I want to do this.
I didn’t know much about journalism schools or newspapers or the relentless onslaught of the Internet and its future effect on the publishing industry, but I knew I wanted to do that. I wanted to do what I saw on Page 2.
Ten years later, I sat up in bed and retraced the past 10 years. So much had happened. My journalism tastes have evolved. My goals have shifted,too. And it’s hard to return to that instance and remember what it felt like to be 14.
I like to think that I still feel 14. And, according to that dad at the high school football game, I must still look 14. And on most days, it doesn’t feel like Page 2 debuted 10 years ago.
My story on Biancalana and the Royals would be published in The Star on the same morning I would read that random late-night blog post.
And it was a strange feeling. Because there are moments I still feel like a teenager, and adulthood still feels like some faraway place — a space and time still firmly waiting for us in the future.
But then, I’ll open up the mailbox, and I’ll see my name on an envelope. And I pull out my checkbook and pay the electric bill. And then I’ll see my name in the morning paper, and I’m reminded that life is moving, always moving, and the future is here — and there’s no going back.