Amblin' Alameda: Octoberish

Amblin' Alameda: Octoberish

Morton Chalfy

This is only my fifth October in Alameda, but I'm about ready to join the ranks of those who believe it's the best month of the year. Summer stretches deep into the month, outdoor activities are usually pleasant - and, oh yes, the Giants are playing for the World Series title. For the third time since my arrival!

Coincidence? Perhaps.

When I was a young man living in New York City the Giants often played for the pennant, and in the remarkable year of 1951, they overtook the hated Dodgers from 13 games behind. Those were heady days, clustered around the radio or in front of a grainy, black-and-white picture on the television. Flannel uniforms, mostly white teams, pretty good athletes - some unsurpassed since (Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle etc.). But nothing like the spectacle of today.

As television has evolved from its black-and-white beginnings to the full-wall flat screens of today and the money from advertisers has rushed in to take advantage of its reach, the athletes have evolved along with it. Athletic feats that once riveted the world have become commonplace, and the athletes are professionalized from their early youth. In gymnastics, the winning routines of 40 years ago would not merit one a space in the qualifying rounds today, and winning on the field or in the arena carries so much treasure along with it that training and study have become the hallmark of competition.

Baseball has always been more cerebral than most contests, and with the advent of the short reliever the game has radically changed. In the past, only the best pitchers could hold down a World Series team for the entire nine innings. But now that six innings is a great outing and time to parade in the bullpen, the pitchers can go all-out from the first pitch without worrying about exhausting their stamina.

The games have evolved, the players have evolved, the money involved has grown by many multiples. But one thing has stayed the same: the fans and the influence of winning teams on the mood of their cities. There is a palpable lift to the spirits when the home team wins and a deflation when they lose. There is also a camaraderie that develops among otherwise disparate people rooting for the same team. Our emotions are tied to them, our spirits rise and fall with them and our collective character is often defined by our teams.

"How about them Giants?" is the watchword today, with the 49ers and the Warriors going through their preparations in the wings. The Bay Area is fortunate indeed to have so many winning franchises in the neighborhood and so many opportunities to feel good. Even war no longer unifies us as sports do.

Civilization needs activities that bring people together in celebration. Sports do that for us.