The other afternoon, when I ventured into America – actually, I only go out maybe once or twice a week, to 7-Eleven, if I get a hankering for a Slurpee and a Slim Jim – a complete stranger tapped me on the shoulder and asked if things ever would be the way they once were.
“How’s that?” I said.
“Better,” she said.
Like when Moses parted the Red Sea, effectively creating the first HOV lane?
Like when Babe Ruth called his shot, pointing toward the center field bleachers at Wrigley Field and then hitting a home run to center field?
Like when banks actually held onto to your money instead of investing it in risky, unsecured mortgages?
Like when Jim McKay’s voice filled every Saturday afternoon by telling us about “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat?”
Like when Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double – 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds a game – for an entire NBA season?
Like when Bobby Jones retired from golf at age 28 after winning the Grand Slam?
Like when you actually would borrow a cup of sugar from your next-door neighbor?
Like when UCLA won 10 national basketball titles in 12 years with no one-and-doners?
Like when the Good Humor man would give you change out of that little contraption attached to his belt?
Like when Roger Maris hit 61 homers one year in short sleeves and steroid-free?
Like when the sublime Johnny Carson – rather than the subpar Jay Leno – was hosting “The Tonight Show”?
Like when Kramer promised the boy in the hospital that the Yankees’ Paul O’Neill would hit two homers in a game?
Like when Don Rickles could kid and cajole every ethnic group in the audience without incident?
Like when Mean Joe Greene took the Coke from the kid and then threw him his jersey?
Like when Woody Allen – pre-Soon Yi – was making “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan”?
Like when you’d wait for your father to bring home the afternoon newspaper?
Like when you could get a bleacher seat at Fenway Park for a buck?
Like when flight attendants were called stewardesses and stewardesses at least pretended they cared if you had a pleasant flight?
Like when Otto Graham, without hype or hysteria, led the Cleveland Browns to 10 league championship games in the 10 seasons he played for them?
Like when the National Enquirer and the Wall Street Journal didn’t cover sports?
Like when Lucy would pull the football away from Charlie Brown every time he was about to kick it?
Like when John Riggins drunkenly told Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor to “loosen up, Sandy baby”?
Like when Ernie Harwell, Jack Buck, Bob Prince, Mel Allen and Chuck Thompson fashioned sweet sounds on summer nights?
Like when people called you rather than texted you?
Like when Bill Veeck sent 3-foot-7-inch Eddie Gaedel to the plate for the St. Louis Browns?
Like when my mother and father wed – not even speaking the same language – and, 61 years later – still not speaking the same language – are still married?
Like when Muhammad Ali was Cassius Clay, Prince was The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Chad Ochocinco was Chad Johnson and Metta World Peace was Ron Artest?
Like when you’d ride up to 7-Eleven on your bike and just leave it out front unlocked?
“Things weren’t necessarily better then,” I told her. “They were just different – maybe simpler.”
I got back into my car to go home and turned on Jim Rome’s radio show. Man, he was riled up about something.
Ask The Slouch
Q. How do you account for the fact that Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, at age 44, is still fooling hitters some of the time with absolute junk? (William R. Mitchell; Indianapolis)
A. Knuckleballs are like third marriages – you never know where they’re going.
Q. Similar to Charlie Sheen in “Major League,” were you juiced up in “Tilt”? (Joshua Feinberg; Washington, D.C.)
A. I did nothing out of the ordinary to prepare for my part in “Tilt,” other than sleep with my ESPN partner Lon McEachern.
Q. A la the Cowboys’ Roy Williams, has The Slouch ever proposed via the U.S. Postal Service? (Don Morgan; Brookfield, Wis.)
A. Yes, but I was smart enough to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope to get the ring returned.
Q. In the realm of statistical minutiae, what percentage of Yankee batters do not theatrically pout after a called strike? (Joseph Kaschalk; Cleveland)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.