Imagine Red Auerbach leading the Boston Celtics to an NBA title today. In the middle of the champagne-soaked scene inside the victorious locker room, the old coach reaches for his lighter and, as has been his tradition forever, lights up a victory cigar.
Immediately a photo of this act would be posted on every anti-smoking website. Somebody would mount a protest over Auerbach’s insensitivity to the delicate lungs of the sports media in the room. The talk shows would grind the subject to meal. For violating the indoor clean-air act, a fine would be levied.
Big traditions and trademarks often die hard. But we can lose our small ones without ever marking their passing. They glow for a while and then just kind of burn out, like the victory cigar.
Remember the Sunday mornings when you could spend a half-hour scouring the baseball averages in the newspaper? It reconnected you weekly to the game. When exactly did that go away?
Or remember getting a scorecard at the game and scribbling a K for every swinging strikeout, and 6-4-3 for every classic double play? It used to be so cool to diagram the game as it unfolded. Then, one day it wasn’t. And that shorthand became like a foreign language.
There was a time when weekend doubleheaders were a part of the schedule, not a desperate act after some rainout.
Recall the tradition of going to a professional football game and actually watching what played out before you? Now it is one eye on the field and one on the iPhone, tracking the up-to-the-second production of your fantasy-league team.
Used to be that cheerleaders cheered. They clapped their hands and chanted enthusiastically. Then, without any official announcement whatsoever, they all begin auditioning for the Cirque du Soleil.
Both field-goal kickers and politicians used to approach matters more straight on.
Tennis players wore white.
Fathers took their sons fishing.
Basketball players wore shorts rather than culottes.
A golf bag didn’t contain more high technology than Iron Man’s workshop.
Then we looked up one day, and it was all gone.