In a pre-internet, pre-cable, pre-ESPN world, there were limited options for a sports junkie to get a fix.
Perhaps ten minutes of time on the late news might be devoted to sports – scores and a few highlights. If you followed a particular team that wasn’t in your area, you’d have to hope for a bit of coverage in the sports section of the morning newspaper.
And, as our newspaper and most of our television channels originated from Cincinnati, a city without an NBA team, it was as if professional basketball didn’t exist.
In that pre-internet, pre-cable, pre-ESPN world, there was one place to find detailed coverage of the sports world.
The Sporting News would arrive in the school library toward the week’s end and the competition for it would be fierce. The competition for the previous week’s issue, which was now free to be checked out, would be equally so.
A couple classmates were fortunate enough to have subscriptions – heady stuff for a pre-teen – so there were often a couple extra copies to be had if you were connected.
Sports Illustrated was a must-read, but The Sporting News was the source for a recap of a Bulls/Spurs matchup on a Tuesday night in February.
(though the game would have taken place a week and a half or more before you read about it)
The Sporting News was also the most indispensible source to gather (relatively) current statistics in far greater detail than the sports section. Even the box scores were more granular.
It was the place to get the information to trump your buddies when the question of who was leading the country in scoring was up for discussion.
(and knowing it was some small forward from California-Irvine averaging 26.2 points a game)
At twelve, I’d pore over each page, accumulating a layer of newsprint on my fingers, as though it contained the sum of all knowledge in the universe.
Thirty-three years ago, fifth grade was coming to a close and summer break was within sight, just a few, tantalizing weeks away. Baseball box scores would have been jostling with coverage of the NBA playoffs for space within the pages of The Sporting News.
That May, my grandfather passed away. Five months later, his beloved Pittsburgh Pirates staged a dramatic comeback to beat the heavily-favored Baltimore Orioles in the World Series.
Today, it’s been a couple years since I thumbed through a copy of The Sporting News. There are numerous opportunities to access the information – up to the moment – that made the magazine so prized back in the day.
(and I don’t even need that accessibility to know that the Pirates are, as they have been for much of the past two decades, near the bottom of the standings)
Here are four songs that were on the Billboard Hot 100 in early May, 1979…
Suzi Quatro And Chris Norman – Stumblin’ In
from If You Knew Suzi (1978)
Suzi Quatro is a long-time member of the every-growing cast of acts that I intend to check out. I remember her as the leather-clad rocker Leather Tuscadero on the television series Happy Days, but I know only a song or two by her with Stumblin’ In, her smash duet with Smokie’s Chris Norman, being one of them.
Though Stumblin’ In might be less rock than Quatro’s usual fare, that’s cool with me as I totally dig the breezy number. There something about the song that I relate to summer.
(I suppose because of how often I heard it at the pool during the summer of ’79)
Blondie – Heart Of Glass
from The Platinum Collection (1994)
I wasn’t listening to much music in 1979, but I did know Blondie’s Heart Of Glass. On the infrequent occasions when there was music in my life, Heart Of Glass seemed to be playing.
I loved it – the trancey, shimmering disco beat and the sexy indifference of Debbie Harry’s vocal. There had to be millions of twelve-year old boys who took notice of Debbie Harry in 1979.
I didn’t know it then, but Blondie would become one of my favorite bands of the time and one that I still adore. The group incorporated a lot of musical styles into their sound, sometimes disasterously, but often the failures were at least interesting.
Styx – Renegade
from Greatest Hits (1992)
Styx was the first band I ever saw in concert. Years later, I saw them again and met guitarist Tommy Shaw, who sang lead on Renegade, backstage. He seemed like a gracious, affable fellow. I feel kind of bad because I interrupted our conversation. I noticed a girl with a broken foot who I knew a coffee shop where I’d seen her a few times.
I thought her to be quite fetching, so, it was adios, Tommy and hello fetching, broken-footed, coffee-shop girl.
(of course, I would have understood had he done the same)
Chic – I Want Your Love
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box (1998)
Like Suzi Quatro, Chic is another act that I’ve mentally tagged to explore further. I know the hits as Le Freak was mammoth and Good Times was sampled by Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight as well as inspiring Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust and Blondie’s Rapture.
In the ’80s bassist Bernard Edwards and late drummer Tony Thompson were members of the short-lived The Power Station. And guitarist Nile Rodgers was an in-demand producer for acts including David Bowie, INXS, Duran Duran, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Beck, The B-52′s, and Mick Jagger – to name just a very few – as well as performing as a member of Robert Plant’s supergroup The Honeydrippers.