Big Syd - 1962, 1998 have similarities

October 30, 1998

I usually don't hang out with my sometime-colleagues at The Morning Herald, but when there's a BIG event, like a Gulf War or an O.J. verdict, we're all drawn to the newsroom's single TV set like iron filings to a magnet, moths to a flame or West Virginians to a Wal-Mart opening.

Thursday afternoon was such a moment, when we gathered to watch the space shuttle Discovery, with 77-year-old John Glenn aboard, safely clear the pad at Cape Canaveral and head into orbit.

Some of us hadn't been born by February 1962, when Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. Others remembered seeing grainy black-and-white TV images at home or in a classroom. All breathed a sigh of relief when the "Roger, go with throttle up" command wasn't followed by an explosion, as on that horrible day in 1986.

You go, John Glenn, back into space, you and your own already considerable legend.


While the war hero-turned astronaut-turned U.S. senator-turned astronaut studies the effects of space flight on an anything-but-ordinary senior citizen, we on Earth are getting a reality - make that a mortality - check.

The world is a far different place than it was when Glenn left it the first time.

In February 1962, the nation had its full complement of Kennedy brothers and Gabor sisters. Marilyn Monroe was still with us, but not much longer.

Nobody outside Liverpool or Hamburg had heard of The Beatles.

Madonna was a painting in some Italian museum. Prince was the guy who was married to Queen Elizabeth, or was it Grace Kelly?

Johnny Carson was still six months away from hosting his first "Tonight" show.

You couldn't listen to hip hop at the sock hop. Grease WAS the word.

There was no cable TV, video games, VCRs or ATMs. The Internet was inconceivable.

We didn't have Tang, because no astronaut had been in space long enough to drink it.

Vietnam was a back-page story.

Thirty-six and a half years ago, Maryland fans could still savor a football victory over Penn State the previous fall, not knowing that there wouldn't be another one in this millennium.

Smithsburg and Williamsport high schools didn't even have football teams yet. And if you were a girl and wanted to play any sport past the neighborhood-tomboy level, forget it.

There were 20 teams in the major leagues (although the newest two, the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s, later the Astros, still hadn't played so much as an exhibition game).

There were six teams in the NHL, 14 in the NFL and eight in the AFL (and I don't mean the Arena League). The NFL quarterbacks were guys like Unitas, Layne, Tittle, Starr, Jurgensen. Dean Smith and Joe Paterno weren't even head coaches yet. NASCAR was a regional sport. Bruno Sammartino, Killer Kowalski and Bobo Brazil ruled the WWWF, which later dropped its second "W." There was no interest here in that year's World Cup soccer tournament.

Instant replay didn't exist. Nor did ESPN. Or even PBS.

In some respects, however, the worlds of 1962 and 1998 aren't that much different.

In February 1962, the Yankees were the reigning world champions (OK, so were the Packers. And don't even bring up the Celtics). The single-season home run record had just fallen. Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, WAS the greatest - we just didn't know it yet. Jack Nicklaus was a threat to win the Masters. The Redskins stunk.

Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Sean Connery were hip. You could turn on the TV and see Lucy, the Beverly Hillbillies, Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith.

Strom Thurmond was an old guy in the Senate. Bill Clinton was acting like a high schooler, but that was OK because he still was one. And before the year was out, we wouldn't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

Good help was hard to find. There was nothing certain except death and taxes.

Cape Canaveral was still Cape Canaveral.

And John Glenn was a hero.

On with the predictions (last week: 11-8, .579; season: 147-50, .746):


Tonight's games

Linganore 36, Frederick 13 - I wouldn't have both oars in the water if I picked against Linganore.

Thomas Johnson 24, North Carroll 14 - Pats put the Panthers on one leg at a time.

Boonsboro 27, North Hagerstown 13 - Always pick the team with "Boo" in its name on Halloween weekend.

Hancock 36, Clay-Battelle 25 - I thought Clay-Battelle changed its name to Ali-Battelle after the first Liston fight.

Brunswick 31, Smithsburg 14 - Railroaders aren't a-freight of Leopards.

Middletown 46, South Hagerstown 13 - Now that we're on standard time, Knight falls even earlier.

Walkersville 20, Williamsport 17 - Lions may be a little tamer this season.

Catoctin 43, Francis Scott Key 33 - The scoreboard at FSK might be lit up like the skies over Fort McHenry in 1814.

Berkeley Springs 38, East Hardy 32 - Indians party Hardy.

Musselman 36, Hampshire 6 - But Newton's Third Law (and the WVSSAC points system) says that the Applemen will fall from No. 1 in the state after this weekend.

Hedgesville 30, Jefferson 28 - Eagles survive with their feathers, and faint playoff hopes, still intact.

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