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The Boston Globe

Sports

Leigh Montville

A memorable time

The time was 3 o’clock in the morning. Maybe 4. The place was London. Robbie Sims and another sparring partner, I can’t remember his name, a white kid from Philadelphia, came through the door of a dining room at Bailey’s Hotel, a low-rent sort of place in Kensington. Robbie Sims was holding a full- sized American flag on a pole.

“It sounds corny,” Bob Arum, the fight promoter, said, “but let’s sing ‘God Bless America.’ “

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I remember standing in that room, singing the words. Corny. Marvin Hagler had whipped Alan Minter in three bloody rounds at Wembley Arena for the middleweight championship of the world four or five hours earlier. A medium- scale riot had followed. The room was safety at last. No more beer bottles flying from the second balcony. No more skinheads on the prowl, looking for the dozen or so Americans in the crowd. Danny Snyder. That was the white kid’s name. Danny Snyder and Robbie Sims at attention. The song. Corny when you talk about it. Not corny at the time.

I remember that . . .

The game had stuttered and wobbled toward the drama at the end. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. I am not good at remembering the particulars, but I remember somebody had reached base and somebody else was up and I looked at my scorecard in an attempt to forecast the future. Who was left on the Red Sox’ bench? Who would be called to pinch hit somewhere down the line?

I ripped out a piece of paper.

I wrote Bernie Carbo’s name across the front.

Sitting in a rooftop seat on the other side of a piece of glass at Fenway Park was the columnist, Mike Barnicle. I held the paper in the air. He nodded at the name. Bernie Carbo.

I remember that . . .

The idea was to beat the crowd. I was a new guy and I still thought it was an important idea. I left my

seat at Harvard Stadium with a couple of minutes remaining and walked the concrete stairs. I was on my way to the locker rooms to collect words on the great Yale win when I decided to stand at the end of the field to watch a few more plays, just to get a feeling for the game and the day.

I was at the 50-yard line, standing in the middle of the field, by the time Harvard scored that final touchdown and Pete Varney caught that final 2-point conversion. Half the crowd seemed to be standing with me. The score was 29-29. How did this happen? I remember walking farther and farther onto the field as each strange moment occurred, not thinking, simply following the light and the excitement, drawn to it. There was no control. No one had any control. Who walks onto the field in the middle of a game? No control. Everyone walked. I walked.

I remember that . . .

The Celtics had won the championship of the world in Houston. There was a celebration party at the hotel. The party had continued for a while. Rick Robey, the reserve center, had fallen asleep on a couch with his mouth open.

Larry Bird was talking quietly about the championship and the games and basketball and whatever. As he talked, he tossed cheese balls at Rick Robey’s open mouth. Cheese balls bounced off Rick Robey’s forehead. Cheese balls bounced off Rick Robey’s nose. Cheese balls went into Rick Robey’s open mouth. Larry Bird had terrific aim with a cheese ball from about 20 feet.

I remember that . . .

“Tessler invented the light bulb,” the young guy said. Broken English.

“Edison invented the light bulb,” I said. “Thomas Alva Edison.”

“Tessler,” the kid said. “I learned that in school.”

“Edison,” I said. “I learned that in school.”

Another late night. Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. The 1984 Olympics. The kid’s name was Boris and he worked for the state police. He wanted to meet Americans. I wanted to meet Yugoslavs. Edison invented the light bulb. I was sure. No, suddenly I was not so sure.

I remember that . . .

The streets of Lake Placid were filled with happy people in the cold. They were waving flags and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” as if it were part of the Top 40. I was talking with Jack O’Callahan’s father . . . The man from the Cotton Bowl was standing behind me. He was downcast. He had picked a loser, Boston College, for his game. There was time for one more play. Doug Flutie dropped back and Gerard Phelan headed toward the end zone in Miami . . . Same place. The Orange Bowl. The Patriots had not won here in decades and now they were going to win and they were going to the Super Bowl. I was on the field, behind the Patriots bench, and the Dire Straits song, “The Walk of Life,” was being played during the two-minute warning and the players were dancing. I was dancing . . .

A dark little press room. I was typing the story about the end of the Red Sox’ long travails for an early edition. A small television relayed the last- inning action from the field at Shea Stadium. A ground ball headed toward Bill Buckner . . . The skaters came down the Montreal Forum ice in a fury. Overtime. Too many men on the ice. My face was pressed to the plexiglass behind the Bruins goal. Mario Tremblay passed to Yvon Lambert. Yvon Lambert shot . . . Evel Knievel did not make the canyon . . . A wrestler from Oklahoma named John Smith rode in the seat next to me in a van through the streets of Seoul. He fingered the gold medal he had won two hours earlier . . . Schoolboys dived for basketballs that went out of bounds at the Garden . . . Ted Williams talked on a spring afternoon in Florida . . . Bobby Orr retired . . .

I remember that, all of that, and much more . . .

When I was 10 years old, fifth grade, I delivered newspapers in the morning. The New Haven Journal-Courier. Somewhere in my route -- usually in front of the New Haven YMCA -- I would take a break. I would sit on top of my bag full of papers and read the morning sports.

On the left-hand side of the page, there always was a column written by a man whose picture was printed at the top. I would stare at the picture often. The man would write about the grand events he had seen, the grand places he had visited, the grand people he had met. I would think that he had the greatest job in the world, this man with his picture printed every day in the sports page.

I have been the man with his picture printed at the top of the sports page in this newspaper for 21 years. I am leaving to take a job with Sports Illustrated, a magazine that sometimes prints your picture in the back. It has been an honor and a flat-out pleasure to be here. The man with his picture printed at the top of the sports page thanks anyone who ever has spent any time reading any of the nonsense he has written. Sincerely. The job has not been a disappointment.

I will remember that forever.

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