“When I was a boy…”
I remember this phrase distinctly. My dad would say it all the time to me when I complained of kid problems, such as rain preventing me from playing baseball or having a single assignment for homework. He would say it, then quickly follow-up with a ridiculous thing he allegedly did as a child.
“When I was a boy, we had to walk to school – uphill both ways!” or, the more original of the two was from his winters in northern Maine, “When I was a boy, I baked a potato, carried it to school, holding it to keep my hands warm, then ate it at lunch and walked home cold!” He seemed so old then.
I didn’t really think about it until a few weeks ago, when I explained to my sister, who is now a Freshman in High School, that when my first “girlfriend” – that 7th-grade term connotes sitting together at lunch – and I broke up, I had to call her on the phone. “When I was a boy, we didn’t have texting!” This was the first time I’d ever used the phrase. I caught myself in the midst of saying it, but finished anyway, because it was true. She seemed relatively shocked that there was no texting when I was 12. Now, I’m 18. It seems that the Age of Information was all there ever was, and how could anything be any different? What did we do before?
It’s the same way with games. I love baseball; if I wasn’t playing it, I was either reading about it or playing a baseball video game. MVP Baseball 2005 – the best baseball video game of all-time – was one my friends and I played tirelessly. When I played it by myself, I was weird in the way that I hated using good teams, and preferred to set-up a team and sim. I didn’t like playing the actual game. I’d select a woeful franchise and pick someone like the Kansas City Royals or the Detroit Tigers (they were terrible back then) and try to trade and draft them into relevance. As computers became faster and able to handle bigger data, I discovered a whole genre of games called “baseball sims”. Recently, I bought the fantastic baseball simulation game “Out of the Park Baseball ’15”. It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy it a lot, but it lacked something. On their Twitter account, they recently proclaimed that, had the 1994 baseball season not stopped due to labor discord, then the ill-destined Montreal Expos would have captured the World Series crown.
“How can they know that?” I wondered. Obviously they run a simulation something like 1000 times and see what the average is, or what happens most of the time, but how do they know? I just didn’t get the sense they accounted for any luck. If Bucky Bleepin’ Dent, he of the 40 career home-runs over a 12-year career, can hit a home-run when the Yankees needed it the most because it’s against the Sox, then luck needs to be pulled into it.
And there was one game that blended managerial strategy, baseball acumen, real-life performance, and luck, it was Strat-O-Matic. Truly the greatest baseball game – regardless of genre – ever.
(How curmudgeonly can I get? I’m ripping computers while purporting an old dice-and-card game. “When I was a boy…”)
As a child, I can very vividly recall sitting down to the old, wooden table in my Aunt’s kitchen where my Uncle and I would shuffle the cards, create line-ups, and roll dice to play this great tribute to the great American past-time.
What brings this all on is that today, just a few hours ago exactly, I attended my first college class ever. It makes me feel old. It makes me slightly sad that those games I played with my Uncle and my friends isn’t played as much anymore. Maybe in 30 years, with the hipsters of that generation, it can make a come-back as retro, but for now I believe it has been forgotten, and disappointingly so.
-By the way, this isn’t the first time I’ve wistfully looked back at the past, you can check out my thoughts on childhood heroes here.-
But at the same time, the game won’t be forgotten by those who have been able to play it, because they know how much fun it is. Another reason I decided to write this post is because my good friend Andy agreed to sit down and play with me for one, final time before we both headed off to college. Even the teams we used were old, the 2006 squads of the Marlins and Red Sox. (Jonathan Papelbon was still trying to become a Starting Pitcher for the BoSox and Miguel Cabrera was just 24, not yet the beast he is today.)
We split two games, and then work prevented us from a tie-breaker, which is kind of symbolic, showing how we’ve grown up. We can’t devote entire afternoons to playing out a series. We’re not boys anymore. But as we were playing, and eventually tying the series (my least favorite outcome in any sports game ever), I had a really good time. It was so nice to, if only for an hour, go back and remember what it was like to be a kid.
So even though we can’t be kids anymore, and even though Strat-O-Matic is fading out of popularity, it was still enjoyable to go back. And every once in a while, I know I can go back, sit down, roll the dice, and re-live “When I was a boy…”
Sam Fortier is a Freshman Journalism Major at Syracuse University. He enjoys kayaking, writing, and eating bratwurst. However, he does not like Pina Coladas (or being caught in the rain). You can read him here every Monday.