Debating William & Mary, sports and culture since 2011. Updated every Wednesday.

About

Founded by three former sportswriters, Crim Del Harris seeks to explore the intersection of sports and every day life with quality writing and intellectual scrutiny.

Updated every Wednesday, check in for articles on topics running the gamut from introspective critiques of Bay Area sports figures to why Woody Allen is turning into Michael Bay. Expect a healthy dose of William and Mary sports, vibrant debate and long form pieces along the way.

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In the past, I have written about gods and have sometimes done that here. I do not worship gods but I like to know they are there.”

— James Salter, Burning the Days

“Hey man, how are you?” Chris Tillman asked.

He was taller than I expected. I remember watching him on television when he was a rookie and thinking him sinewy and stretched out, like a liberal arts science professor. I remember taking off early from work to watch Tillman’s first start when he was called up as a rookie. Tillman, for me, represented the promise of hope.

“I’m okay. Hey would you be interested in being interviewed for a notebook I’m writing?”

It is surprising how little I remember from Chris Tillman’s first start. In my mind, I see him standing on the mound, tall and skinny in the Orioles’ home whites, preparing to throw a 94 mph fastball or a table-dropping curve to fellow rookie Matt Wieters behind the plate. I had forgotten, that Wieters did not play in that game. Greg Zaun, fossilized and forgettable, did.

“Sure, hold on.”

The conversation did not last long, maybe two and a half minutes at the most. At the end, I turned off my tape recorder and asked him the one question I actually wanted to ask him.

“This is kind of a stupid question, but do you feel old?”

“Do I feel old?”

I got into sports writing for the main reason I got out of it, namely that I couldn’t think of anything else. When I first entered college, I saw myself mostly as a continuation of high school—athletic, reserved, isolated …

My first paycheck as a writer came from covering high school football for a local paper the fall of my junior year. I worked there for the next two years, all the while continuing to write stories for my school paper. My last job was covering the Norfolk Tides for a website. It paid four dollars a day, but was my first ever access to a professional locker room.

By the time I took the Tides’ job, I figured Tillman had already made it. He started the season in the major league starting rotation and threw six-innings of shutout ball against the Tampa Bay Rays. I remember watching Tillman strike out seven Yankees on a rainy New York evening one fall. It was a rainy evening in New York, and the Orioles were wearing red caps. It was Tillman’s first dominant start and seemed a sign of good things to come.

Over the years, Tillman became a cause célèbre among Oriole fans. His promise and his youth made him a type of shooting star, a blinking green light on which we could dream. He certainly was never a god, but he was different. He was better. And through his reflected image so were we.

Tillman paused for a second before answering my question. The locker room was very quiet. A small group of players had a card game going in the back corner. Various others sat in front of their lockers texting on their phones, reading the newspaper, or playing on their ipads—the various small things that make up the bulk of anyone’s day.

“I guess I feel old being around these guys.”

The average age of the Tides that season was late twenties or early thirties, ancient ages for players in Triple-A. Tillman had only turned 23 that April, but was now in his third season in Norfolk.

“You know you’re still the youngest player on this team, right?” I asked.

“Really?”

“Yeah, you’re still a few months younger than Hudson.”

I was younger than both of them, only by a couple of months. A month after graduating from college I decided I was not going to go into professional sportswriting, at least not right away. I knew I would miss the games as a social experience. I used to tear up watching high school football teams runs through the banner held by cheerleaders before a game, knowing that they, and I, would spend a good part of their life chasing that feeling. But the things I wanted to say, I just couldn’t see a market for.

That’s where this blog comes in. All three of us, who started this site, were, at one time, professional sportswriters. None of us covered Super Bowls or appeared in the pages of Sports Illustrated. But we did the best we could in the space we could.

A year after college, none of us ended up as sportswriters. Part of this was circumstance, part of this was choice. Yet, the more we move away from sports in one aspect of our lives, the more we realize sports still matter. Not in a ephemeral, romantic type of way, but more in the sense that there is something ingrained in each of us at this stage of our lives that still responds to seeing a game on TV or watching a great play in person. We do not worship gods, but it is nice to know they are still there at times.

Salter concludes the preface of his autobiography by saying, “In youth it feels one’s concerns are everyone’s. Later on it is clear they are not. Finally they become the same again.” This blog is meant to reflect the first of these statements. Ostensibly, it will be about sports. More likely, it will be a reflection of how we see ourselves.

I left the clubhouse after speaking to Tillman that day a little sadder than when I came in. The memory of watching that sinewy, strong 19-year old rookie from my rented summer apartment seemed of another time now, like two people speaking in an old tape recording. My world had changed, and so had his.

Yet, we were still here. He to continue pitching at Triple-A, looking to regain the magic that once made him one of the best prospects in baseball. And us to write for this site, looking to capture the spirit of the games that once drew us so close to them, like the reflection of a sunrise just off the horizon, once before.

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