The best place to do it was in Daddy’s car. I did it my bedroom sometimes, but really the best place was in the ’64 Bonneville parked in the driveway. I was a young teen back then, so my dad trusted me in that car – as long as the Bonneville and I stayed in the driveway.
Last Saturday afternoon, for the first time ever, I did it in my kitchen – as a 60 year old. To be honest with you, what I did that day in the kitchen I never did in the Bonneville or in my childhood bedroom. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I just couldn’t back then. It wasn’t allowed. Not at my home. Not at my young age at the time. And especially not before dark.
Mostly because of Daddy, I became a die hard fan of University of North Carolina sports. I love that he did that for me, but I kind of disliked that he did it while we lived in a God-forsaken town in South Georgia at the time. Technically, we lived in Jacksonville, Florida. But back then, it was South Georgia. And South Georgia television didn’t show Carolina games when I was a kid.
The only good thing about that town at the time was that we could visit a newsstand in Five Points around midnight on Saturday night, buy a first edition of the Sunday Charlotte Observer and read about the Carolina football game played the afternoon before. Back then, Carolina never played night football games. They had no lights in the stadium. Most colleges did not way back then.
On the other hand, most of the Carolina basketball games were played at night. And I loved Tar Heel basketball even more than I did football. Rarely was there a need to visit Five Points News when it came to basketball. We still did it. We just really didn’t need to so much.
You see, even residents of South Georgia can, after the sun sets every night, receive radio signals from WPTF out of Raleigh and WBT out of Charlotte. It’s an FCC thing or something. Those two radio stations are allowed to boost power north and south of their transmitter after the sun goes down. And as I recall, one or the other of those two stations carried my favorite team’s football and basketball games each season during my formative years. So, when Carolina played games after sunset, I had access to at least the sounds of those games.
You understand, I only had access. And because Carolina football was only played during daylight hours, I only had access to basketball games. And even those broadcasts were shaky.
Now, as I recall, way back then I could more clearly receive the radio signal from WPTF in my bedroom. But even then, the signal came and went. It was frustrating, to say the least. The problem was, most of the games, as I recall, were broadcast on WBT.
To listen to Carolina basketball games on WBT while living in South Georgia, it was crucial to have the ability to move one’s radio antenna at least fifteen feet north and south from time to time. That is, if one wanted enough clear radio reception to understand the unfolding of those games I listened to. My bedroom didn’t come close to having the floor space for that. That’s where doing it in the Bonneville came in handy. Reception was directly related to the position of the antenna.
When Carolina’s junior forward, Bill Bunting, or super sophomore, Charlie Scott drove to the basket as the Bonneville was near the street, the kids scored only when the car moved to the garage. The announcer’s description of the drives themselves became just sounds of static and Pontiac engine noise. Frustrating for sure, but doable given the technology at the time.
And incredible technology it was for a young teen in love with that team.
Well, late last Saturday afternoon, before sunset and for the first time ever, I tried to do in my kitchen what I used to do in the driveway and in my bedroom all those years ago. But this time, it did not involve radio right away. I live in Charlotte now. I can sit in my basement and pick up every word spoken on WBT these days. This time, I tried to secure and WATCH a Carolina football game on ESPN3 – a source for watching games only on one’s computer. Maybe, as an older guy, I am more impatient with technology than I was as a younger one. Maybe, these days, I am too accustomed to watching the REAL ESPN on high def television. Maybe I am just a crotchety old man with a inadequate computer.
But damn. Last Saturday, this crotchety old man began to stare uncontrollably at the status bar at the bottom of my computer screen. When the video was poor and unviewable, the status bar read, “Weak video.” But the “weak video” pictures and sounds were in real time. When the video quality read, “Strong,” the pictures were great – high def great – but the frames stuttered and the picture and sound froze often and the action and announcers lagged terribly behind reality.
Look, I can’t move my computer from the curb to the garage. I thought about unplugging the whole damned thing, driving it around the block a couple of times, bringing it back home, pluging it in again and trying again to watch the game as the new technology kind of promised me I could. But I did not.
Know what I did next? I shut down the internet. And I reverted to my childhood. I tuned into the Carolina football game on WBT, a station I now clearly receive. And I wrote this Lunar!
Honestly? I remember nothing of last Saturday’s game. But I so damned clearly remember that Bonneville, my bedroom and my dad. And I am now quite certain the best place for such stuff is my very own Charlotte kitchen.