Atlanta Braves infielder Gordon Beckham plays goalball with blinders on.
Back in the days when local televisions only showed thirteen channels.
When most houses only had one television and it wasn’t a flat screen that covered an entire wall.
When fights over who was going to watch what on television ended with my grandmother turning off the television so no one got to watch anything.
Back in those days, it seems the only time we weren’t fighting over the television was when one of the handful of television shows considered “absolute viewing” was on.
Saturday morning cartoons, William Conrad’s television series “Cannon,” any John Wayne movie, Saturday afternoon wrestling, and the Atlanta Braves’ baseball games were the only shows considered “absolute viewing” in our house. There were reasons the television was always on whenever these shows came on.
The television belonged to the kids in the house on Saturday morning.
My grandfather was a huge fan of the detective show “Cannon” and John Wayne movies.
Everyone in the house liked Saturday afternoon wrestling.
And, my Uncle Walter, who didn’t live with us but visited each and every day, was the Braves number one fan.
Before the Atlanta Braves became America’s baseball team, they were my Uncle Walter’s team. And it seems like his favorite place to watch the Braves play was at the home of his younger brother – my grandfather.
It didn’t matter what was on television, the channel was changed when Uncle Walter drove up and announced with a question, “Y’all got the TV on the Braves games, don’t you?”
Even if my grandfather was watching “Cannon” or a John Wayne movie, he would readily change the channel to the Braves game. My grandfather loved the Braves, but he wasn’t as big of a fan as his big brother.
Because the television only belonged unquestionably to us on Saturday mornings, we pouted and turned the channel from whatever we were watching when we saw Uncle Walter drive up.
“I’m tired of watching the Braves,” we mumbled under our breaths as we prepared to watch the game.
Watching the Braves wasn’t always a bad thing. There were some bright moments, like watching the game when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record.
My grandfather passed July 3, 1976, but the Braves continued to be absolute viewing because Uncle Walter continued to visit each and every day. And, during baseball season, his visits lasted until the Braves’ games ended.
In hindsight, perhaps the best part of being forced to watch the Braves play was the sense of family I felt watching the games with my grandfather, Uncle Walter, and the rest of the family.
Last month, I had the privilege of spending the day with some members of the Atlanta Braves as they celebrated Community Heroes Week and honored Hal Simpson, founder of the Georgia Blind Sports Association, and Hal’s son, Matt, who is part of the U.S. Paralympics goalball team that won a Silver Medal in Rio this month.
The Simpson’s presented a short lesson on how to play goalball and then the Braves’ players put on blinders and took to the court. Goalball is played on an indoor court. During the game, two teams face each other and try to prevent the other team from getting a ball pass them into their goal. All players must wear black-out goggles to even the playing field between those who are blind and visually impaired.
I didn’t play, but as I watched Matt and Braves players scramble around on the floor, I couldn’t help thinking about my Uncle Walter. The Atlanta Braves playing goalball would be “absolute viewing” for him.