Friday, April 12, 2024

MOMENTS, MEMORIES and MADNESS with STEVE CAMERON: All those blasts from my past are having an impact

| August 23, 2020 1:12 AM

Say what?


Sorry, but my hearing ain’t what it used to be.

Sure, getting older is part of it, but covering sports all these years has a lot to do with why my ears are constantly ringing.

Of course, we have to include shooting in this category — because whatever was left of my hearing probably went for good on that trip to fire an AR-15 somewhere in the mountains.

It was really fun just blowing up dirt and stuff, just a great old time.

Unfortunately, as a rookie shooter, I made a critical mistake.

I asked, “Is that enough for today?”


Well, I thought that meant both of us, and I took off my ear protection.

My buddy Duane was NOT entirely done shooting, though, and unloaded another shot or two while standing about 10 feet away.

It sounded like a bazooka had exploded inside my head, and I couldn’t hear a word he said on the drive home.

THE BLAST from the AR-15 was just a culmination of years feeling like I’ve been part of an artillery company, and that was just covering sports events.

You think I’m joking?

Then just go stand at the wrong place in the stadium when the University of Montana scores a touchdown.

The Griz gang fires off one of the loudest, most stunning cannon blasts I’ve ever heard — and like every other time, I wasn’t ready for it and thought I’d been killed.

The only proof I was still alive was that I know God doesn’t look anything like my radio partner that day.

Hell, NOBODY looks like him — so ever so slowly, I realized I was recovering.

There are plenty of schools that shoot something when the team races out to play football or basketball — I mean, West Virginia’s character with the coonskin cap and a musket can get your attention.

But cannons like Montana’s…

The ROTC gang at Colorado State fires a thing that, I swear, you can hear on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.

And naturally, Army has some massive instrument of destruction at West Point.

It was so loud that I found myself hoping that the Black Knights of the Hudson would get shut out.

ALSO, believe it or not, I’ve been in crowds where just ordinary human beings made so much noise that you couldn’t talk to the person next to you.

Even yelling was difficult.

The loudest fans I’ve ever encountered were in the old Metrodome in Minneapolis — not for football, but when the Twins were in the last days of a pennant race.

The great George Brett once told an interviewer than the Metrodome mob actually intimidated him — and that’s just remarkable.

Obviously, indoor crowds have a huge advantage in creating a mind-numbing dim.

Try having a chat with your pal inside Allen Fieldhouse when the Kansas hoop lads are in the midst of a 19-2 run.

But there are wild, loud outdoor settings, too.

Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City is famous for causing opposing teams to jump offside — and naturally, so is CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

Those two outdoor nuthouses kind of stand alone, matching that passion of the fans with a stadium design that seems to send sound echoing back and forth from one side to the other.

NO ONE, I suspect, shed serious tears when the Kingdome finally was blown to pieces.

Seattle now has two gorgeous, fan-friendly venues replacing it.

But one thing I can say about the Kingdome…

No, wait.

I’ll frame this as a story.

I’ve covered the Kansas City Royals in four different stretches, and one of them ran from late 1989 through 1992.

Through one odd scheduling quirk after another (mine, not the team’s), I had never been to a game in Seattle when I arrived in the early summer of 1990.

I was really looking forward to seeing Ken Griffey Jr. in his natural habitat.

That was Junior’s second year in the big leagues, and it was already obvious he would be a superstar.

I had no idea, however, that the Kingdome was such a dump.

(If it makes you feel any better, that airplane hangar where the Rays play ball in St. Pete is far worse.)

NATURALLY, Griffey unloaded one of his 630 home runs during my first game in the Kingdome — and suddenly, the place sounded like the scene of a shootout in Vietnam.

Fireworks are great, no question, but they belong out over Lake Coeur d’Alene on the Fourth of July.

Maybe on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

But not INDOORS, for heaven’s sake.

It scared me out of my wits (such wits as I’ve ever possessed).

Seriously, who would guess you’d fire artillery pieces inside a warehouse like the Kingdome?

I was already going deaf from all those cannons at football games.

I wasn’t ready for a shelling inside a building that had no redeeming features — except for holding sound far too well.

On top of the racket, the whole place smelled like cordite for hours — and I wondered how outfielders could track a fly ball through all the smoke.

And then…

I saw Mount Rainier for the first time a couple of days later, on a drive to the airport.

“Amazing sight, isn’t it?” said my colleague.

“What?” I said.

“Speak up, for heaven’s sake.”


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball, once per month during the offseason.