Half the fan I used to be

When I left Bozeman a week ago, the sports fan in me stayed behind as well.

It took me two days to find out who won the national championship game, I missed all of Sunday’s Patriots game (a good thing, it turns out) and I was stunned to see the Mark McGwire steroid admission the following day.

My family and I were visiting a house with no cable/satellite TV and I’m just not used to clicking on to the Internet to get my sports news. I’m just not as anxious to get my fix.

It wasn’t always that way. I’m not the fan I used to be. Are any of us after the innocence of childhood ends?

I remember, as an 8-year-old, being obsessed with Boston Red Sox box scores – and with Fred Lynn. The Sox’ centerfielder was like me: he batted and threw left-handed. OK, those are the only similarities, but he was my idol. No. 19’s almost daily spectacular catches in centerfield were what I admired most. That and the way he took his warm-up swings before the pitcher was ready. He was cool. That’s all that mattered to me.

Later on, I was also into Bird, Grogan and Bourque – Boston’s Big Three, in my mind.

But before that trio became legendary, some of my passion – my innocence – was lost when the Sox traded Fred Lynn. It was unfathomable to me. Still is, in a way.

HOW COULD THEY?! That my prevailing thought. But then Carlton Fisk left town, then Cecil Cooper, then Mo Vaughn, Roger Clemens, Nomar, Pedro – even Bourque eventually. Each time, a little part of my passion for sports went with them. Sports are a business, I was finding out. Reality check? Check.

And when the Sox did the unthinkable (win the World Series), that did it for me. What could possibly top that?

So when my wife and I arrived at the Sommet Center on Saturday night for the Nashville Predators game with the visiting Anaheim (no longer Mighty) Ducks, I wasn’t giddy with anticipation like when I was a kid; I still had Nashville’s throbbing blues scene dancing in my head.

The base lines, the horns, the pounding drums, the searing harmonica – it all resonated within me. There’s nothing like live music. Sports are great, but when a band has its stuff together and you’re tapping away on the floor with your feet and on the table with your hands and the crowd around you is doing the same thing …

Two days before the Preds game, I slipped into 3rd and Lindsley, a Nashville bar located at, well, you know … to see a keyboard player I had met just 24 hours prior. I had no idea what to expect, except for some live blues. And, in fact, some Blues Brothers.

OK, time for a little background check.

We were in Nashville to visit the little girl our daughter lived with while in foster care in China before both were adopted. They’re foster sisters. Our Nina is 4 and Kan, her older “sister,” is 6.

Kan’s father, Jefferson, plays keyboards for country singer/legend Tanya Tucker and is well established in Music City. Being a music fan, I wanted to hear/see him play, but a bar with live music isn’t exactly a kid-friendly environment, so I went by myself. It turned out to be a great decision.

The band that Jefferson was playing in that night was put together not quite at the last minute, but their rehearsal time was minimal. Their appearance was part of an evening to benefit a local musician who was dealing with some medical problems and many band members flew in special for the occasion.

Special occasion indeed.

They opened with “In the Midnight Hour” and “Knock on Wood,” fitting because Steve Cropper, who was the lead guitarist the night I attended, co-wrote those classics. Cropper, who also co-penned Otis Redding’s mega-hit “Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay,” gained most of his fame by appearing in the 1980 cult classic movie The Blues Brothers.

“Blue Lou” Marini was in that flick as well, and blew his saxophone on stage at 3rd and Lindsley. He’s 65 now but the only difference from his Blues Brothers days (his big scene was at the diner with Aretha Franklin) is that his trademark long hair and bushy mustache are white.

Before long, the band – I’m not sure what they billed themselves as – were jazzing up the joint with “Can’t Turn You Loose,” the song that plays during the police chase through the mall in The Blues Brothers.

Watching “Blue Lou” and the horn section sway during that song was quite a treat. All that was missing was Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Mr. Fabulous. Hey, maybe someday they can put the band back together. All it will take is a visit to The Penguin.

The band closed the show with “Soul Man,” another classic that Cropper played on. Next time you hear the Sam and Dave version, listen for “Play it, Steve” – a shout out to Steve Cropper himself.

The only disappointing part about the set was that it lasted just 45 minutes.

The Predators? They lost 3-2. Oh well. Not the end of the world.

That happened when the Sox traded Fred Lynn.


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