Sunday, April 10, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy--Sports: Rooftops, Subways, and Skating

How about this as a sport: Leaping from rooftop to rooftop without a safety net.

My Dad, Harold Burk, grew up in Manhattan at a time when cars were becoming more common. In addition to dodging traffic to play stick ball (a kind of street softball), he and his friends would dare each other to leap across the rooftops of the 6 or 8 story tenements in their neighborhood. Luckily, he was sure-footed. (When he told me this story, he seemed a bit amazed that he had survived--me too!)

Dad (shown at left, graduating from elementary school) grew up, served in WWII, came home, married Mom (Daisy Schwartz), and had a family. As long as I can remember, he was a rabid Yankees fan. Since we lived in the Bronx, a subway ride away from Yankee Stadium, he'd take my twin and me and our little sister to games several times each summer.

Sometimes the tickets would come from his travel agent connections, and we'd wind up in the box seats behind home plate, with a great view of catcher Elston Howard's back and a chance to hear Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris's bat sock the ball out of the park. We saw many of the Yankee greats of the 1950s and 1960s, way too many to name.

We savvy local fans knew what to do when the ball game got down to the middle of the 9th inning. If the score wasn't close, we would scamper out of our seats, exit the stadium, and run up the stairs to the elevated subway alongside the stadium, subway token in hand. Standing on the subway platform overlooking the ball field gave us a perfect place to watch the final out. Sometimes the subway train would idle there for a moment, waiting for the out (conductors and motormen were fans too) and then we'd jump inside the train as the doors closed, whisked away before the other fans were even out of their seats.

Today my spectator sport of choice is figure skating. It's a great sport to watch on TV when your hubby is out skiing. And it's even better to see live, at a rink where Olympic champs train (Alexei Yagudin has startingly blue eyes up close!) or at an international competition. My most memorable skate world moment was in 2003, watching Shen and Zhao win pairs gold at the World Figure Skating Championships in Washington, D.C., skating to Turandot. Below, I'm at SkateAmerica in 2006, next to Ina and Zimmerman's poster, with a stuffed toy in my jacket to throw onto the ice as a tribute to the skater I like the best.

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