Sunday, October 26, 2014

Grandmother, the Orioles and the Colts

No this will not be a brief essay about my paternal’s grandmother’s love of animals. It is an account of her idiosyncratic thinking about Baltimore sports teams. I have been thinking of her lately because the Royals just swept the Orioles so the Orioles will not be in the World Series this year.

For you youngsters in the audience, the Colts used to be a Baltimore football team. To this day I have trouble pronouncing the word Indianapolis when it proceeds Colts. I am very happy that the Baltimore team is called the Ravens because it gives a literary flavor to the Baltimore aviary, but I have yet to get used to the idea that the Colts are elsewhere.

I digress.

My paternal grandmother was outspoken about everything and indifferent about nothing. Her visits to our family home were alarming because they were always unannounced and years apart. My father grew up in Baltimore but some years later my grandmother moved to Texas and took much of the rest of the family with her.

I would be calmly reading a book (in whatever town we happened to be living in at at the time) when I would hear a tapping not at my chamber door but on a window. My grandmother would be waving wildly. Once in the house, accompanied by my diminutive grandfather and a couple of cousins, she would hold forth, frequently on sports. I would listen, but not challenge her interpretation of wins and losses.

Her view was simple. Baltimore teams won because they were brilliant. When they lost it was because they had been induced to throw games.

I understood her feeling about the Orioles. Was there a ball Brooks Robinson couldn’t catch? And yes, Boog Powell and Frank Robinson were brilliant, but could any team win every game? I would give her skeptical looks, but would return to the book I was reading while she regaled my father and whomever else would listen about the natural superiority of Baltimore sports teams.

My grandmother’s ire was raised most dramatically after the Baltimore Colts lost to the New York Jets in Superbowl III. I don’t recall how soon after this loss she made a surprise visit to our home, but she was still wound up about Johnny Unitas being defeated by Joe Namath.

The adults in the room must have been uninterested in arguing with her about the game because suddenly I, who knew nothing about sports and cared less, found myself catechized thusly:

Who’s the best quarterback in football?

Johnny Unitas.

Who has the smartest mouth in football?

Joe Namath.

How could the New York Jets defeat the Baltimore Colts?

They played a better game.


How could the New York Jets defeat the Baltimore Colts?

The Colts threw the game.


She turned to my father. “See, even a child could tell that something was fishy.”

This would be the last time I would give in so easily to my grandmother. In the years to come the discussions would be about politics, a subject about which I did care, and another sort of game would be joined.

© 2014 Stephanie Patterson


  1. What a character ! She would not have liked yours truly - -- I know zilch re baseball. When I worked at a private school on my first job in Manhattan - the rich kids all talked about the uncle of one of the boys a baseball star named Joe Namath ... I had no earthly idea who HE was! tjstraw

  2. So one of my friends just pointed out to me that I said "proceed" when I meant "precede." AAARGH. I hate it when I make stupid mistakes like that.

  3. This is so funny. Steph. My grandmother knew nothing of sports, but her six sons were all great baseball fans. Five for the Yankees and one for the New York Giants. When they were at work, she would listen to the games on the radio so that when they called her up she could give them the scores. I became a baseball fan because I was often assigned to listen while I did my chores so I could report the scores to her, so she could report to them!