November 13, 2008

Out of bounds: Athletes haunt us still today
By JAKE L INGER Sports editor

I remember an incident following the Green Bay Packers' 1997 Super Bowl win - their first title since the 1960s - where a photograph seemed to reveal the ghost of Vince Lombardi standing near a lamp post during the victory parade.

Could the apparition have been Lombardi returning to the place where he led the Packers to NFL greatness and sports lore 30 years prior?

Insert spooky Scooby Doo music here.

From what I remember (and correct me if I'm wrong Fay Vincent or Mr. Puzzled or E.L. Berry) the ghost was actually just a man dressed up like Lombardi watching the parade route. And he would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids - Vincent, Puzzled and Berry.

Ghosts of sports past seem to haunt us in modern times though. Baseball fans must wonder if the numerous legends of New York Yankees lore still haunted the grounds of Yankee Stadium for all of those years. How else could the Yanks have enjoyed such success as they did over the decades? It's just not fair.

I don't know how many ghosts of New England Patriots past could possibly haunt Foxboro, Mass., but something paranormal is going on there. A team that was the laughing stock of the NFL for years suddenly turns it around and wins Super Bowl after Super Bowl? They become the first team since the '72 Dolphins to record an undefeated regular season? C'mon!

Luckily, the New York ghosts prevented the Super Bowl capper in January.

Recently I decided that I was in need of a hobby to keep me from burning the midnight oil in Bowie and to alleviate my indulgent television viewing habits. As if the ghosts of Blade-News sports editors of old knew I was in need of a distraction, I opened up The Capital in Annapolis and saw a story about Pasadena Paranormal Society.

Based out of - you guessed it - Pasadena, Md., Pasadena Paranormal Society is a collection of interested and curious people who have a desire to know what awaits us in the Great Beyond. I contacted them and now I am their part-time case manager. Let me stress that this is a hobby and I am not going anywhere.

Lots of folks have become fans of the Sci-Fi channel show "Ghost Hunters." Their mission is to debunk reports of paranormal activity first and foremost. Secondly, their goal is to make sure that any activity in a residence or business is not meant to harm anyone. These are the same goals that PPS aims to achieve. That is what is so great about the organization - they are legit.

Naturally, once I became a member of PPS, one of the first things I did was to think of some places I'd like to investigate.

The first place to investigate should be John Rouse's old office at 6000 Laurel-Bowie Road. There is no doubt that Aunt Agatha stashed some of her millions within those walls. Maybe that is why the rent there was so expensive.

I was led to ponder which athletes' ghosts of the past I would most like to speak with. So many American athletes have done their part to help change the world and make life for future athletes better, whether it was by virtue of their athletic prowess or once their playing careers had ended.

Two quick names that pop into my head are former Oakland Raider Gene Upshaw and tennis star Arthur Ashe. As a fan of the Denver Broncos, it is hard for me to care less about anyone who has played for the Raiders, but Upshaw changed the way football is played not only with his fierce competitive nature he displayed on the gridiron, but also for how his work as the NFL Players Association president made players some of the wealthiest people in the world.

Many would like to see the recently deceased Upshaw erased from history, no doubt, for making football players so wealthy. Sure, the money does change the pure college player, but Upshaw never made any of that money in his playing days. He simply wanted the modern players to get a fair share of the NFL owners' pie. And now they get that.

And what can I say about Ashe? If I had the chance to meet his ghost, I'd ask him how he maintained his composure knowing he would die from the HIV virus, which he contracted in the 1980s from a blood transfusion. He was a spokesman for those living with HIV - and an African American no less. Say what you want, but there was enough prejudiced against African Americans throughout history, but to feed into the stereotype by contracting HIV as well?

It took guts for guys like Upshaw and Ashe to be the leaders that they became.

On a selfish level, I'd like to speak with the ghost of Orville Redenbacher. I just want to know what the deal was with the bow tie and the glasses.

Once that mystery is solved, who wouldn't want to speak to the ghost of Babe Ruth? He is a Maryland native, for one. Secondly, he was only the most revered baseball player in history. His records are still being chased nearly a century after he played. Plus, Ruth was a lady's man and he knew how to enjoy himself. That sounds like fun.

Should I ever come face to face with an apparition during my travels with PPS, I will undoubtedly be forced into a straight jacket. But having the opportunity to hear what might be going on beyond what we know and see every day would be spectacular.

Are there angry soccer moms on the other side? Do ghosts read the Blade-News? Would any of the ghosts be aware that ACORN signed them up as registered Democrats for last week's presidential election?

The good guys won.

The next time you're at a football game and you see a miraculous and seemingly impossible catch, ask yourself if past football ghosts helped guide that ball into the receiver's arms.

Maybe the next time you see Bowie Baysox Nolan Reimold come up with one of his usual incredible catches, you can wonder if there are indeed angels in the outfield.

But if you get freaked out by a short creature with a white sheet over his head and carrying a pillow case, just give the little guy some candy. Published 11/13/08, Copyright 2008 The Bowie Blade

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