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One sheet of paper, an antique radio
By: Richard "Malamute" Linde, Posted 17 October 2002

I grew up in the depression when many people were threadbare, destitute and hungry. I remember once-proud men carrying bindle stiffs. Down on their luck, they came to our front door begging for food. Back in the late thirties, that happened to us on most days.

Where I lived in Seattle, none of us kids knew about the depression. For myself, awareness depended on nurture, as by nature I was a towheaded Swede, much like my friends.

We got three squares a day and, as carefree ragamuffins, were happy as clams. We went to school and told each other raunchy jokes—like say, “P-I” backwards. None of us knew that some of the fathers who lived nearby had jumped from windows, just that Susan and her mother had moved to Kansas to live with her grandparents.

In 1941, my dad took me to a Husky game to see my cousin play for the Dawgs, and I’ve been a Husky fan ever since. We went to Sick’s Seattle Stadium, too, which cemented my affinity for Rainier baseball.

It's funny how a dad can turn a son into a chip off the old block.

During winter days spent in the classroom, I’d stare out the window and dream about the Huskies and Rainiers, the biggest sports attractions in town. As the teacher lectured, I stared vacuously into emptiness, the bright lights contrasting sharply to the darkness outside, and when the sun finally came out, gray turned to green, the mountain glistened white, the water sparkled blue, and the teacher’s jibe became crystal clear.

There was no TV, just radio. Captain Midnight and Dick Tracy were my champions. I grew up as a cryptographer and code breaker, using my Captain Midnight badge to decode the message given at the end of his show. Depending on the key, "22, 27, 60, 63, 67, 67, 26," might have meant: “Be Good.”

I’d listen to the Husky football games on the radio and put my annotative skills to good use. I’d column off a sheet of notebook paper and then chart each play. “McElhenny skirts around left end and bulls five yards to the Husky 45-yard line” were encoded by: W#32, R, LE, +5, H45. To honor the depression and years of penury, I made it all fit on the front and the back of one sheet of three-hole notebook paper.

After the game, I’d announce the game to my younger brother—who listened in rapt attention—as I recreated the game like Leo. Leo Lassen, a legendary announcer in Seattle sports history, recreated the Suds’ road games, using Western Union tickertape. Down in L.A., the Times called the Seattle Rainiers the “Suds,” and in Seattle, the P-I got even by calling the Hollywood Stars the “Twinks.”  

Hooked on baseball, I borrowed a sixth-grade math book, wanting to know how they computed baseball averages. I learned my multiplication tables as well, because Lake Burien's Miss Armstrong threw pitches in the form of flashcards, turning the four corners of the schoolroom into bases.

But I was hooked on football, too.

Despite rationing and more penury, the Second World War never dampened my enthusiasm for being a Husky fan. The Dawgs went to the Rose Bowl in 1944 and the legendary Bill Stern announced the game. That more than made up for the Huskies’ loss to USC, because Bill Stern was a Chick Hearn to a would-be sports announcer.

The real meaning of a war hit home as I grew older.

I lost my best friend—who always rolled snake eyes—to the Korean Conflict. To him it was a war, not a conflict, and as a U.S. Marine, down on his luck, he was killed during the landing at Inchon, Korea. On the come out rolls, I was rolling sevens and elevens in the Air Force.

I got through the U-Dub using the Korean Bill and a part-time job, which supported my wife and then-two kids. Bob Schloredt and Jim Owens captured the minds of Seattleites back then, along with the town of Pasadena. The Dawgs turned 13 stormy conference years into legendary bliss…drubbing, mauling and badgering Wisconsin in the 1960 Rose Bowl.

Don James’ glory years went by quickly—but that happens after you toll the age of 40, whether you are a Husky fan or not. Rick Neuheisel, who is learning to walk across the lake to work as they said of Jim Owens, is struggling this year. Let's give him a break. 

Following Husky football through the years is as capricious and whimsical as rolling dice in a quantum world. It’s a different Husky football team for me, one that uses skill and cunning in addition to all-muscle plays. Plays are called in using semaphores. Defenses run nickels, dimes, cover-twos, four-threes, three-fours, man-to-man, zones and other encrypted-like formations. You have to take Bob Davie’s course over at ESPN.com to figure it all out.

For myself, over the years, Captain Midnight and Dick Tracy have morphed into Rick Neuheisel who, instead of fighting bad guys like the Mole and Scarface, is battling the fearsome duo of “Bullotti” and “Barney.” To Husky fans, Mike Bellotti (Oregon) and Gary Barnett (Colorado) are the nemeses that must be brought to justice--as is anyone who uses the term, “Neuweasel.”

For me, it has been a series of cryptographic reruns, having been a geek for years, living a life of acronyms, console lights and hexadecimal dumps. We’re just a bunch of numbers, anyway, until someone sees us, according to the guys at Copenhagen.

Now, I use my cryptographic and annotative skills on my website and code and decipher in HTML, instead of Captain Midnight’s numbers. When I can’t attend a Husky game in person or see it on live TV, I listen to it on Internet radio. Instead of logging each play of the game on paper, I use the Internet game tracker, which isn’t nearly as much fun because its printed output won’t fit on one piece of three-hole notebook paper.

Throughout my Husky years, I’ve remained loyal to the cause through depressions, recessions, fruit-basket sanctions and, now, scholarship limitations.

Is there life after death? Life goes on for all of us geeks, even after the BSOD (The Blue Screen of Death). 

So, can you be a Husky fan for life? Scrounge up an antique radio and one sheet of paper; I’ll show you how. 


"Antique radio image(s) used by permission of Phil's Old Radios website, http://antiqueradio.org/index.html , Copyright (C) 1995 - 2002 Philip I. Nelson, all rights reserved."


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