It was the last day of the baseball season in 1998. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were making history. The Yankees were finishing up one of the best regular seasons ever. The Cubs were looking for one more win to reach the playoffs. It was an exciting day.
My buddy John and I, both students at Maryland, headed to downtown College Park to watch the action. We had no cable on campus at the time, so we figured we would be able to catch some of the baseball on TVs at places like Ratsies, Cornerstone, Santa Fe or Bentley.
But we hit some roadblocks. Our main obstacle was that it was Sunday. A Sunday in October. So the Redskins were playing. The lousy, 0-3 and on the way to 6-10 Redskins.
Every place we entered had the Redskins game on their television.
"Can you switch over to ESPN so we can see the baseball?" we'd ask.
"Nah, Redskins" was the reply from the surly bartender or whomever declared themselves masters of the remote.
This happened at several establishments. We finally got one fella to begrudgingly allow us to watch baseball during halftime of the Redskins game.
During this small period, ESPN decided to do a live look-in of a game involving the Tigers and Blue Jays. Some kid named Roy Halladay was pitching. He had a no-hitter going into the 9th. But Bobby Higginson went yard with two outs. Too bad. I had never heard of Roy Halladay, but I had a feeling he might have a nice career.
Anyway, John and I missed McGwire's two home runs, which gave him 70 for the season. But the Redskins loss to the Broncos got top billing.
It was an annoying Sunday afternoon.
About 10 years later, my buddy Greg came to visit from Philly. The Eagles were playing the Giants in the playoffs. We went to ESPNZone in D.C. We watched the game. There was no argument, even though this was Redskins territory. I never had to fight to see the game I wanted there. People were friendly and understood we were there to watch sports. Yeah, the food was kinda expensive and not that good. But that's true for most sports bars.
This is a long way of saying that I'll miss ESPNZone. It's too bad they are going out of business. It was a neat concept, maybe a bit too commercial, maybe a bit too overdone. But I could always see the game I wanted. ESPNZone, I salute you.