When I was a kid, my mother asked me if there was any genre wallpaper I wanted for my room. I had to share a room with my older brother, but we both asked the same way.
“Sports. Sports-themed wallpaper, please.”
Now, we didn’t actually choose which wallpaper we got. No, we were too busy playing flashlight tag, and scraping our knees to concern ourselves with looking at wallpaper samples. So the big reveal was something of enormous importance. After all, this was the wallpaper for “my” room, and it would set the tone for my adolescence… or at least until I put posters up.
But instead of seeing Red Sox logos, footballs, or even hockey sticks, my brother and I entered into a room with sports quotes plastered all over the wall. The wallpaper my mother had chosen was off-white with green pockets of text, each one a specific legendary sports quote.
Now, I had no idea what any of these meant at the time. But there was the classic “Win one for the Gipper” and Leo Durocher’s “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it may rain.” And of course, you had a bunch of Yogi Berra gems akin to his famous “Baseball is 90 per cent mental. The other half is physical.”
I loved this wallpaper, and would find myself reading the same ones over and over again as I lay in bed each night. In fact, it’s still the wallpaper of the guest room in my childhood home, and still to this day, I read them all each time I’m there. But there’s one quote, in particular, that’s not on the wall. It’s my personal favorite and one that took me quite some time to truly appreciate. Hell, even though it’s been my favorite since I was in college, over the last seven years with this website I’ve been able to appreciate it more and more.
“The question is ‘Why?” – Sandy Koufax, to a reporter at his retirement press conference.
There are a lot of layers to this, and if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to quickly cover some of them. Sandy Koufax was the greatest pitcher on the planet in the 1960s. Yes, Bob Gibson pitched the greatest season of all-time in 1968, but still, Koufax owned the 1960s. He began his career with the Dodgers as a pitcher who threw absolute fireballs, with very little control. For six seasons, Sandy Koufax would take the mound throw as hard as he could and then take the next few days off. It had to have been maddening, but thankfully, things changed. Veteran catcher Norm Sherry pulled Koufax aside and said “you don’t need to throw so hard to get batters out.” And that changed the trajectory of Koufax’s career, from middle of the road to legendary Hall of Famer.
But those years of wear on his arm had taken their toll and for the final three seasons of Koufax’s career, he was taking painkillers and getting cortisone injections after every start. Finally, at the age of 30 and after 12 seasons, Sandy Koufax did the unthinkable.
At the press conference announcing his decision, Koufax took questions from reporters about everything under the sun, but one question stands out.
“The question is ‘why?” a reporter asked.
“The question is why,” repeated Koufax, as if the question was “what day is it today?”
After a moment, Koufax explained that his decision was based on the fear that he would one day lose the use of his arm if he continued to play, and that he’d rather keep what use of it he had left than risk it to play another season.
The answer to the question isn’t so much what interests me about this quote, but it’s the sobering repetition of the question by Koufax that sticks with me.
There’s no shock, there’s no uncertainty, there’s just… a simple way to answer the most universally vague and expansive question in the history of the human experience.
“The question is why?”
This is my final piece that will be published on The Turf Sports, a site which I have been a part of since its beginnings as Three Up, Three Down all the way back in 2015. I have accepted a position as an Editor-in-Chief at an online sports outlet and will be handing over editorial control of the site to the team who has been so generous as to spend their free time writing and talking sports.
It’s funny. I never would have thought that this website would have been such a big part of my life. When I was a kind, I dreamed of being in a Broadway show. I most certainly didn’t dream of sprinting offstage after the Act One Finale to continue writing about the Mets during intermission. I didn’t expect this site to be my escape from the theatrical world when I became disillusioned with it after my Broadway run ended. Nor did I even think that this site would have been the thing that kept me sane during a global pandemic that stopped my life dead in its tracks.
And above all else, I never would have expected that this site would have given me the opportunity that’s in front of me now. And still after all of this, the only thing I keep thinking about is Sandy Koufax saying “the question is why.”
Why did I stay up until four in the morning writing about the Washington Nationals? Why did I care so much that the site had something up in the morning for the six readers we were getting? Why did it scare me so much when I got death threats over an article I wrote? Why would I be working myself to the bone for something that doesn’t matter?
The question was… “Why?”
My favorite part about that question is that, while it’s simple in structure and the context dictates the meaning, I truly believe there’s no answer. If a question has an infinite number of appropriate answers, does it actually have one? The answer to all of those questions could be “Because I have to,” or even more negative “who cares,” but for me, the funny thing is that my answer tends to be “why not?”
In the last two years, I have done a lot of reflecting and a lot of soul searching, some of which was self-provoked and some not so much. What I discovered is that so much of my life has been searching for the hard answer to “why?”, when in reality, the answer doesn’t matter. The response does.
Sandy Koufax doesn’t shoot venom back at the reporter, nor does he joke about how vague the question is. Instead, he takes a breath, and answers the real question underneath: “can you explain this to us, because this is insane?”
That’s been my time at The Turf Sports. Explaining why I love this site to people who think it’s an insane idea. A sports website that’s run by theatre people? That’s just as likely as a Baskin Robins run by Vegans. And still, after the last seven years, this weird little pocket of the internet has been the thing to keep me grounded, to keep me sane, and to keep me looking for the calm peace of Sandy Koufax answering a reporter.
The question is why.
My answer is “Why not?”
Thanks for reading, friends. I appreciate it more than you can possibly know. And to the remaining staff of The Turf, I leave you with a different quote, another favorite of mine, and one that isn’t sports-related at all. Because what’s a Turf article without a musical theatre reference?
Anything you do
Let it come from you
Then it will be new
Give us more to see.
Keeping swinging 3-0,
Founder and Former Editor-in-Chief of The Turf Sports
- / 1 year ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.