Sports through lens of a poster
Some sports stars and moments were immortalized on posters in my bedroom
Taj Gibson's unreal dunk over Dwyane Wade is one moment that will live on
Late '70s, early '80s were Golden Age of Sports Posters, staples of bedroom décor
When Heat star Dwyane Wade got dunked on by Taj Gibson of the Bulls in Game 1 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals on Sunday, I instantly thought of Bobby Gross of the Blazers, feebly waving as Julius Erving dunked on him in the poster Scotch-taped to my bedroom door as a kid.
What do they say about chocolate? A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips? Getting posterized was like that for Gross: A moment on the floor, a lifetime on my door.
I had a three-poster bed. Which is to say, a bed with a view of three posters. Doc was on the door's exterior, so that I saw him at night, when the door was open, guarding my dreams. This is more than can be said of Gross, who wasn't guarding anybody.
Alan Page was on the door's interior, so that I only ever saw him when the door was shut -- and it was only ever shut when it was slammed shut, which explains why I long associated the Vikings' defensive tackle with brooding. His was the image I saw when banished to my room while dinner went cold.
That poster was a perfect vessel for unfocused adolescent anger, as Page was about to hammer a hapless -- and soon-to-be capless -- Browns quarterback, probably Dave Mays. It's impossible to say for certain, because the QB's number isn't entirely visible. Whoever he is, he's going to get sacked -- posterized and posterior-ized in one instant made eternal on the B-side of the bedroom door.
Finally, next to the dresser, the third poster -- but the first one to go up: Reds second baseman Joe Morgan, whose left arm made a flapping motion at the plate. When replicated in the backyard, with your right hand inserted under your left armpit, the arm-flapping produced the satisfying sound of flatulence, which partly explains why Morgan was my first baseball hero, and first poster of any kind.
Considering that we spend a third of our lives in bed, and I spent a third of my life aged 14 or under, then I spent one-third of one-third of my life in my three-poster bed -- my Sealy Poster-pedic -- about to get dunked on by Dr. J, concussed by Alan Page or drilled by a Joe Morgan line drive.
Was this healthy? Suffice to say that I flinched a lot growing up, and still do: When Gibson dunked on Wade the other night, my first instinct was to duck and then step out of the photographer's frame, even though I was on my couch.
It's probably for the best that the Golden Age of Sports Posters -- the late '70s and early '80s -- is long past, though you can still find, fairly easily, those classic staples of Reagan-era bedroom décor.
Who thought it was a good idea to photograph Moses Malone parting an Orange Sea of basketballs while holding a staff shaped like a swoosh? Why Nike did, of course, though that doesn't explain the burlap bathrobe Moses wore over the kind of generic basketball uniform -- numberless, logoless, replete with piped jogging shorts -- that Shaq still wears in Icy Hot commercials.
And yet half my friends had that poster, or the Nike poster of Darrell Griffith, Dr. Dunkenstein, carrying half a steaming basketball in either hand, while wearing a white coat, so that he appears less to be conducting a science experiment than serving soup at the Carnegie Deli. Twenty-five years ago that poster screamed basketball. Today it screams, "Who ordered the Matzoh Ball?"
The one Nike poster that looks as good today as it did three decades ago is The Iceman's: George Gervin -- on a throne of ice, on what appears to be Krypton -- crossing his legs in a silver sweatsuit, worn as a precaution against perspiring too profusely on a frozen throne on a frozen planet.
Like Nora Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, The Iceman's still big -- it's the posters that got small. Like Joe Morgan, the posters got nibbled at the corners -- the corners where we taped or tacked them up (and then re-taped and re-tacked them, each time the corners eroding a little more).
Finally, at 14 or so, I moved into a room with my brother Tom, who already had his own posters up, most prominently the famous Farrah Fawcett. The best-selling poster of all-time, it came with most houses in the 1970s, along with the wall-to-wall shag and the avocado fridge. As a sign of my newfound sophistication, I put up a poster of my own, adorning a wall with Earth, Wind & Fire, a dozen men in dashikis. It's at least possible that it was the only EWF poster on our block of Amundsens, Caspersons and Petersens.
As for Dr. J, Alan Page and Joe Morgan: My mom would have rolled them up while I was at school and kicked them to the curb, consigning them to the garbage man and what Trotsky called "the ash heap of history."
Still, every once in a while, when some poor schlub like Wade gets posterized on TV, I picture my old bedroom and think: If those walls could talk.
But of course they did, and still do.