I'm a huge fan of technology advancement, in nearly all cases. But there are times when I wish the steady march of innovation wouldn't leave certain products obsolete.
A few weeks ago, I faced a major quandary. It was Game 4 of the World Series. It was also Halloween. Something had to give.
Up until the later part of the evening of Nov. 1, I could aptly be described as a long-suffering San Francisco Giants fan, who like many others had been given legitimate cause to worry that the team would not win a world championship in my lifetime. I'm also the father of two young boys, who though short-suffering Giants fans themselves, made it abundantly clear that they were planning to accumulate as much candy as possible through trick-or-treating.
My wife had to work late. That left Daddy the only option for trick-or-treat escort. But the game began at 5:19—right at the start of prime trick-or-treating time. It was Madison Bumgarner versus some guy named Tommy Hunter, and there was a lot riding on this. The Giants led the series 2-1 after losing Game 3. If the Giants lost Game 4, it would have been anybody's series. If they won Game 4, they would take a commanding lead (some threw around the term "insurmountable lead," but I'd been hurt too many times by this team to think so boldly).
Were it a regular season game, I would have had no problem tracking the game through occasional scoring updates on my Blackberry. But it was not a regular season game. It was Game 4 of the World Series. And I was not about to allow a pitch be thrown without being in a position to analyze, evaluate and scrutinize every detail of it.
There was no getting around the fact that I needed to leave my house during the game. But the solution was simple enough, right? Just grab a transistor radio, tune it to the AM band, slip on some headphones and hear the game for me described in rich detail while I watched my kids roam the neighborhood looking for handouts.
Only problem was, as I soon realized, I didn't have such a radio. Though I must have owned at least 10 such devices in my life, a thorough search of my home turned up an iPod, several portable CD players, and even a Sandisk Sansa (some Sansas have an AM tuner; this one didn't), but not a single radio small enough to carry around without looking thuggish.
I hit my local CVS and paid $13 for a simple "Walkman-style" AM/FM radio with headphones. Because I live in a bad area for reception, and because the radio was a real piece of junk, the reception was very poor. But after some effort I managed to tune in the game on a national radio feed. (I couldn't get the Giants flagship radio station, KNBR, despite the fact that it has a very strong signal, because another AM station dominated most of the band). But either way, problem solved.
Now here's my favorite part of the story: My brother, another long-suffering (at the time) Giants fan, had volunteered to join me for the trick-or-treating, and though he was also torn by wanting to watch the game, he kept his word. Hipster that he is, my brother paid $5 for an app that enabled him to listen to the game on his iPhone. With our apparatuses in hand, we piled into the car and headed for the TTZ (trick-or-treating zone; to maximize efficiency I selected a target-rich environment around the corner).
Once we hit the streets, I was able to follow every pitch. My brother was, too, but the iPhone feed was way behind the over-the-air AM signal—at least one minute, probably two. A batter that was just strolling to the plate on his headphones had already grounded out to short on mine, and I was quick to report the updates. Finally, he gave up. His sophisticated smartphone, featuring Apple's A4 processor and other elegant hardware as well as cutting-edge software, simply couldn't compete with my little radio, which probably has circuitry very similar to the first transistor radios of the 1950s.
There are two morals to this story. One is that we should embrace new technology with open arms, but not rush older gadgets off to premature deaths. The second is that you should always keep a small AM radio on hand, because you just never know when your team's appearance in the Fall Classic might have to deal with a competing event (even you, Cubs fans).