First, this is by no means an endorsement of the APBA game company. I haven’t talked to anyone at their Lancaster, Pa., headquarters and, other than my name appearing on a few previous order forms — if they keep them — I am not a blip on their radar.
I don’t think I’m even on their mailing list anymore.
I’ve also delved into other sports replay games. I own an old Sports Illustrated college football game, a Sherco baseball game from 1977, a Replay basketball set and, in a fleeting moment that I later felt like a cheating spouse, I bought a Strat-o-Matic hockey game.
But I’ve always stuck with APBA, and the consistency of the game in my life has become profound. With all the other changes I’ve endured from childhood to adulthood — jobs, heartbreaks, marriage, the death of both parents, moving, bankruptcy, the death of my wife — the game has remained the one constant. I know that for a while I can shed the travails of life and hide in the sports world I created with the dice and cards.
I began with that 1976 NFL season. It was a complex game that took a long time to complete. I then got the 1978-79 NBA season. The APBA game, many criticized, was too plodding for solitaire play. But I loved it. I’d stay up late rolling the dice and recording shots, goals, free throws and rebounds. I got the following season a year later and became hooked.
In 1991, after I returned from a failed romance in Lubbock, Texas, I played the 1990-91 NBA season and then when APBA introduced it, I bought the first hockey card set for the 1992-93 season.
It wasn’t until Christmas of 1998 that I tried the baseball game. I’ve been playing it since.
And it has been a companion. When my wife’s kidneys failed and we entered a three-year period of medical hell, I toted the 1957 baseball season with me to the Memphis hospital where she was treated. I followed that with the 1987 baseball season. I let my wife toss the last dice roll of that season. She rolled a 32, a fly ball that ended the World Series that, in my game, featured Kansas City and St. Louis. It was one of the last healthy things she did. A few months later she passed away.
The game became my lone companion. In the quietness and the emptiness of what became my life, I rolled the 1932 season, the 1974 season, the 1977 season and the 1964 season.
And I roll on. I’m now about 150 games into the 1981 baseball season. It takes a year or more to finish a season, replaying each game — in the case of the 1981 season, 2,106 games — one by one.
Life keeps changing. The dice keeps rolling.