Earlier this week, I felt a random nostalgic tug for Spanning The World. For those of you who are not old, Spanning the World was a segment that aired during Len Berman's sports roundup on NBC-4. It was what you watched in pre-YouTube days when you wanted to see athletes humiliate and injure themselves. It ran at the end of the month, showcasing all of the wacky sports-related stuff that occurred in the last 30 days or so. If you happened to be away from your TV when it aired, you were screwed until the end of next month. Try explaining that to a kid today and you will get blank stares. (Trust me, I've tried.)
I figured someone out there had to have posted a Spanning The World segment to YouTube, and I was correct. However, the example I found was a treasure trove of randomness, with relationships to both the Mets and lovers of anachronistic hilarity.
As you'll see below, the clip starts out with footage from NBC-4 News (I wanna say Live at Five but can neither confirm nor deny this) from the Mets' locker room after the last day of the 1989 season. Both Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez had played their last games in a Mets uniform and are being grilled by reporters on their reactions to this. The Kid seems a little more upbeat than Keith, although both are rather philosophical about the conclusion of this chapter in their careers.
What I find surprising is how resigned everyone involved was to the idea that Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter were leaving Queens. The team, the players themselves, the media, and the fans were 100 percent aware of it well before the season ended, and both players are addressing their departure on the last day of the season. I can't think of a comparable situation involving a New York athlete's leaving or retirement that was so openly talked about and announced so far in advance. Tiki Barber, maybe?
While Keith is still speaking, the clip jumps abruptly to Spanning The World, replete with its usual mock-regal theme. There are two things of note in this particular edition. The first is an excerpt from an ad for Jose Canseco's 900 number. Try as I might, I could not locate the complete Jose Canseco 900 ad, so this is the only extant example of the first rumblings of Canseco's descent into madness.
Another explanation for the not-old: in the late 1980s, 900 numbers dedicated to famous people became the newest way to separate gullible folks from their hard-earned money. These "hotlines" were normally reserved for teen idols or bands and aimed squarely at the tween set, but occasionally, a random celebrity would decide he too needed a 900 number. People like Al Lewis, or Ice T, or Jose Canseco.
What makes Jose's entry even more amazing is the fact that he says he's willing to discuss whether he does steroids or "why I was carrying that gun." Yes, people openly accused Canseco of using steroids back then, although in more of a "ha ha" way than a HE'S RUINING THE GAME way. As for guns, he seems to be really into them.
Shortly after Canseco's ad, Spanning the World turns to a pair of minor league announcers from Rochester siting in a tub of oatmeal while fans pelt them with eggs. Why this is happening is not explained. Upon seeing this, Twitter pal @siebert wondered if one of those announcers was actually former Rochester Red Wings PBPer and current Mets radio announcer Josh Lewin. A short while later, we were given our answer.
I did not ask for the long story behind this event, as I'm sure it could never top any fiction you could come up with.
So, one random YouTube search for Spanning the World yields footage from a sad (if completely expected) day in Mets history, the paleolithic origins of Jose Canseco's Twitter account, and Josh Lewin being humiliated for reasons lost to the mists of time. See, kids? When you start to dig, you can find amazing things.