THE GREATEST THERE EVER WAS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

“Someday, I’m gonna walk down the street. People will look at me and say, “There he goes, the greatest there ever was!'”

It’s a familiar line. We’ve heard it from would be wonder boys across generations. It’s a line we hear now, used in admiration and derision, to describe the New England Patriots’ 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady as sports fans around the world await this year’s football Superbowl which pits Brady’s reigning Superbowl champion Pats against the underdog Philadelphia Eagles.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his former backup Jimmy Garoppolo

Eagles’ Nation, yearning for their first-ever Superbowl, unleashed the trash talk even before both teams won their division championship games to advance to the Superbowl. Taunts from fans and players barely mask their admiration for Brady who sets new records almost every time he throws a completed pass.

Sports radio and television yakkers beat the controversy drums every day. Is Brady better than Joe Montana? Peyton Manning? Steve Young? Is he the greatest there ever was? Audiences foam at the mouth in the debate. It’s the stuff media executives dream about with over a week to go before the game.  You have hours, days. So much time to fill with anything to hold your audience.

The greatest there ever was. Robert Redford echoed the line as a young Roy Hobbs in the classic baseball film, “The Natural.” Hobbs was the young everyman who dreamed of greatness. Many of us pursued the same dream.

I grew up in a generation when there were still many doors to be opened. Many challenges to be faced and answered. The social divide was still very evident in the United States. Overt racism was on display for all to see, even in so-called cradles-of-liberty cities. Women were seen, but not heard. Ogled and groped, but not respected. It’s the way we were — back in the day.  It’s also why so many of us were inspired to succeed.  We wanted to show our worth, our value. We wanted more than respect.

It was a clear road we walked — to be the greatest there ever was.

Garry – College days at WVHC (1963)

I remember a hot, muggy, September 1959 afternoon at the Parris Island U.S. Marine Corps training base. The base commander stopped to chat up a group of new Marines, just returned from a double-time forced march near the swamp infested grounds that lay outside the base. The young Gyrenes were clearly tuckered out,  cursing the sandflies who nestled in their bodies. The commander zeroed in one group, singling out a young recruit of color who had attitude written on his face. “Private, how do you like the Marines, now?”

The young man broadened his smile. “Sir, permission to speak freely, sir?

The commander nodded. Red faced drill instructors familiar with the young man stiffened in their nearby posts, braced for the worst. The recruit eyed the DI’s, smiled at them and then responded to the commander. “Sir, Private Armstrong is PROUD to be a marine, sir.  The commander smiled.

The D.I.’s seemed relieved as the recruit continued talking to the commander who could make stripes disappear quickly off a sergeant’s shoulder. “Sir, I love the Marines. I want to be the greatest there ever was, sir”.  The commander’s stoicism was replaced with a big smile. The D.I’s chuckled softly while glaring at Pvt. Armstrong.

Garry at Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame induction

I did want to be the greatest Marine ever. This wasn’t any John Wayne fan boy stuff. My brief stint had fueled aspirations for a career in the Marine Corps, perhaps their communications division.  Alas, my hearing difficulties would soon end my life as a Marine, but that was a time I’d always remember with pride. It also help me plot the course for the rest of my professional life.

In the decades that followed, I never lost the fire in the belly from my Marine Corps days. Some thought the “glamour” of TV news kept me happy and satisfied over the years.

I remember catching up with old friends over the years. They would tell me how successful they were. I heard  about how much money they were making. Cars they were driving. Vacation homes, country clubs, and so on.  I couldn’t, wouldn’t play that game. I usually wound up repeating how much I enjoyed my work. I talked about excitement, interesting people, dramatic stories … and the chance to make a difference.

There usually was a pause from the friend. I would then tell them I still wasn’t satisfied. Yes, I had awards, celebrity but there was something else. I still wanted to be the best there ever was. Best replaced greatest somewhere over the years.

I’ve been retired for more than 17 years now after banking 40 plus years on the job. I think I’m satisfied with my body of work. Satisfied doesn’t do it.

Part of me still wants to be the best there ever was.

55 thoughts on “THE GREATEST THERE EVER WAS – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. You were so kind to me and so indulgent! You and Marilyn are a constant reminder of my fortuitous entree into television.. and the lessons I learned from the best (you) and the worst (remember Marilyn Salinger ) 🤪

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hiya, Kathy. How are you, my former and very lovely colleague?? I was just telling Marilyn about some of the adventures I shared with you, Jack Crowley, Noot and many friends from the old days.
      I particularly loved our jockey/racetrack and sky-diving stories. You were our Wonderwoman.

      Kathy, I follow you on Facebook. All the best to you and your family. HUGS!

      As for MS, I wonder where she is now. Only her good side, please. Mr. Martino, step aside.

      Like

  2. Wonderful post, Garry! I love the award picture. Too bad I never saw you working here in Canada. Though, I swear I have seen your face. Are you really writing a book? If so, I can’t wait!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rebel, you may have seen me and not realized it. My pieces were often picked up by satellite and shown in different countries around the world. Someone once stopped me when I was visiting a castle in Scotland to say they’d seen me on the BBC. Intoxicating stuff. THANK YOU.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great, great piece. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more from that great vault, known as Garry’s mind. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. They should retire your number, sahib. Raise it high to the rafters. Like Isaiah Thomas, you overcame the odds and rose to the top. You could do everything but dunk….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yo, JT! I couldn’t dunk but I had a smooth 20 foot jumper. I played awesomely mediocre basketball when a 5’5″ guy could play the game.

      I can see my uniform hanging over the rafters at “The New Place” with $$ on the back.

      Like

  5. You could add this excerpt to your book, because you actually accomplished a lot in one life time. You’ve done a lot to move things along, Garry. Time now to pass the baton on to some other youthful, starry eyed, idealist. That is why writing about it is so important.
    Leslie

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, Mike. How the heck are you? Thanks for the props. I never forget how you and others had my 6 for so many years. I also remember the stories that didn’t go well. Hell, we had some great times.

      Like

  6. We are hardest on ourselves, I believe. Your body of work, your honour, your integrity, your depth all speak for themselves, Garry. To me, it’s simply tragic that with the passing of time, we become unimportant, discarded, forgotten as though age were a sin. Still, those that know you well, know the truth. That is, in and of itself, monumental to my way of thinking. Some are close friends. Others, lives you’ve touched or changed making an impact you may not be aware of.

    Liked by 1 person

    • With all the trash talk about Brady, he has broken every record there is to break, so by the time he retires and other teams can start to win again, they will forgive the Patriots and start appreciating him. I am actually surprised at what poor sports football fans have turned out to be. In all the years of “hating” the Yankees, we never accused them of cheating or anything remotely like that. We just wanted to BEAT them.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Bob, the fan boy in me immensly enjoyed meeting those legends. I had “in body” flashes of “wow” as I shook hands with Duke Wayne, Cagney, Mitchum, Heston, Peck, Sinatra, Raft, K.Hepburn and all the others. I always tried to maintain a professional face but I know fan boy must have been obvious.

          There was a summer evening when I interviewed Cybill Shepherd at The Cape Cod Music Theater. It’s a tent venue. I was wearing an Italian silk suit. Very thin and loose fabric. Cybill was stunning in a silk robe, loosely knotted. She was glowing and smiled as she glanced at my outfit, particularly my trousers. I looked down and turned crimson. Bright red crimson.

          What a ride!

          Liked by 1 person

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