Happy Father’s Day!
My “new normal” Father’s Day included a pretty regular one-hour, 45-minute trip down to Janesville, Wisconsin to visit my parents today to talk about memories, discuss current events in politics and reminisce about watching Chicago Cubs baseball.
Tuning in to WGN-TV or ABC-4 for a Sunday afternoon matinee had become a Father’s Day tradition since I moved back to the Midwest in 2016. I look forward to chopping it up with my Dad about who should hit leadoff, why center fielder Albert Almora has been in a slump or why reliever Brandon Morrow couldn’t stay healthy. Sports has always been a huge part of my bond with my Dad and not virus will be able to break it.
This morning on 670 The Score’s Talking Baseball Show hosted by Matt Spiegel, Laurence Holmes talked about his project where he interviewed his Dad because he wanted to have something on the record about their life. So to get my mind going and to get the ball rolling on my own personal project, here are some ramblings about the most-disciplined and hard-working person I know, my father.
After eight years of experience scrambling through Transportation Security Administration security lines, squeezing into seats of aluminum frames with polyurethane foam cushioning on planes, cramming into rainbow-carpeted buses and checking in to hotel rooms with NCAA Division I programs but I still remember, I tagged along with his teams. Riding a yellow school bus up to Brodhead, Wisconsin for a Friday night football and getting to stop at McDonald’s after a win. Boarding a Greyhound bus with the Beloit College Buccaneer football team on its trip to Knox College. I felt like a part of the team and pulled for my dad’s teams to win even more.
I remember him taking me to my first baseball game in Milwaukee County Stadium with the Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey, Jr. going 5-for-5 at the plate and digging a cleat into the center field wall to rob the Milwaukee Brewers of a home run. I also remember Dan Plesac getting booed off the mound in a blowout loss.
His favorite saying is “This too shall pass.” It has become my mantra as I have gone through some trying times in the last couple years. And we have a multitude of sport sayings like “Never miss on the back of the rim!” when a free throw attempt on the hardwood hits the heel of the iron.
My Dad taught at Big Foot High School for 30 years and never took a sick day. I repeat … NEVER … took a sick day. He never had a cold and called in. He never got too drunk the night before and called in. He never just felt sorry for himself after a bad day and took a sick day because he wanted to avoid the issue. I can imagine the anxiety piling up of facing a room full of smart aleck teenagers who think they have all of the answers.
I lived in a small town and went to a small high school (enrollment of 500) so it didn’t take long for word to travel about anyone and reputations spread like wildfire, but I never heard anyone say anything bad about my Dad. I never sat for one of his courses at BFHS, but I can only assume he was demanding, but still related well to students. He wasn’t the most popular instructor, but you could tell he was respected. That is the only way to avoid having your name being dragged through the mud by the inhabitants buzzing about the foyer and red lockers of 401 Devils Lane in Walworth, Wisconsin.
His passion for the game of football is unmatched. Three years after hanging up his coaching whistle, he still has a wipe board and grease pen in the holster of his recliner at the ready to doodle out schemes and formations of gridiron schemes.
As a youngster living in Walworth, Wisconsin, I remember getting out of bed on more than a few occasions and tip-toeing down the hallway to the living room and seeing my Dad pantomiming out the footwork of a quarterback and whispering the terminology of whatever offense his team was running (had to be the wing-T!) to himself. At the time, I remember thinking “What is he doing?”
The summer before I started eighth grade, he introduced me to the weight room at Big Foot Union High School and I know my playing career would not have been as successful or enjoyable if that didn’t happen.
It was a $1 bet between the Portland Trailblazers and Detroit Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals that really sparked my interest in sports. I lost the bet that year, but came back strong and got my dollar back the following year in the 1991 NBA Eastern Conference Finals with the Chicago Bulls taking out the hated Pistons.
A friend of the family paid my Dad the ultimate compliment. Her son joined the football team for the first as a senior and you might have considered him a “geek,” but let’s just say he was more concerned with academics than extra-curricular activities. But she told me that he treated everyone the same regardless of whether they were “jocks” who had been on the football team for four years or “geeks” who are new to the team. She said that my Dad went out of his way to talk to him and get to know him as a person and that made me more proud than any victory on the field.
He is the man who has helped me out of more jams than I care to admit. I can always depend on him to do the right thing and that’s something I still strive to on this day at the ripe old age of 36. I know how spoiled and lucky I am to have him in my life and I want to make the most of it.