Give and Take: Father’s Day letters
We asked for sports memories of your father and you responded. What follows is a select few condensed letters from readers. For all the father’s day stories, go to SportsLink at spokesman.com/sportslink.
When I was little, back in the 50’s, my brothers John and Mike bought two frail, desperate, skinny chameleons at the county fair for a quarter apiece. We named them Tiz and Iz and immediately fell in love with them. Our goal, as a family, was to allow these beautiful, iridescent green creatures to live as long and happy lives as possible.
One Saturday afternoon, my father Elmer, who was a Golden Gloves state boxing champion, sat in the little bedroom at the foot of the bed on a folded blanket and watched a boxing match on our old Philco TV. Meanwhile, we kids were on a frantic hunt for Tiz, who had seemingly vanished. Not wanting to disturb Daddy, we searched the bedroom last. Sure enough, Tiz had crawled under the blanket and Daddy had sat on him for at least an hour.
Tiz was ashy gray and so flat we could barely see him sideways. We began wailing because we knew our little lizard was dead. But, my father, who was by virtue a very gentle man, laid Tiz on the palm of his hand, pursed his lips, placed them on the chameleon’s lips, and began to blow gently. As he blew, he stroked Tiz’s chest, and slowly our chameleon began to get green and started to move.
I will never forget watching my father bringing our lizard back to life, while these two boxers were pummeling each other in the background. I think that was my first recognition of the true complexities and contradictions that go into the making of a human being.
It was January 25th, 1998. Super Bowl XXXII. Packers vs. Broncos. Favre vs. Elway. My dad, a lifelong Broncos fanatic, had never seen a Broncos Super Bowl victory (but then again, neither had the Broncos!) Anyway, a fellow Broncos fanatic of my dad’s was out of town, so he and I got to go watch the game on his big screen TV.
It was a tense game, back and forth the whole way, but the Broncos scored a touchdown with 1:45 remaining on the clock, changing the score from 24-24 to 31-24. Denver stopped the ensuing Green Bay drive and ran out the clock for their first Super Bowl victory.
What I’ll never forget is my dad’s reaction: he was on the couch, legs stretched out in front if him, arms stretched out beside him, and his head resting back on the top of the couch. Like a snow angel. He stared at the ceiling in absolute disbelief.
It was like he was paralyzed. He was breathing heavily and I distinctly remember him saying “I can’t believe it” quietly each time he exhaled.
After letting the blissful waves of victory slowly wash over him, he suddenly leapt up, threw open the sliding glass door and let out the loudest “WOOHOO!” I’ve ever heard him produce. It was directed at a house across the cul-de-sac that had been waving a Packers flag all day long.
World Cup fever
“Are you sure mom won’t get mad?”
I vividly remember asking my dad that very question back on Nov. 7, 2001. I was an eighth grader and he had just yanked me out of Kenmore Junior High at 11:30 a.m. to drive us the 30 minutes to Seattle to watch Ecuador play Uruguay in a World Cup qualifier match.
This wasn’t just any match, though.
At that time, Ecuador, where my mother and father were born and left 26 years ago to move to Washington state, had never made it to the World Cup. With at least a tie against Uruguay in this match, our boys would make history and earn one of the four guaranteed spots from the South American group and head to Korea/Japan for the 2002 tournament.
Sure enough, early in the first half, the incredibly biased ref called a penalty kick in Uruguay’s favor. Moments later, the score was Uruguay 1, Ecuador 0 and my old man let out a fury of expletives in front of his 11-year-old son. Fortunately no one called child services.
For the rest of the game, my dad, Jaime, myself and about 50 other Ecuadorians, huddled inside a tiny restaurant in the Emerald City, were on the verge of tears. Was Ecuador really going to choke?
But then, in the 73rd minute, Ecuador striker Jaime Ivan Kaviedes headed in the equalizer and a 5.4 magnitude earthquake took place in the restaurant. We all went absolutely nuts. My pops hugged the hell out of me and just about everyone else in sight. Other than when I graduated from WSU, it’s the happiest I think I’ve ever seen him.
With our hearts on the floor, we watched for the next 20 minutes, begging the referee to blow his whistle for the game to end. Then, after what felt like four additional hours, the final whistle sounded and the ref called for the ball signaling the end of the game.
As everyone celebrated, I looked to my dad and tears were streaming down his face. I know he wished he was in Ecuador with his family to enjoy the moment, so he was a little sad, but he was also bubbling with pride. History was made and it’s a moment we shared together that I’ll never forget.
That’s my boy
I grew up in with a single dad in the small town of Albion, Washington. As most small town boys in the 1960s, I was on the town Little League team.
Things were tough back then and my single dad wasn’t able to attend very many of my games. But one summer night he decided to come to my game. This was my third year and I was 10 playing on a 12-and-under team. We didn’t have the-everyone-gets-to-play rules back then, so, being the youngest on the team, I sat on the end of the bench unless we had a large score difference.
Give my dad credit, he stayed the whole game and it paid off.
The last inning of the game I was sent out to left field. Sure enough, one of their hitters decided to try out the young guy. He laced a fly ball down the left field line, and I took off running as fast as I could and reached out my glove. I think I even closed my eyes, because all I remember is the ball landing in my glove and a familiar voice yell from the sidelines at the top of his lungs, “That’s my boy.”
For 35 more years I was always on a ball field somewhere, and at the age of 45, Dad hadn’t made it to any games I played in as an adult. But one day, out of the blue, he called and said where are you playing this week. I told him I was in a men’s church league softball tournament in Coeur d’Alene.
As I got up to bat my first time, I looked up in the old grandstand by the park and there was dad in the front row.
I jacked an opposite field line drive down the right field line. As I am rounding second base, trying to decide whether to go for it or not, I hear from the stands that familiar voice yelling as loud as he could, “That’s my boy!”
To this day I believe that is what gave me the extra boost to arrive at home plate before the throw. As I was getting high fives from my teammates, I hear one more time, “That’s my boy.”
I still get all the warm and fuzzies every time I think about it and I do a lot.