Kevin over at BfloBlog wrote a very nice post today about the happiness he felt watching his young son engaged in a hockey game. I don’t have any kids, so naturally my thoughts drifted towards my own father; in particular the memories I have about him surrounding sports.
Some of you may be surprised to hear that I was a rabid Minnesota Twins fan growing up. I slept with a baseball under my pillow for the duration of the 1987 post season. I know how to keep a baseball score sheet. I cried when Tom Brunansky was traded to the Cardinals in 1988. I can rattle off the names, numbers and positions of long ago forgotten Twins (Steve Lombardozzi #4, or Randy Bush #25, anyone?). Although my sports fandom has been dormant for the better part of a decade now, I do have a history of this, and I believe it’s in my blood to enjoy sports. Sports, particularly baseball were lovingly bred into me by my father.
I had the quintessential American baseball experience with my father. Some of my best memories of him are of the nights we rode our bikes downtown to the Metrodome (I know, the Dome. So wrong.) and sat in the cheap seats in the upper deck behind center field. Once as a young child, when I asked if he thought someone would hit a homerun to us, my father replied, “If someone hits a homerun into this section, I’ll take you to Disney Land tomorrow.” I, of course, spent the remainder of the game willing someone to hit me a homerun, to no avail.
My very favorite memory of a baseball game with my father was a game in which the Twins scored 6 runs to come from behind in the ninth inning. The game was at night, I don’t remember the opponent or the year, but I couldn’t have been more than nine-years-old. Just the fact that we stayed in crappy seats through the ninth inning when the Twins were down by five runs, says a lot about our devotion. We rode our bikes to the game, (which is weird considering we had to bike home in the dark), and rather than getting me home and into bed, my Dad took me to Bridgeman’s where we ate a full meal and rehashed the game. It must have been far past my normal bedtime, but I don’t remember being even slightly tired, and I distinctly remember happily humming to myself on the bike ride home. I also remember standing next to my mother (who was sleeping) in their dark bedroom, and telling her all about the game when we got home.
We didn’t just watch the Twins. Many a weekend afternoon were spent with my Dad and my sister watching the Golden Gophers at the University of Minnesota, which is where I learned about baseball played outdoors, with wind, and sunshine, and rain. The Gopher field is also where I first got to sit close enough to learn the hard way to watch out for line drive foul balls. (No, I didn’t get hit, but pretty. damn. close.)
My father died in 1993 when I was 17-years-old. I think a large part of why I lost interest in sports is because it just wasn’t the same without him. I have thought about him so often over the last few months as I have meticulously studied hockey. I swear, one of the most comforting things in the world is the sound of televised sports in the background as I putter around my apartment. My return to the world of sports fandom is probably one more step in the relationship I have with my father; a relationship that did not end when he died.
I’m not sure if he ever watched hockey. I kind of suspect that he didn’t, because I don’t ever remember hockey being on our television. It would have been so fun to reverse the roles, and to teach him about a sport. One of the very best things about my father was his obvious interest in the things that Ellie and I loved. I’m sure I could have made a diehard hockey fan out of him.