Never rooted for the Steelers in my life. Didn’t hate them, but as a kid, they just weren’t much on my radar. Their glory years predated me, and the mystique of the Black and Gold meant little to me in 1996.
Still, I made very clear to my dad we were rooting for the Steelers. It made sense, of course, to root for Pittsburgh as the only other option was the Cowboys. At that age, growing up in D.C., there was simply no way I could root for Dallas.
For me as a teenager, going to the Super Bowl was the peak of my existence. An unreal spectacle, and more importantly, the pinnacle of football. It didn’t matter that the Cowboys were playing, my dad and I were at the Super Bowl. The experience trumped the contestants, and eventually, the result.
My dad moved to America in the mid-1970s. He never loved football, but he loved me. As early as I can remember I loved the sport, loved playing it, loved watching it, and even as a young kid, loved writing and talking about it.
My dad drove me to football practices. My dad drove me to football games. He watched me play, and together, we watched plenty of others play.
How he made a Super Bowl trip happen I’m still not sure. My stepmom pulled a billion strings to get us tickets, and luckily, we had family friends in Arizona we could stay with. No chance we could swing the hotel prices of Super Bowl week, but only having to figure out airfare, my parents made it work.
As much as I remember the game, the scene I remember most was the lobby of some downtown Phoenix hotel where we picked up our tickets. A scene I now know, for my young eyes, it was incredible. Players walked around, coaches, GMs, just about anybody associated with the NFL walked through that lobby.
I was a precocious kid, and even then, obsessed with sports media. I’ll never forget seeing Peter King and tugging on my dad’s shirt.
“Dad, that’s Peter King!”
“Dad! He writes for Sports Illustrated!”
Dad certainly didn’t know who he was, but he encouraged me to go over to speak with him. I went. King could not have been nicer as I drilled him with questions about the Redskins quarterback controversy. Heath Shuler or Gus Frerotte. At the time, it was the most pressing issue in my universe.
Looking back now, I wonder if the palpable buzz of that hotel lobby in some way got me where I am now. I’ll never know.
What I do know is I never would have gotten where I am without my father. And now he’s gone.
He passed on Master’s Sunday, somewhat suddenly. While it’s shocking and incredibly hard, he also went peacefully, surrounded by family. As far as going goes, it’s what many hope for.
The days since have been tough. I’m not sure what will come ahead. I’ll miss him everyday of my life, and I will think about him often. I have my own young daughter to raise now, and while she will never really know my dad, I hope to show her his personality.
I haven’t written about the Redskins in almost a week. I’m not sure that’s happened, in some blog or other capacity, in nearly a decade. Or maybe more. Or maybe less. I’m honestly not sure.
What I am sure of, when it mattered, my dad loved football. Because he loved me.
And I love him too. I’m going to get back on my feet and back on the beat and attack news and information like I have the past year. I’ll try to have fun along the way as well, like I think I have for the past year.
Plenty of folks have lost their dad. I’m not unique, and I’m much luckier than many. I know that and appreciate it.
Thanks for indulging me on this story. Maybe you learned something about me. I learned a lot about myself. I’ll close with this: Give your loved ones a hug. Life can be fleeting. Chase your joys. Love life and be good to one another.