While I’m getting everything up and running, I thought I would give you something to read. Thank you for your patience as I get the blog (and my life) in order.
A Dad and His Daughter
I tell people I was born on the football field. Maybe exaggerated, but football does seem to be a principal theme in my life. It was all set in motion long before my birth.
My dad played football, basically, since he could walk. He had an honored high school career and went on to play for the University of Oregon. After school, my dad coached all over the country: Oregon, Washington, Utah, Missouri…
My dad met my mom (a former 49ers cheerleader, incidentally) when he was coaching at Washington State University. My mom has never been particularly impressed by football, but I’ve been told she almost brawled with a USC fan in the stands once.
My parents got married and shortly thereafter had me. Not to sound medieval, but it is definitely a disadvantage to my dad’s legacy that I, his only child, turned out to be a girl. Logistically speaking, it was always going to be hard to follow in his footsteps. Need I say football is a man’s world?
But my dad still loved me. As a baby, he would sing me to sleep with college fight songs. By the age of five, he had taught me so much about football that I could name any college’s mascot, colors, and fight song on command (he would quiz me and sometimes even show off my knowledge to his friends). I was immersed in football since the very beginning of my existence.
Over the years, I developed quite an obsession with all things college, pro, and later fantasy football. Through no fault of my dad’s, I internalized at a very young age that I would never be the child I assumed he wanted (one that could play football). I may not have been able to play, but I was determined to learn everything about football because, in my mind, it made me a little less of a failure at carrying on my dad’s legacy.
My parents divorced when I was six and my dad moved back to Oregon. For various reasons, my relationship with him growing up was, I guess you could say, strained. The back and forth traveling took its toll, among other things. Talking turned to bickering, shouting, or lecturing. Consequently, we didn’t talk as often anymore. There were times when it felt like the only thing we could talk about was football. So we talked a lot of football. We didn’t just talk about which teams won; we got deep into the nuances, complexities, and strategy of the game. The 3-4 Defense, a player’s suitability for his position, clock management, fourth down decision variables…no topic was off limits. Football gave my dad and me a connection and something to talk about in times when there wasn’t very much to talk about.
Of course, I was always going to be an Oregon Duck, just like my dad. Some may call it destiny. Others may call it determination. Regardless, even though our relationship was tense, I was excited to live close to my dad again and continue following in his footsteps to the best of my ability.
Going to school at the University of Oregon is where it happened. Where football didn’t just save a connection, it created an unbreakable bond between dad and daughter.
If you know Eugene, Oregon, you know how football is there. I was hooked on the football culture immediately, and went to every Ducks game I could. My dad goes to all of the games to this day because he has a press pass (he is a Ducks football analyst for a local newspaper). And, it’s almost not worth mentioning: he’s a diehard.
For games, my dad was permitted to park at his workplace, which was situated across the river from Autzen Stadium and only 20 minutes walk away. One word to describe the walk from my dad’s car to Autzen Stadium, especially during the early fall: breathtaking. You start on a narrower path through a little woodland, yellowed leaves falling all around. As you walk, more fans join on the path to Autzen. Suddenly, you pass under the tunnel covered in vibrant graffiti, and the path dramatically widens to a river of people in green and yellow, bottlenecking to cross a solid bridge over the MacKenzie River. You can hear the hum from Autzen waiting on the other side. It is electric.
The walks to Autzen became tradition. At first, our conversations were limited to football. But then, we were able to talk about any topic, including what was happening in our lives. With the leaves falling around, the chill on our noses, the buzz of Autzen in the air, my dad and I strengthened a struggling relationship so that it could flourish into what it is today.
I have thus since moved from Oregon. I understand now that carrying on my dad’s legacy was never about playing football like he did; it was about loving football as he does. That love is instilled in me and will be carried on for generations.
As for my dad and I, we have never been as close as we are today. We talk frequently and about anything. However, during football season, we are guaranteed to talk more often. That’s because, every Saturday, I get a wholly expected and never unwanted phone call from my dad as he walks over the bridge to Autzen. The tradition lives on.
And I suppose it can all be boiled down to something very simple:
I love football because of walks over the bridge to Autzen. I love football because of Saturday phone calls from my dad. I love football because I love my dad.