All I know about sports, and my undying love for them, comes from my Dad.
As the daughter of a coach, I pretty much had to learn sports or perish- and I definitely chose to learn (and love) them. Some of my earliest memories are of me and my mother sitting in the stands on Friday nights and watching my dad coach in football games and waving my black and gold pompom for Lubbock High.
Daddy also made sure I grew up indoctrinated in the Church of the Texas Longhorns. The lullaby he sang to me as a baby wasn’t the standard “Rock A Bye Baby” tune, it was “The Eyes of Texas”. I’m pretty sure I learned to do the Hook ‘Em Horns handsign before I learned to walk. Our Thanksgivings centered around watching the Horns take on the Aggies, and Coach Darrell Royal was revered as a legend in our house. So even though I couldn’t suit up in the burnt orange, I did the next best thing for a girl– and became a Texas Angel and for four years helped recruit those boys that would take the field for Texas. (I think the lullaby story helped me get the gig.) And, of course, my Pops was there in the stands at UT to watch.
My Dad also gave me the gift of baseball- the love for the game, and all its wonder and beauty. The routine of getting a bag of peanuts, kicking back and relaxing, and watching it all unfold in front of you. He taught me how to score games, and put me up in the booth to keep score for all of my brother’s little league games he coached. Unwisely, he also put me on the mic to call some of those games- and then found it tough to pull the mic away when the game was over.
I am proud to say, however, that although we share a reverence for the twin Texas baseball gods Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens, I successfully managed to avoid adopting his love for the Yankees. I mean, I love my Daddy- but that’s just craziness.
And I can’t leave golf out of the mix- the one sport that I learned to love almost unwillingly. After a lifetime of golf talk around the dinner table, golf on the TV, going to the driving range or watching my dad (and brother) play 18 holes… I waived the white flag and gave in. This is mostly because Dad lets me drive the golf cart, which gives me an inordinate amount of joy. He didn’t even yell too loud that time when I was a kid, and drove the cart up on to the green… and then promptly reversed it and gunned it backwards off the green and down a hill into a tree. OK, I might have been 18 when that happened.
But my best sports memory with my Dad came last year, when I had the chance to repay him for a lifetime of sports gifts. When Texas beat OU in early October 2005, I gambled and bought 2 tickets to the Rose Bowl national championship game (and airfare, hotel and reserved a car). My gamble paid off when Texas finished the season undefeated- and so I got a dozen orange roses, tied them together with burnt orange ribbon and threaded the tickets through the ribbon– and wrapped it up as a Christmas gift for my Dad. When he opened the box and saw the tickets, he was (for maybe the first time in my life) speechless.
We were together for tailgating outside on the Pasadena grounds for 8 hours before the game (and my Dad perfected the art of getting free food and beer from USC fans); we were together to walk into the first national championship game either of us had ever been to; we were together to watch Vince Young put on the show of a lifetime; and we were together when Texas won its first national championship since 1970- the first in my lifetime. I wouldn’t trade anything for that hug I shared with my Dad in the stands of the Rose Bowl, with confetti raining down and tears running down my face. It’s one of the dearest moments of my life, and one that I’ll hold close to my heart forever.
For all this- and for everything else he’s done for me throughout my life: I love you, Daddy- and Happy Fathers Day!