I hosted The Carolina Lettermen’s Lounge @ Kenan Stadium for years, as a favor to an old friend – #23 From Garden City – Don McCauley. I don’t any longer. From my vantage point across from The South Gate I would watch fans arriving and departing…. all ages, all stereotypes. One particular type of fan became a regular sight for me.
This is one of those commentaries that anyone who writes about sports and “the human condition” keeps in a pending file. You know when it’s time to use it.
These are difficult times in America and likely to get much darker and scarier. Whether you wring your hands in despair –“What to do?” – or go the “Pollyanna” route choosing to ignore the gathering storm; it is what it is.
The gathering storm is going to hit landfall whatever you or I do. Saving Western Civilization is “above my pay-grade”. I’m just a guy with a website.
Dad and Son attending the Big Game together. It could also be the family including Mom and Sister just as well…. but Dad and Son was the combo I fixated on.
The age of the boy was critical – between 5 and 8-9. As any parent knows, there is a period – a window – with your son/daughter when the child is old enough to have his/her own thoughts and opinions ….. and young enough to eagerly share those thoughts with Mom and Dad. And the child actually WANTS to be with Mom and Dad. Parent and child sharing adventures together. All too soon, being with Mom / Dad will no longer “be cool”.
“Baby bird” flies from the nest even if that is simply riding his bike down the block or to the park or school where he will have adventures without Dad…. and even learning about them is “pulling teeth” around the dinner table.
“How was school today?” ….. “OK” …… “Just OK?” …… “it was fine, can I go over to Johnny’s now?” …… “Sure. Mom will save your dessert ‘til late. Have fun.” …. OUCH! What parent hasn’t had that right of passage moment. Sure, other windows open…. but that window closes.
So I would see these Dads and Sons coming to The Game. Holding hands because of the hustle bustle of the crowd. The son’s hand reaching out for Dad’s and Dad’s reaching down for his son’s. That distance “just right”.
The son wearing a jersey of “his team”, maybe of a star player or maybe just “the team” in “team colors”. Maybe both Dad and Son in “team gear”.
Let me stop here for a second. This was happening on Saturdays at Kenan Stadium ergo some of you will knee jerk into “All Carolina fans are a buncha _______” because you are a hard-wired ABC hammer and everything you see is a Carolina nail. You miss the point if you do that …. 30-40-50 years invested in “hating Carolina” 0r Dook…. or “State College” is not going to change with anything said here.
So Dad and Son coming to The Game on a beautiful Fall Saturday. If it was just the two of’em there was probably no tailgating but maybe Mom packed them a little picnic lunch with both of “her boys” favorite sandwiches and some sort of “surprise treat”. Maybe they stopped at Hardees or Bojangles or that little hot dog stand they both like. Dad and Son enjoying a day together….. “just us guys”.
As they move with the herd of brightly-colored wildebeasts all going “to the game” the boy is fascinated by all the people, all sizes and shapes, and all excited to get to the game. His eyes sparkle…. his walk is a skip.
I recall my first trip to New York with my parents when I was 7-8. We went to see Ringling Brothers Circus at Madison Square Garden. As we were herded thru the jam-packed concourse a boy, smaller than I was, was on his dad’s shoulders surveying the busting crowd. He blurted out “HAPPY NEW YEAR” ….. My Dad thought maybe he had attended a Times Square New Year’s and that is what people said in such a big crowd of people. It made an impression that lasted 60 years.
Entering the South Gate, the crowd separates to their sections left or right. Maybe Dad knows exactly where their seats are or maybe not…. he scans the directional signs with assurance. Son doesn’t worry. “My Dad is in charge. He knows what to do…..”
Excitement is all over the boy’s face. He and his Dad are “at the Big Game”….. OH BOY!
I lose them at this point. They melt into the crowd.
The game happens….. Win or Lose. This year Carolina won every home game, so what always “pissed me off” didn’t occur. I wasn’t there.
Too often, whether with losses or even narrow W’s, ESPECIALLY in “Hated Rival” games, I would see the same Dad and Son leaving the stadium either at 00:00 or in the waning minutes with outcome not in doubt. ….. but everything had changed.
Everything about Dad’s body language screamed MAD…. ANGRY….. DISAPPOINTED….. The Day Was Ruined. He would face a load o’ crap from that jackass at the office or the obnoxious jerk down the block. His team had lost AGAIN…. now he was “a Loser” too.
“….. How dare that overpaid idiot of a coach and his incompetent coordinators blow that game. It was obvious to everyone they should have run / passed / punted on “that play”. Same old same old….. Their school is “a sleeping giant” with everything needed to be a Juggernaut…. and we keep hiring these idiots as coaches…..”
Dad isn’t even holding Son’s hand now. He is totally absorbed in his anger at the coach and the team “letting him down”. His son needs to learn how important it is that our team WINS. Here the son thought what was important was “being with my Dad.”
The son still excited albeit beginning to tire after a long day’s adventure. For 2-3 hours all his developing sensory receptors had been assaulted by sights, sounds, smells of all kinds. And, best of all, he had been “with Dad. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell Mom and maybe his kid sister about he and Dad “going to The Big Game”….. but now Dad was different.
Son looks up wondering….. “Did I do something to make Dad so mad?” Why is he saying all those “cuss words”? ….. how come our great day together has ended like this?”
His face loses it’s sparkle. His little shoulders slump. The skip in his step turns to a scuffle.
….. and that special window when he and his dad could be together – “just us guys” – begins to close.
I want to grab that dumb ass board monkey by the throat and throttle the life out of his miserable body. But that might further upset the little boy. …. As I have often suggested that such cretins are permitted to breed and to vote is a regrettable weakness within our society.
It happens everywhere. At Alabama when they lost to Ol’ Miss. At LSU and at Baylor Saturday night ….. over at The Wally which had gotten used to winning…. now losing three in a row. At The Carter where fans keeps waiting for “Our Year” but keep getting stuck in the muck in the middle. ….. Maybe Kenan was spared “this year”.
Look, I know there are aplenty of other sights and sounds at GameDay, but this one – obviously – kept getting to me. I’ve followed sports all my life. I “get it” but I’m tired of all the fan angst and drama. Being a Flat-screen Fan spares me a lot of that crap.
It’s human nature. Like that gathering storm, not much I can do about either one.
I was a son…. but I never “had a son”; but Kid and I did have our share of Dad & Daughter adventures with their special memories. Most of which we shared with Mom…. some “you had to be there” to appreciate. That time in Washington with the hooker, the hobo and the rat… well, you “had to be there”.
We just bought “a Roomba”. One of those R2D2 robot vacuum cleaners. Blondie is ecstatic. Hard to believe we put men on the moon 50 years ago but just got around to these things. She makes fun of my fetish for “headphones”….. and she is following “roomba” around the house talking to it. Will she start teasing it with a laser pointer next? ….. If she’s happy, I’m happy.