Sports brings people together, especially families.
Sports has always been special in my family, especially football. The importance of that sport has changed over the years.
My mother knew nothing about football until I was the starting quarterback as a junior and senior for West Burlington High School.
Now she knows a lot about the game and never misses a University of Iowa or Dallas Cowboys game if she can help it.
My father went to the University of Iowa after graduating from Iowa Mennonite School where he met my mom. They still live in West Burlington in the house I grew up in.
The Iowa Hawkeyes’ overwhelming 63-0 win Saturday in Champaign, Illinois was very enjoyable personally in a lot of ways. It was senior day for Illinois so I played on that and took a senior, my dad.
The announced crowd of 33,313 dwindled quickly as Iowa took a 35-0 halftime lead.
The weather forecast for the game was daunting with possible sleeting rain and snow and temperatures in the low 30s. I loaded up on long underwear and many coats, but the game-time temperature was 39 degrees and it misted briefly for just five minutes.
Having worked in Watseka, Illinois, which is 60 miles north of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium, I had received grief in my time at that paper as a lifelong Hawkeyes fan. Some gloating texts may have been sent to some former co-workers after Saturday’s historic win. The 63-0 score matched the worst defeat in Illinois history, a loss to the University of Chicago 112 years ago.
I got the tickets cheaper than face value and a prime parking spot from a current co-worker. Thank you, Gretchen Teske.
However, neither that nor the weather nor the result was the best part of the game.
The most enjoyable part was the company I had with me – my father, Curt.
My dad will turn 81 Dec. 1. He and my mother celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary Nov. 12.
The tickets to the game were an anniversary present, but my mother, Susan (nee Hartman) didn’t want to go, so I got to spend the day with my dad. The three-hour trip to and three-hour trip from the game was also a great time.
Granted, we could not have asked for a better game result, but the personal time was also very rewarding.
“I’m glad to be home, but I hate to see the day end,” Dad said as we were returning to Iowa late saturday night.
Reminiscing about other football games we attended brought back memories of my first car, which I bought from my dad’s cousin, who lived in Minnesota.
He met us at an Iowa State-Kansas State game and I drove home in that car, a 1969 Mustang, talking about the football game.
Later I bought my brother a car (which he paid me back for) when he enrolled at Ozark Bible College in Joplin, Missouri. My mother and I attended a Kansas City Chiefs game on that trip to deliver it to him.
Another Kansas City Chiefs game was witnessed when my father got free tickets from a co-worker of his. Being a single parent at the time, my mom stayed in the hotel room with my 3-year-old as Dad and I went to the game.
The Chiefs were dad’s favorite professional team because of Iowa’s Ed Podolak playing football there.
My own favorite pro team is the Cowboys. The first football game that I can remember watching was Super Bowl V between the Cowboys and the Baltimore Colts. During the game, I decided I like the Cowboys, but when they lost on a last-second field goal, I sat in my dad’s lap and cried. The Cowboys won the Super Bowl the next year and have been my favorite team ever since.
There was no ESPN or internet when I was a kid, so the halftime highlights on Monday Night Football were must-see TV. Mom didn’t like that I got to stay up past my bedtime, but Dad let me, especially if the Cowboys game hadn’t been shown Sunday.
I learned loyalty to a team from my dad.
He graduated high school (1956) the same year the Hawkeyes went 9-1. They also won Big 10 titles in 1958 and 1960. The Hawkeyes did not win more games than they lost in even one season for the next 20 years.
Once a diehard Hawkeyes fan, always a diehard Hawkeyes fan.
When people complained about Hayden Fry being past his time, Dad would ask if people remembered what it was like before he was coach.
“Not until he has 20 straight losing seasons would it be time to get rid of him.” I am pretty sure he feels the same way about Kirk Ferentz.
Iowa football and football in general have been a big part of my life.
Thanksgiving is a special time with the Cowboys always on. When I lived in Arizona in my ‘20s, I would always have pizza on the fourth Thursday of November.
While most people eat turkey, pizza has become my tradition.
That is still a tradition. I watched the Cowboys defeat the Washington Redskins Thursday with my mother and father while eating pizza.