The years pass very quickly when you get to my age. Children arrive, grow, and schedules are never as simple as they used to be. Parents, brothers, sisters, everyone you hold near and dear, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to spend as life becomes so hectic. Before you know it, you’re getting grayer, slower and a bit more tired earlier in the evening than you ever remembered. Worst of all is that you can forget during the daily grind to stop every once in a while and say Thank You to those who matter the most.
So today I’m stopping for just a moment to say Thank You to my father Bob. Bob celebrated his 75th birthday yesterday, the “Diamond” Anniversary if you keep track of those things. (And for the record, we came through and did it in true Baltimore style: Steamed crabs, cold beer, sloppy joes, plenty of snacks, etc.). Happy Birthday Dad!
Each of us has someone special to thank for helping us become the people we are today, the careers we have, the morals and ethics and beliefs that make us unique and independent. I can thank both my father and mother for all of that. But it’s my Dad who really shaped the sports fan I grew up to be.
Bob played football and lacrosse at the University of Maryland from 1953 to 1958. He played for the legendary Jim Tatum. He went to two Orange Bowls, losing each time to Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners. He saw the immortal Jim Brown up close and personal at Byrd Stadium. He was a member of the Terps for the “Queen’s Game” against North Carolina. His memories and his passion for the University have never waned. And he was always more than happy to share them with me.
I saw the “Manster”, Randy White, play football. I watched seemingly every game of Lefty Driesell’s tenure as Head Coach of the basketball team. I vivdly recall Dean Smith going to the hateful “Four Corners” stall tactic at the start of the second half in a game at Cole circa 1974. Boomer Esiason, Charlie Wysocki, Herman Veal, Len Bias, even Frank Urso in lacrosse, I saw them all. All because of my Dad. Here’s how much of a true Terp he has always been: He never cancelled his basketball tickets during the Bob Wade era! Always the optimist, my father.
Of course there were always Baltimore Colts games, complete with brunch at Johnny U’s Golden Arm, then the bus ride to 33rd St. Orioles games during the summer, playoff baseball (anybody remember that?) and Game 1 of the ’79 World Series and Game 2 of the ’83 World Series (when Mike Boddicker struck out 14 Phillies!). When the Ravens arrived, he bought four season tickets in Section 9 at Memorial Stadium. Needless to say, those tickets are still in the family, now in Section 129 at the purple palace.
Sports, my father knew, taught much about life that couldn’t be found in other activities. Sacrifice, teamwork, dedication, defeat, grace, dignity, pressure, and the sense of belonging, whether as a teammate or as a member of the community. Through his love of the games we play, he taught me much, much more than I realized as I was growing up. Today, with my thinning hair and growing paunch, I can look back and appreciate even more, as a father of three athletic sons, why he wanted me to participate, even as a spectator. Because they were lessons easier learned by the fun of playing than by sitting in a classroom having it drilled into you endlessly.
My Dad is a humble and unassuming man. He’ll probably be embarrassed by this public ode to who he is and what he means. But I believe in my heart that real superstars in life aren’t found roaming centerfield or throwing 50 yard spirals. They are found picking the kids up from school every day. Playing catch in the yard after a long day at work. Coaching third base for an 8 year old’s Little League team. Making breakfast and lunch and seeing the children off to the bus stop each morning. Taking time to just sit and talk, and even more importantly, listen to their children.
75 years. I can’t buy you any diamonds, Dad, but I can tell you that you’re the gem of my life. Thank you for all you are and for who you’ve always been.
Happy Birthday Bob! And many, many more!