“Dad, English Premier League Soccer is on. It’s Everton vs. Newcastle today. I made nachos. Do you want to come watch it with me?”
The truth is, I do not really want to watch it today. I love watching soccer, but I have stuff to do and I really have no vested interest in these teams. However, much like every Saturday, I will sit down in my chair an try to watch at least half of the match. For the next 90 minutes plus added time, I am going to be bombarded with the history of players whose names I can not pronounce. I will hear all about their stats and how much teams are paying at the transfer window. Ben will critique the manager’s tactical decisions, inform me which teams will soon be relegated and point out all the things he would do different if he was playing. Clearly a fourteen year old boy knows more than the top players and managers in the world.
Why do I do this every weekend? First, the boy makes really good nachos. Second, it reminds me of one of my favorite childhood memories.
In 1987, for some reason, I was in really into baseball. That year, he Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays played each other in the final game of their seasons. After 161 games, they were deadlocked and the divisional championship came down to the last game of the season. In 1987, my dad had back surgery and was laying in a hospital bed on game day. I do not remember who suggested it, but my mother dropped me off at the hospital to sit in my dad’s room and watch the game with him.
I was excited because it was just my dad and me. I sat in the chair by his bed and for the next nine innings, I impressed him with my knowledge of the players. I entertained him with the statistics of every player who came to the plate and regaled him with my knowledge of the season. I was on my game and eagerly pointed out the mistakes the Tiger manager made because, after all, a teen boy in Kalamazoo, Michigan obviously knew more about baseball than Sparky Anderson who had only been around the Major League for a couple decades.
The nurses came in every few innings to check on us and my dad introduced me to every one of them and told them about how I was spending the game with him. I remember them smiling. When my dad’s meal came, there was an extra Jello, pop and apple sauce under the metal cover, My dad hung in there. I remember being a little baffled about how he could possibly slip in and out of sleep during such an important and tense game. In hindsight, I am pretty impressed that he could stay awake at all. The combination of painkillers and baseball would put me in a coma.
The game ended. I am going to go purely on faded memories on this next part. The Tigers won the game 1-0. Frank Tanana pitched a complete game shut-out and the only run scored was a solo home run to left-center field in the first couple of innings by Chet Lemon. Or maybe it was Larry Herndon. I always confused those two. I want to say the game ended on a weak grounder back to Tanana. I will have to fact check those 30+ year old memories later. I remember my dad thanking me and once again telling the nurses that I had spent the whole game with him as I left. I am not sure it it was pride of morphine talking. Probably both.
As a parent, I feel like I screw something up every single day. I am constantly worried that some day, my kids will remember me as some type of ogre who snapped at them for not putting their games down fast enough, for being too loud, or for making my living room a bigger mess than a frat house on Sunday morning. I definitely over think it but I really try to counter all of that with small things like watching a soccer match with Ben or suffering through an overly complicated board game James (seriously, when did games stop coming with spinners?).
Will Ben remember, or care, that I spent a good chunk of my Saturday morning watching an inconsequential match with him? Probably not. However, maybe one of these games something special will happen. Maybe not. Maybe he will simply be having a crappy day and me listening to him reporting transfer rumor will make it better. Maybe he will remember that. I don’t know.
I am sure most of these Saturdays will fade from both of our memories. However, almost every time I settle in and the barrage of information starts, I smile for a second and remember sucking Sprite out of a styrofoam cup in a hospital room over thirty years ago with my dad. Maybe some day, my boys will sit with their son or daughter and grind out a football game, basketball game or dance recital (oh, please let it be a dance recital) and think of me. I can hope.
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