One of the very first sports memories I have, besides playing little kid games, is sitting on old Cardinal Stadium watching Louisville play sitting next to my dad. I don't remember details about the game. All I remember are the helmets. They were all in a line. I don't remember much after that. Just one play in one game.
Like with many sons and fathers, sports were a part of our relationship. As a little kid, I had one of those gigantic red bats with an inflated barrel that was like 6 inches around. One of my favorite memories was playing ball with my dad and older half brother. Eventually I moved on to organized sports. Namely baseball and soccer.
My dad was never my head coach. He coached my older half brothers when they were kids. He travelled more when my brother and I were growing up. But, my dad was always an assistant for my baseball teams. Running through my mental pictures, there is only one year that I don't remember him being there on the bench. It was my last one. My worst one by far. It was a coincidence that it was like that. I played on the 8th grade team. I wasn't that good at all. I had like 1 hit all season. I did make a web gem though on a sliding catch in right field. That's how you could tell I sucked, I played right field. The year before, I was the second best player on the team. I don't think we lost but 1 game all season. My dad was on the bench every game. I'm sure he was proud of me and all that jazz. But I don't really remember anything from that. The memory that stands out from all my days playing baseball was a few years earlier. I was playing second base. They had the bases loaded or a runner on 3rd. It must have been tied because the infield was in. Someone hit a pop up to the edge of the dirt. I went back, back, back and the ball hit the end of my glove and we lost. It's the only game I've ever cried after losing. I didn't cry on the field, I cried in the coke line after the game. I don't even remember what he said, but it was one of those teaching moments for life.
Actually, now that I think about it, my favorite baseball story about my dad doesn't involve a game. He would hit me and my brother ground balls and pop flies in our backyard. It was one of the advantages of having a gigantic backyard. I don't remember if I had grown impatient playing or if I was just being a brat, but I was laying on the ground. It was my turn to get a fly ball. My dad hit it directly into my glove. It was one of the most awesome things I've ever witnessed.
Baseball was one of the sports that I attended games with my dad the most. It's easier because there are more of them. And because for a couple of seasons he and a guy he worked with had Reds season tickets. For the life of me I can't remember what years they were. 93 and 94 it seems for sure. I know it was 94 because the Reds were good and the Astros were good. It seemed like every other Reds game I went to back then was against the Astros. When we went to Florida for vacation, we went to a place 45 minutes south of St Pete. That meant going to Rays games. Just like how the Reds would seemingly always play the Astros, the Rays seemed to always play the Blue Jays. I want to say it was 4 years in a row of Toronto. I do know the very last Blue Jays game I saw was when Roy Halladay pitched because I picked that day just because of that. He was, and still is, one of my favorite players. Mainly because of fantasy baseball. I remember the first Reds game I went to was against the Giants in the late 80s. Eric Davis, who is probably my favorite of all time, hit a home run. I think the Giants won. There was one Reds game we left early that Herm Winningham won on a suicide squeeze we heard in the car. I believe the last Reds game we went to as a family was in September of 2000. It was against Milwaukee. I feel a little remorseful that I never got him to go to the new stadium. We went to more Rays games than Reds games the last 5 years.
While baseball was the common vain I had with my dad growing up all the way to adulthood, Bengals games, and 1 Bearcat game, are the standouts when I look through the old ticket stubs I have. Yeah, I have old ticket stubs because I'm a gigantic dork. I have them from movies even. Yes, I saw the Fantastic 4 in theatres. Oh wait, that wasn't a thing to brag about. Neither was the first Bengals game I went to. The Bengals were 2-10 at the time and they played the 49ers, who were 3-8. The game was exciting as hell though. Carl Pickens caught a couple of TDs. Corey Dillon had a monster game. Jerry Rice had a long TD. Jeff Blake was involved. I knocked over my dad's beer that was under my seat. Good times all around. A few years later, my parents and their friends chipped in for the half season packages. We saw the Bengals lose to the Browns, lose in a stadium full of Steeler fans, lose to the Titans on a goalline stand, saw a naked man run onto the field. We saw lots of embarrassment. We also saw some great things. We were there when Corey Dillon broke the rushing record. It was one of the most damndest things I ever saw. A couple years later was 2003 and made the other years of shitty Bengals games seem worth it. The Rudi Johnson game against Seattle was awesome. The best one of all though, was the Bengals against the Chiefs. The Ocho guarantee game. The undefeated Chiefs. Peter Warrick's punt return is right up there with my first kiss as one of the best moments of my life. Then he had a long TD catch and fist pumped down the field. It was awesome. Even in the games that weren't awesome, we woke up at the ass crack of dawn and tailgaited. These times are when I learned I like toasted buns. My dad's friend worked in the building's parking lot we were in, and this is when I learned it's great to know people who have connections to clean bathrooms.
Since this is a Bearcats Blog, I'll make this next one pertaining to UC. UC football was ass when I was growing up. Probably when you were growing up too. Unless you are a little kid. If you are, then get off my lawn because I'm an old man. My grade school teams got tickets to 1 game a year. We spent the time playing our own game of football in the concourse instead of watching Tulane or East Carolina. I do remember East Carolina was coming out from halftime down the steps and one of their linemen put his towel on the railing and I got it. I thought nothing but how awesome it was at the time, but I really hope he didn't do anything disgusting with it. When we weren't playing games, we were finding basketball players in the stands and getting their autographs. That's how one random guy, who could have been a Bengal, took my hat and signed it without either of us saying a word. It was weird then and it's weird now. Besides those games, once we moved the only other college game I remember going to was in the early 90s when Louisville played Ohio State. I said "Hey it's on tv," and my dad said "That means we don't have to go." I was at the age where I thought he was serious. I don't remember if it was 91 or 92. I do remember that Louisville had a chance to win or tie and the pass at the end was incomplete. Oh great, that was both years. I remember clear as day OSU scored and a woman looked over at the Louisville section, we were in the Louisville section, and stuck her tongue out at us. So it was that OSU game and then a long time before I really remember the details of a college game. That was until the Wisconsin game of 99. I know I've told this story a lot. Ron Dayne fumbled right in front of us. We rushed the field. I shook Rick Minter's hand. The best UC football game I've ever been to by far.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the greatest night of basketball I've ever witnessed live. I was at the Donald Little beats Marquette game just weeks before, but there hasn't been a sporting day that matched the Sweet 16 games in Lexington that year. I had never been to an NCAA tournament game. I had never been to Rupp Arena. I had never seen Duke. I had never seen Indiana. I wore a red shirt to fit in with the IU fans and to show my support. We sat in the very last row. That was the best game I've ever been to. It was so electric when Indiana was making their comeback. Then dude fouled Jay Williams and I thought people would die. Then he missed them both. There was a lot of jumping, there were high fives, there were hugs, it was awesome. Seeing an upset in the tournament on tv is one thing, being there with a partial crowd was something I won't forget. The next game saw half the arena clear out. That was Kent State and Pittsburgh. I don't remember details about the game. I just remember it was really close the whole second half and we moved down to great seats. The game went into OT and Kent State won. On the way back home, we listened to ESPN radio and talked about how great it was. That was 10 years ago and that memory is crystal clear.
There are plenty of other memories that I share with my dad. Believe it or not, there are a lot of sports related ones. He was a bad sports fan in the sense that he rooted for everyone. He rooted for Louisville, he rooted for Kentucky, he rooted for Cincinnati. In the last 2 years, he witnessed the first time every team he's liked win at once. The Reds, the Bengals, the Bearcats, Louisville, Kentucky, even IU and Ohio State. I told you, terrible fan. It's where I get it from. The thing that all of these stories have in common is that they were with my dad. You would have to be blind to miss that theme. The reason that I share these stories with all of you is that today would have been his birthday. Sports are about the games, but they are also about the memories that you share with other people. These are just some of them that I share with my dad. I love you, thanks for letting me share these memories.