I meant to write this post a few weeks ago, but it got away from me and so I thought I would save it for today.
Yesterday was my Grampy’s birthday, but this post is about so much more than that.
I was talking about March Madness the other day with someone, and after a few of my comments they said, “Wow, you know a lot about basketball, and love sports. What did you play?”
I responded, and then followed by saying, “But I never was very talented, so that’s not really where the love comes from.”
My Grampy is truly one of a kind.
He’s witty, ornery and loves to push everyone’s buttons.
Last year when I moved to D.C., my grandparents flew to Kansas to help me pack up and drive my car and the U-Haul. Obviously I was pretty stressed about the quick move, and we hadn’t even left Kansas before my Mom called to ask how I was handling my Grampy…
I’m pretty sure I had at least three things to roll my eyes at and rant to her about.
But he also gives us quite a bit to laugh at.
We’re talking about a guy who has ran out of gas and been stranded more times than anyone in our family cares to count, and has knack for accidentally leaving and losing spendy items in public places.
But for as ornery as he is, my Grampy is also thoughtful and kind. When my mom was little, my grandparents were in charge a girls group home for a while, and over the years I have seen that kindness extended to so many people. He’s always there to help in any way he can.
My Grampy is adventurous and is always on the go.
He served in the army and is a world traveler.
When he was finishing up his degree after they had moved from Portland to Hermiston, he would hitch hike up and down the Gorge to attend class.
For many years he and my Grammy were known for their beautiful yard and rose garden, a labor of love that filled up the summer months between his job as a counselor and then high school principal. That focus eventually transferred to the family flower shop business after he retired from education, and now it has shifted to the family cabin. He can’t sit still, and has more energy than anyone I know.
But what do any of these things have to do with sports?
My Grampy grew up playing sports and has done some radio announcing for a variety of high sports over the years. Early on he coached high school boys’ basketball in Portland, before moving to Hermiston and becoming the head coach for many years. I know that he also spent time coaching youth teams that traveled overseas and assisted in other high school sports, like baseball. Then this past season, my Grampy had the unique opportunity to step back on the court as the head coach of the boys’ basketball team at Hermiston High School, for an interim season.
That influence sifted down to my uncles Jay and Josh, who were both college athletes and then became high school coaches in their respective sports, girls’ basketball and cross country.
But for my Grampy, I know that it has never the actual sport itself.
It’s about what sports can mean for people.
It is about practicing and teaching discipline, commitment and hard work. In a lot of small towns sports are often the key to keeping kids out of trouble and a stepping stone for them to see their potential to apply themselves. He wholeheartedly believes in the value of investing time and heart into students. I have always heard so many stories about his coaching days, and am so thankful that I was able to see that part of him come alive again for these kids.
(This post title comes from the question and response that he ends each huddle with.)
It is about chasing the science — studying the game and strengthening your sports IQ. Growing up, he called the high school football and basketball games on the local radio for a few years, and I loved to take stats for him because his live analysis and color comments helped me better understand the mechanics of the game. There is a thrill in the chase, countering strategy and risk, and the feeling of pay off when you succeed. My Grampy would tell you that you do not have to be into sports to understand that feeling, just replace sports with something that you are really passionate about, to fill your life with things that you make feel alive and that are worth chasing.
But most of all, it is about family and community.
Between my sister and me, we played quite a few different sports growing up, and our Grampy was always there to cheer us on and prepared to tell us afterward what we could do to improve next time. Even at our dance performances, he wanted to know the ins and outs of how everything worked. When my Uncle Josh stopped playing basketball in high school to focus on cross country and long distance track, something he continued into college, that became my Grampy’s new focus and he would run back and forth across the course shouting times. Similarly, when my Uncle Jay became a head basketball coach himself, my Grampy traveled to so many of his games that he might as well of become a (not so silent) extra coach in the stands. And of course, that support and interest extended past our family to our friends growing up.
I have always known that it is about investing time and finding things that he could do with us. Ever since my sister started taking golf seriously (she is finishing up her senior year at Lewis Clark State College), he was there every step of the way in whatever way she needed him. Because of that, they have played some awesome courses together and even attended the U.S. Open. For me, the past few years have been all about K-State sports for us. When I became a student at Kansas State University, he almost instantly became fan, taking the time to learn about its history and studying up on player’s stats, new recruits and more. He bought my season football and basketball passes each year so that I was always able to go and my friends knew that he was the only person that I would take the time to text while the games were still going on, or he was going to ask for a full summary afterward. Even with me being a news junkie, he would often find out about news before I did. Some of my favorite memories will always be the two football games he came to in Manhattan and going to watch K-State play Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.
I love sports because of how much I love my Grampy, and the memories and things I have learned about other things in life because of his own love for sports.
I know this was a long post, but when I lay it all out like this I hope you can see what special guy he is. He truly embodies the phrase, “for the love of the game,” in every way.
Happy Birthday old man!
And let me casually brag that my bracket definitely outdid yours this year.