“So, Dad, Who Are We Rooting For?”

I miss my dad. For anyone who’s lost a parent, you figure out quick that there are times that will never be the same in your life. There are of course the usual times – holidays, the anniversary of their death, etc. which forever carry a weight of loss and an unbreakable thread of remembrance. There are also those unexpected times – for me it’s usually when I’m in the middle of something – a decision, a difficulty, or a great joy, and I just wish I could call my dad. But in the six years since my dad finally found rest after a battle with pancreatic cancer, I have to say – it’s always the Super Bowl that gets me.

It seems silly, maybe even superficial. But it was something I always watched with him. Sometimes we had family and friends over. Sometimes there was a flurry of activity during the first half of the game. But more times than not, it was just me and him by the end of the night, sticking it out until the bitter end. When I think back, I realize, we watched some really crappy Super Bowls together. It seems like there was a whole slew of unmemorable blowouts (usually with the Bills losing) through the nineties. But there were the great ones – like the ’86 Bears (my dad was a huge Walter Payton fan), and there were even exciting games between teams we didn’t really care about – like the Rams vs. Titans of 2000.

The thing was, with my dad it was always a joy to watch the game. He took it seriously enough to make sure the TV screen was extra clean, the reception extra clear, and the seats arranged for prime viewing. If it was usually just my dad and I at the bitter end, it was also just my dad and I at 4pm, sitting through the pre-game. If you wanted to get into the game and yell and jump up at a great play, my dad was the guy to watch it with. It was great because the experience was seasoned with conversation and a lot of joking – about the commentators, about the commercials, about the halftime show, and about the silliness of the whole production (“and next we’ll be back with a slo-mo replay of the coin toss!”) It was fun. It was time with my dad. I miss it.

So as this year’s Super Bowl approaches, and, as it turns out, I really don’t have any rooting interest, I kinda wish I could call my dad and get some perspective on who to root for. The last few years have been good to my teams. I’m a fan of the Saints and the Steelers. In fact, those teams’ success, along with the Colts winning in 2006 (my dad was a Colts fan too) made my siblings and I wonder if dad was maybe pulling some strings from heaven for us kids. But this year is different. So, I wonder, who would dad be pulling for? From my years of watching with him, and years of asking, I think I can figure a few things. Dad always cheered for the underdog, unless it was one of his teams – so I guess that would lean toward the Giants or Ravens. But, he generally mistrusted any team from New York or California (it was a conspiracy by the networks for the big market teams to win) – so that eliminates the Giants and 49ers. Umm..I can guarantee he wouldn’t be for the Patriots. He loved a good story, so both Eli Manning and the Jim Harbaugh thing with the Niners might have got his interest – so…I don’t know.

In the end, watching the Super Bowl with my dad was never really about the game anyway. It was about the time together, the chance to enjoy one another’s company, it was about the chance to laugh and cheer and get mad at things that really didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and to laugh at ourselves. So I may not know who to root for yet, but I think I know how to continue the tradition. Make sure the screen is clean, the reception is clear, and the chairs aligned, and then relish in answering the question when my son asks me, “So, dad, who are we rooting for?”

Love you, Dad.

Memory Eternal – Dean Weir (08/07/05)