I spell Mom, "MVP"
I felt the energy rush out of my entire body. It was over. Three hours of excitement, ecstasy, and agony had come to end. We lost the game. I buried my head in my hands and had to hold back tears. I stared straight ahead and watched the other team celebrate; I watched them experience the feeling I had been longing for. It was over. Just then, my Mom put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry sweetie, hang in there, there are still a lot of games to be played."
Before you bust out the Kleenex, I must explain something to you. I wasn't actually "involved" in this game, unless you can be considered to be "involved" in a game you are watching from 1500 miles away on your couch. My beloved Washington Redskins had just lost a heartbreaker to the rival Philadelphia Eagles and for all intents and purposes the walls of my 15 year-old life were crumbling down on me. Most people, from my best friends to our neighbors couldn't understand why it meant so much to me, but my Mom always cared, or at least pretended to care. It didn't matter WHY it meant so much to me, the simple fact that it did was enough for her. It made me happy, so it made her happy. It made me sad, so she rooted hard for that not to happen. Even if she didn't "understand," she was always in my corner. And now, I'm in hers.
I remember when I was about 4-5 years old, how sad I felt when my Dad left for a business trip-that meant he wouldn't be able to take me to the local high school football game that Friday night (the Tulsa Memorial Chargers were my first love). But Mom stepped in, despite frigid temperatures, filled up my thermos, and sat there in the cold with me until the bitter end that night. This is still one of my Mom's favorite stories.
I remember when Mom and Dad surprised me with Redskins-Cowboys tickets in 1987. That Monday Night was one of the highlights of my childhood. We still have the home movies of my Mom asking me how I was feeling as I was sitting there watching the Redskins warm-up. "Awesome" was my answer-it's the same feeling I have now when I go to the games. We had such a good time, my parents took me to another Redskins-Cowboys Monday Night game in 1991. Ironically, or perhaps luckily for me, the Redskins won the Super Bowl in both of those seasons.
I remember hearing my Mom's voice during my football games (yes, I actually played sports and wasn't a TOTAL geek) over everyone else's in the stands. Her famous chant of "D" when I was playing defensive tackle could be heard three counties away. Being a native New Yorker, Mom was not afraid to "voice" her opinion and she managed to ruffle the feathers of a few of the other "football Mom's." My Dad always paced the sidelines during the end of our games-he said it was nerves, I just think he wanted to be out of her vocal range.
I remember arguing with Mom every time it snowed because I HATED wearing those big, puffy, insulated gloves-I just couldn't grip the football, baseball, or basketball with those things on. We argued. She won.
I remember the Christmas and birthday gifts. Memorabilia, posters, tickets, knickknacks, if it had one of my team's logos on it, she found it. Those gifts rolled in year after year-they still do.
I remember when Mom quietly rooted AGAINST her beloved Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI because they were playing the Redskins, and she knew it meant more to me.
I remember after we moved to Houston and I didn't have a friend in sight, my Mom let me go to not one, not two, not three, but all four games of a Reds-Astros series in Astrodome in 1995. She knew I was happy sitting in those seats, even happier seeing the Reds won all four games. During the three years I lived there, I doubt I missed more than one or two Reds-Astros games-I didn't have a job, so we know where the money was coming from.
I remember "negotiating" with Mom each March to please let me stay home from school during the first two days of the NCAA Tournament. I would promise to "do this" and I would promise to "do that" if I could just stay home and watch those afternoon games. "This" and "that" never got done, but I always wound up staying home. She even sat through my "dissection" of the Bracket each year.
I remember Mom reading my tedious "pre-season magazines" that I prepared before each season in each sport began. I would type three pages on the Brewers left-handed relief pitching, or four pages on the interior of the Falcons offensive line, yet she never seemed bored-quite the opposite, she made me feel as if I was filing my report to be printed in the "Pro Football Weekly" or the "Sporting News."
I remember Mom calling me at my dorm room during my freshmen year in college right after the Redskins pulled out a thriller at Philadelphia and just saying, "they did it, they did it!" The woman could have cared less about the Redskins, but she cared about me, and I am sure she could picture me dancing around in that ridiculously small room just like I did when I lived at home.
I remember when my Mom had to work late one Sunday in 1992 and she missed one of the greatest moments in Redskins history-a dramatic 20-17 win over Dallas. I played the end of that game over for her on tape, and then we ate spaghetti with her famous pasta sauce. All was right in the world. I still have that tape, and I watch it as much to remind me about that DAY as much I do to remind me about that game.
But not all the memories have been pleasant.
I remember when I got the call from Dad in 1998 as I was sitting in my room at our fraternity house. Mom had colon cancer. They caught it pretty early, but it was still cancer, there would still be surgery, and chemotherapy. The Redskins started 0-7 in 1998, the Reds had one of their worst seasons ever, and my team didn't do very well in March Madness. It was a bad year all around.
But I also remember the weekend of September 26th 1999. It was the first time I had seen my Mom since she went into remission, it was the first time my parents saw the house I was living in with two good friends in Norman, OK, and it was the first time my parents met my girlfriend, who later became my fiancÚ', who later became my wife. The Redskins won a big game in New York against the Jets, and the Reds continued their Cinderella season as Pokey Reese hit an extra-innings home run to beat the Cardinals. It was an enlightening and memorable weekend. Things were back to normal.
Or so I thought.
Pete Harnish was pitching for the Reds in St. Louis in the summer of 2000. It was just another game in what was rapidly becoming a very so-so season, but as always, I was watching, and hoping they would get rolling. The phone rang somewhere around the third inning. It was Dad. Mom had cancer again. Not exactly the same cancer, but cancer nonetheless-it doesn't take four years in medical school to know cancer twice in two years isn't good. I did two things after we hung up the phone. I took a coaster my drink was sitting on and smashed it against the wall, breaking it into pieces. I then watched the rest of the Reds game with the sound muted, staring at the TV in stunned and horrified silence. That night, I didn't care who won. The Reds got creamed.
Later that summer, Mom was fighting hard against the "Big C" once again and she was winning, although it was certainly taking it's toll. I broke another coaster and a remote control around that time-but this time it was because Danny Graves blew a save for the Reds in a game at San Francisco. I still cared.
Mom beat cancer again. Her "victory party" officially took place at my wedding, where she strutted and partied all weekend long. We had family and friends from all over converging on Oklahoma City, and she greeted them all with a smile and a "don't look so surprised" grin on her face. My wife was by far and away the star of the weekend, she certainly stole the show and I still can't believe my good fortune in landing such a gem, but my Mom was the MVP that weekend. But as she'll be quick to remind you, an MVP is only as good as their coach, their support-and that honor goes to my Dad who was there with her for every last brutal round she fought.
Now Mom is having a little trouble once again. Thankfully, it is not cancer, and it is not life threatening, or something that appears to be prolonged or overly debilitating, However, she has had surgery again and is closing in on a month straight in the hospital. Every time she thinks she's on her way home, the third base coach signals for her to come back. They are only "minor" complications if you're not the one dealing with them. Every time I talk to her, she tells me to "go the game"-she is referring to my season tickets for Tulsa basketball. I tell her not to worry. Because that's what I do, I care about sports. I care about winning and losing. I care about how it marks time for me, how it brings all my memories into focus. How it gives me something to delve into, something to talk about, and something to look forward to. And Mom cares about me, so she cares about sports too. And I care about Mom.
Mom should be heading home within a week and I'll be there when she finally arrives, and I'll really only have one thing to say to her. I'll put my arm on her shoulder, and say, "Hang in there Mom, you've still got a lot of games left to play."