My father is an enormous football fan. I can still remember the distinctive echo that came from Daddy having the television set on in the kitchen, the family room, and the garage (in case he had to step outside!) all at the same time. No way would he miss a minute! While he is officially a Cowboys fan, his greatest joy comes from college football. My father truly is Sooner born, Sooner bred, and when he dies he will, indeed, become sooner dead.
He worked to make sure we were proud of our family “legacy” our entire life. You know how most families sing “Old McDonald” on car trips? Daddy had us sing the OU fight song. Every Thanksgiving we got a new OU sweatshirt, which we were encouraged to wear as much as possible, and my very patriotic parents even take the Stars and Stripes that hang outside our house down on game day in favor of the Crimson and Cream.
His efforts to get us excited about OU partially worked. My little sister Merry moved into the dorms at OU in August of 2011, and dad COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE EXCITED. When I told him I was considering it for graduate school, I thought he was going to do a cartwheel.
While we did go there, we didn’t actually get that into sports. I ignorantly wasn’t aware that the tickets to games were such a hot commodity (please see my post here about my evolution into a sub-par football fan), and Merry was just too busy with all the joys that undergrad has to offer to really be bothered with making sure that watching the Sooners was the top priority. We were proud, sure, but not that involved.
Daddy never gave up hope, though. Ever since 2013, every single time, and I mean EVERY SINGLE TIME OU is playing we get a group text from dad with some iteration of “our Alma mater plays at 1:00pm today! Channel five!” We would usually text back “Boomer!” and then be done with it.
This season, however, I happened to be at Penn Social with James on game day. For those not familiar with DC sports bars, Penn Social is an enormous basement that has a half dozen wall-sized television screens, shuffleboard, Jenga, and a whole litany of arcade games. It is actually quite a fun place to be because there is so much to do you don’t feel like you’ve sat in a bar all day. Penn State wasn’t doing so hot, and James was taking it hard. I couldn’t watch it anymore, and, conveniently, OU happened to be playing on the television set directly in front of me. I turned my body, poured myself a drink, and settled in to see what the fuss was all about.
Boy, was I in for a treat. A fast-paced, high scoring game awaited me. I was riveted. Being a naturally competitive person, being a sports fan is probably a dangerous endeavor to involve myself in. I was fired up, texting my dad about every 3 minutes. He wasn’t responding which, frankly, I was quite offended by. Hadn’t this been what he had wanted all along? Around the end of the third quarter, when it was absolutely neck and neck and I could not take this pace anymore oh my gosh this is too much for my heart I got a text from Dad. He had read all of my texts and sent: “OMG! I was on the boat! What’s happening?! CALL ME!”
I called him immediately and proceeded to dictate every play of the next quarter to him. I was actually shocked at the amount I was able to describe. Clearly, watching him and my husband yell at the TV for years was actually quite the education! It was one of the most fun times I have ever had with my father. I would often yell “NO!” to which he would respond “WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT HAPPENED?!” And I would have to quickly backtrack, explaining what had transpired!
About three minutes before the end of the game some ignoramus changed the channel. Most of the bar didn’t notice, but the five Okies in DC yelled immediately. James jumped up to go ask the bartender to change it back. One of the guys said “what should we do?” and I leaned over to tell him that my husband was going to handle it. He asked “oh are you a Sooner fan?” and for the first time in my whole life I actually proudly uttered the words “I am a Sooner.”
We won that game, but I won so much more that day. I found a new way to connect with my dad. He and I have always been so very close, but it has always been because he has come to me. When I took an Opera translation class as a child, he took me to see the Opera, signing up for newsletters and researching which ones we should go to next. When I loved Zac Efron as a teen, he found tickets to High School Musical Live in Concert for me. When we watched Lizzie McGuire as little girls, he learned to love it too so we could have that hour every Friday. This time, it was me who found a way to love what he did. It was time I met him on his side of the field.
I am sure he thought it was a fluke, a glorious memory to hold on to forever. The next Saturday he sent his usual text “Sooners play tonight!” and we all responded the typical way. I had been out in the country all day, and almost didn’t make it home in time. I ran into my house, kicked off my shoes and slid on the hardwood floor towards the TV. Serendipity had it on the right channel, so with one second to spare the screen came in to focus just in time to watch Baker Mayfield throw a touchdown. I called dad immediately and he didn’t even say “Hi!” just “DID YOU SEE THAT TOUCHDOWN?” And unlike all the times in years before, this time I was actually able to say “yes!”
We stayed up for the whole game (despite the late hour on the East Coast), texting non-stop. At one point I had to get up and get my phone charger. We talked through every play, with dad laughing at my use of non-technical phrases to describe what was happening. For the record, excessive tackling is a perfect way to describe a situation, and I don’t know how it isn’t official terminology! We won, again, and I like to think it is because of the good karma earned between a father and a daughter finding common ground.
The very next weekend OU played at 3:30 EST. When I learned that our dinner plans started at 5 pm I was horrified. They couldn’t be at 5 because I was going to miss part of the game. This thought stopped me dead in my tracks. My whole life I had teased Daddy about planning around football. I turned off the TV in the den because “YOU DON’T NEED IT ON IN EVERY ROOM OF THE HOUSE, DAD!” For the past six football seasons I have inhaled and exhaled deeply as James has suggested that we change/cancel/not make plans so he could watch Penn State. And now, I too, was planning my life around the game. They created a monster! But the cool thing is, I’d SOONER be a monster that has a great reason to talk to my dad for three hours every Saturday of the fall, than be a normal person that has their whole weekend free. Therefore, a football loving (okay liking, a lot, as a friend, right now. We’ll see how this goes!) monster I shall be!