Growing up, it was almost a religious rite to “watch the ball game” at our house. That comes from a sports-crazy dad with three daughters (whose initials were the same as Baltimore Colts’ star Johnny Unitas) and no sons to push from the sidelines. It’s not that we weren’t athletic — all three of us played something competitive in high school and Judy co-majored in Phys Ed in college — but from an early age, we learned that when there was a ball game on the TV, well, we’d likely be watching it.
OK, I must admit, it was mostly certain kinds of sporting events — and we also attended plenty in person. We rarely missed anything played by the University of Wyoming and never stuff at our high school, the now-gone Cheyenne St. Mary’s. But mostly, on a staticy black and white televsion, we watched both football and basketball.
Our dear grandmother, Mimi, was a huge baseball fan — she followed the Kansas City A’s closer than her soap operas (and that was pretty darn close!) But baseball wasn’t *it* at home. Honestly, tennis was not a ball game; neither was golf. And although we went to a hockey game in Denver once, neither was hockey — it just didn’t quite enter into the Uphoff consciousness.
But the pros rated — think Denver Broncos, primarily — and of course the big events like the NBA finals, the Super Bowl, and March Madness (did they even call it that then?)
A lot of history behind this family tradition…. for example, Dad was the president of the Cheyenne Quarterback Club when we were kids. While Joan and I were visiting Judy recently, we found a letter signed by six Green Bay Packer star football players (Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Boyd Dowler, etc.), from when they’d visited Cheyenne in the early 1960s. Dad had arranged the whole thing! What a treasure!
But we knew it wasn’t about winning. We learned to cheer for our favorite teams even when they were on a losing streak…. And that seemed to be the case more often than not. In the early 1970s, St. Mary’s struggled on just about any kind of playing field. The Gaels once lost a football game to Torrington, by a score of something like 96-6 — how sweet it was when we came back and beat Douglas for our first victory in several seasons (and then were undefeated my junior year in high school!)
My mom was such a good sport, too. She was the best escort for football tours. And for us kids, she took care of us when injured, made cheerleader uniforms, baked countless chocolate sheet cakes for bus trips, put up with tears about boyfriends being hurt before Homecoming dances, etc. She ultimately said she “couldn’t stand the excitement” of a close game — but boy, dad always loved ’em.
So tonight, when the Golden State Warriors are playing Game 2 against the Cleveland Caveliers, and a few days before the 24th anniversary of my dad’s passing — I’m thinking about “watching the ball game,” Uphoff style.
Even today, when one of my sister use that expression, I know EXACTLY what she means.
Here at our home in the Tetons, we’re not quite as crazy about it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think of this family ritual fondly. I stay aware of what’s on, and check for the final score — if only to check in with my siblings and keep my father’s memory alive.
PS. For those of you who watch such things, I still have posts for 2015.3, 2015.4 and 2015.5 to write. Don’t worry, they’re coming 🙂