Go Ask Daddy About Fires, Buckeyes and Pop-Pop

photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc
photo credit: Kalexanderson via photopin cc

I moved to Charlotte from Greeley, Colo., midway through my sophomore year.

We moved during Christmas break. It was a lonely time, when I was coming to grips with moving two time zones away. I hadn’t lived a day without the Colorado Rockies – the mountains this time – always pointing me west.

During the last week of school, there was a bonfire at Greeley West High.

I remembered it for years after, because I walked on the still-hot embers of the fire later that night, and melted the bottoms of my shoes. I remembered it also because someone saw me staring into the flames and reached out.

They told our MC to tell me goodbye, and that I’d be missed. I survived the move, it turns out. I might have even thrived. The Carolinas feel like home now.

This week, people stepped up when I didn’t feel I needed to be stepped up for. I’m glad you did. Although I don’t want the hand on my shoulder … well, it’s comforting to know it’s there. That you’re there. Even if I don’t understand what you’re there for.

But the girls’ questions aren’t going to answer themselves, right?

1. What is a bonfire?

bonfireIt’s a spot for introspection. And self-awareness.

It’s defined as “a large, open-air fire used as part of a celebration, for burning trash, or as a signal.”

It could be all three. If our soccer team’s ship wrecks on an island after we win a tournament (just our luck, right?), and we have nowhere to toss your juice boxes, we could make a bonfire.

The fire could be our S.O.S.

Bonfires are fickle. They warm, but they also melt your sneakers. And the Ewoks were about to barbecue Luke, Han and Chewie on one. And they celebrated around one in my least favorite scene in any Star Wars movie.  (It’s still 37,000 times better than the best scene in Mama Mia.)

2. What’s on the side of Ohio State’s helmets?

By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131077 copy) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131077 copy) via Wikimedia Commons
Those are Buckeye stickers. Never mind for a moment that a top-ranked football team is named for a state flower. Teams’ coaching staffs award exceptional plays with these stickers. The lousier the helmet with buckeye leaves, the more accomplished he is. Ohio State was the first to use this system.

Gobs of teams in college football now stick it to star players with helmet merits.

Stanford – the Cardinal, another fauna-inspired mascot – gives out ax blades. Southern Methodist uses stickers that look like a skull and crossbones, but are “warriors and swords.” Sledge hammers are doled out at Arkansas. Vanderbilt gives out ship anchors. Tulane’s game-turning plays warrant Fleur-De-Lis, that look like mini Saints logos.

Who can beat Louisiana-Lafayette’s hot peppers stickers? Fitting for a team known as the Ragin Cajuns.

3. How do football commentators get their job?

photo credit: s3aphotography via photopin cc
photo credit: s3aphotography via photopin cc

The must earn 37 sledge hammers, 17 ship anchors and enough hot peppers to keep it interesting.

You might think it’s a perfect job for me – you get to watch a game and ramble on about it. I’m kind of stellar at that.

When I was a kid, my sister and mom noticed when the TV guys would say what I had just said.

Broadcasters go to school to become football commentators.

They’re usually the little guy on the right who never played football. Or if they did, it was back in the 50s, when you could be little and have a generic position, like, end. This broadcasting school grad gives the play-by-play account of the game.

Then there’s the jock, on the left. He’s well dressed, and has played this game. During the pregame show, he holds the microphone in whichever hand he wears his Super Bowl ring on. He’s great. He’s played the game, and has embarrassing stories about all the players.

It’s great if you have a voice that sounds like gumption and gravel, like Cris Collinsworth. They even use it on the Madden games. I rode in an elevator with him from the pressbox. He let the scribes share his space, and made a funny about a hotel key he dropped.

“That one was from three cities ago,” he said. Brought the house down.

Collinsworth then followed his entourage through the crowd when the doors opened. They formed a blocking wedge ahead of him that I saw as I was snowplowed to the right so he could pass. I raised my arms in disbelief.

It was definitely a block in the back. And the stupid ref missed it.

Stars always get the call.

4. Could a defensive player pick up an offensive player and carry him down the field in football?

photo credit: goarmyphotos via photopin cc
photo credit: goarmyphotos via photopin cc

If he ever tried, I’m sure Chris Collinsworth’s entourage would take care of him.

He wouldn’t go far. Back in the day, a proper tackle meant hitting a guy in the thighs or mid-drift with your shoulder pads.

You kept your helmet to one side, and maybe even lift a ball carrier off the field. But you put him down a yard or so later.

Imagine Packers defensive end Julius Peppers, basketball tall at 6-foot-7. Imagine he’s grabbed Eagles back Darren Sproles (compact, at a dad-sized 5-6).

He’d better sprint like Usain Bolt with Sproles on his shoulder, or the Eagles would chop-block Peppers to the ground. Anyway, refs would call the play dead, because the rules say they should give a ball carrier his forward progress.

As Peppers carries Sproles backward, there’s no more forward progress.

That is, if the refs even saw it. I’m still fuming over that block in the back.

5. How old would your dad be today?

SAMSUNGHe would be 64. He’d be a year from retirement from IBM. It’s hard to believe he’s been gone for 14 years! Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. He’d be so proud of you girls. I know he’d love to watch you play. His own son was a bit of a bench warmer, and he still showed up for me.

Every time I cover a game, I remember a ritual we had when we went to sporting events together. We’d walk a lap around the stadium while everyone else stood in line for nachos or the bathroom. When he had tickets to a game that I wasn’t going to, he’d show them to me and say, “read ‘em and weep!”

More often, he’d take me. We saw Larry Bird’s final visit to Charlotte. Great seats. Even better was the impromptu walk race we had from the parking lot to the front gate. I can only imagine what people we zipped by thought of the sight.

I’m sure I won.

But I won’t trust the ref to get that one right.

hurt quote


  1. Aww, that last one choked me up more then you know and my own dad just turned 65 this year and even though we still have him, he had both a stoke and heart attack last year – so definitely puts things in a bit of perspective. And by the way, we moved to a different town in my freshman year and I still remember the last week in my old school pretty clearly so many years later, too.

    1. So glad you have your dad around Janine. For me, it was a huge transition – I moved from Colorado to North Carolina, and had never been east of Kansas before that.

  2. Ewoks. Ugh. How did they get the clothes they gave Leia to wear? How long ago did they barbecue that woman?

    This year marked 15 since my mother died. Scary how it seems so long ago some days, and just yesterday on others.

    1. Who do you love most: Jar-Jar, or Ewoks? I always felt they were there just so stinky girls would watch Star Wars (no offense.) And they also were going to barbecue the rebels fully clothed, so did they just roast that other woman naked?

      I know exactly how you feel. How can it have been so long? I hope you see things about her in you more every year. I’m glad I see my dad in me and the girls.

      1. You meant to say “hate most”, right? Because they are both pretty vile.

        That’s a beautiful thought about your dad and his legacy 🙂

  3. Once again I am educated beyond my wildest dreams after a visit to your bloggy world. Those helmet stickers for one. Who knew?
    My dad passed away in 2006 and he was such a role model for my two whose dad passed away in 1997. I delight in thinking that they both are looking down and cheering on my kids (and my efforts to churn out two well adjusted adults despite having me as their mom!) as they live and navigate life. Coach on Bud.

    1. That’s what we do around here, K-Mac. We seek answers where others would never dare to tread.

      I think we dads and men can’t wait around to teach and role model because every day counts. They’re well-adjusted and then some not only because of those men, but because of their mama, too. Don’t ever doubt that.

  4. Helmet stickers… It kinda makes me want to give those guys a sticker book. 🙂 That’s not as intimidating, though.

    I’ll take Ewoks over Jar-Jar any day. The Ewoks didn’t put the Emperor on the throne, even accidentally.

    Those are some sweet memories of your dad. Dads are the best!

    1. It’s like potty training, isn’t it? Why didn’t I go with that angle with the boys and their stickers?

      Interesting argument for the Ewoks. Maybe we should have a grudge match between Gungans and Ewoks right here on the CD.

      Dads really kinda rock. Not in the awesome way moms do, but in our own way.

  5. of course, we’re all here for you, goes without saying, eli. ) as for the buckeyes, they are a popular holiday cookie in ohio. kind of a sloppy chocolate peanut butter ball. says it all in my opinion.

    1. sunny skies or rain, i get the feeling beth. the ohio state should put cookies on their helmets. if i played for a team, i’d be motivated by cookies.

      sloppy chocolate peanut butter ball … probably a joke in there about football, but i’m not going in that far to find out.

  6. Thank you for sharing some memories about your dad. I also think about mine every day.

    Bonfires are deceptively peaceful. I hope you are doing ok.

    On a lighter note, ugh Buckeyes. Go Blue! Had to put that in there.

    1. Dads never go far from us, do they? I think ours are watching over us.

      I’m doing fine, really. Thanks, though … it’s a good day.

      Oh, it’s tough times for Blue, isn’t it? Maybe Jim Harbaugh can save the day.

  7. They wouldn’t want to leave those sticker-covered helmets around near my granddaughter, she’d have stripped in no time flat. Stickers are her domain and they are on everything, including the glove compartment of my car, my laptop, my forehead, my shirt, my shoe….
    My Dad would be 126 if he were alive today. He was 60 when I was born, but I’m not telling you how old I am.

    1. It does seem rather kindergarten when you think of it, huh? I love that kids put stickers on everything, because I would have gotten clobbered for doing that.

      You’re lucky it’s a little late for me to do any math, Lyn.

  8. OK, so you’ve made me watch my first snipped of Star Wars. I liked the fireworks. Those were fireworks, right? And I think I saw that hairy guy that Grace made you a craft from, and your backpack, how exciting! Otherwise I didn’t have a clue what was going on. But it is your least favorite anyway, so I could just as well stare into the bonfire.
    Moving across the country during Christmas break sounds drastic. Part of your (sports) heart stayed there, though, so I’m sure you were pleased that Redmond saved the AVS’ butt last night vs the Hurricanes.
    Knowing that you’ve got loyal friends who are there for you sounds like a mighty good thing to me. Even if some – one – is totally ignorant about all things Star Wars, haha!

    1. That was your first snippet of Star Wars? That’s like the first snippet of TV being iCarly. I guess those are fireworks – I hate when earthly stuff makes it way into Star Wars.

      Yes, Chewbacca and R2-D2 were there. It was just a celebration for prisoners the Ewoks at one point were going to eat. (A better scene is when the Ewoks think C-3PO is a god).

      I didn’t fully appreciate my Colorado teams until I moved away. And I need to catch up on my Avs. My Nuggets are struggling already.

      Star Wars aptitude is appreciated, but definitely not a prerequisite. Thank you for your loyalty!

  9. Back in high school, I would always be amazed by the basketball “commentators”.. Actually they’re just a bunch of high school boys too but it seems like they knew a lot and it’s really funny listening to them. Now when I listen to real basketball commentators, I get bored easily! HAHA. Apparently because I don’t really know much about basketball. LOL

    1. That’s cool that high school kids would do that. As kids, we used to imitate commentators when we played, “Mo Cheeks, from 18 … doesn’t go … Moses with the jam!”

      The real guys don’t have the spark the kids do. I love to listen to soccer commentators in Spanish, because even the most mundane action is conveyed with the fire of a championship shootout.

  10. I haven’t seen Mama Mia, but I cannot believe your least favorite Star Wars scene was in Episode VI. Did you not see Episode III? I think every scene in that movie is worse than the worst scene in Episode VI. And I have intel. I watched the construct the lava for Episode III. Like.. there. Like, George Lucas was there. With me. He was eating a sandwich.

    So I know what I’m talking about is what I’m saying.

    1. Episode VI is so awful that I don’t even include it – only the real 3, from when I was a kid. Don’t get me started on Disney. Disney buying Star Wars was like Ingrid Michaelson wearing a raiders jersey. Just filthy.

      Lucas ate a sandwich? I could go for a sandwich right now. I consider you a reliable source for all things Star Wars. Please tell me good things.

    1. That might be a subliminal message, because even though Ohio isn’t Washington or Colorado or even Oregon or DC, I’m sure the hasheesh is around somewhere.

      Maybe the Buckeyes play better on grass.

  11. the Natives have a saying – build big fire, get cold because cannot stay close: build small fire and stay close and warm. Personally, I like a lot of flames. 🙂
    My step dad was convinced I would be a female hockey broadcaster. I knew more hockey stats than he or my brothers at one point. I don’t think the world was ready for that though.

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