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Dads, Sons, and the Sports that Bind Them Together

Happy birthday, Dad

NCAA Football: Texas A&M at Louisiana State Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s my dad’s birthday. 8/15. Weirdly enough, I started writing this at 8:15 this morning. He’s 55-years-old today. It’s easy to remember how old my dad is because he’s the same age as the Super Bowl.

A lot of the things I love are influenced by him. He got me into “King of the Hill”, “24” and “Seinfeld”. He got me the original Star Wars trilogy and we saw “Revenge of the Sith” for my 12th birthday. “The Force Awakens” hit theaters the same day I graduated from LSU. After watching me walk and receive my diploma we were seated side by side in the theatre watching “Force Awakens”, a movie that also focuses on fathers and sons but doesn’t end well.

My dad also influenced the music I listen to. Or rather, the music I refuse to listen to. My father loves Elvis Presley; I am of the opinion that the best thing Elvis ever did was die. I live in Tennessee now and he always asks if I’ve gone to Graceland yet to visit Elvis’ home. I will do no such thing.

But what keeps my dad and I close isn’t music, movies or television, it’s sports, especially football. I get my love of sports from him. Mom tells me every year on my birthday that I came just a few minutes before a Braves baseball game. Dad held me, laid out and watched the Braves beat the Padres 2-1. Baseball-reference tells me Greg Maddux threw a complete game that day.

Sports bond my father and I. Being from Louisiana, I was naturally raised an LSU and Saints fan. But because of my dad I also grew up at the church of John Elway, whom he believes is the greatest quarterback of all. In my bedroom back in Louisiana I still have an autographed photo of Elway he was able to procure. Some people have a Virgin Mary shrine in their homes, I had my Elway picture.

Dad took me to my first Saints game, a 32-29 win over the Steelers in 2002. And I remember watching nearly every Saints game with him after that from that point onward. The Super Bowl season in 2009 was, of course, gleeful. Sure we watched LSU win football championships in 2003 and 2007, but the Saints winning a Super Bowl always felt impossible. I remember hugging him after Garrett Hartley’s kick in overtime of the NFC Championship against the Vikings and all he kept saying was “Zach they’re going to the Super Bowl, they’re going to the Super Bowl.”

My dad stopped watching the Saints and the NFL as a whole a few years ago. But that also means he was free from the trauma that was the Minneapolis Miracle, the no-call in the NFC title game against the Rams and last year’s loss to the Vikings. Maybe he’s on to something.

I also don’t have as many moments with my dad as I would like. He was a Baton Rouge police officer for 30 years, so he wasn’t around too often. Dad would work nights, weekends, holidays, birthday and everything else in between. It was hard talking to my dad while he worked. But one thing that would always strike up a lasting conversation was talking to him about whatever was going on with the Saints or LSU. I think that’s what inspired me to get into writing about sports; it allowed me to do something as simple as talking to my dad.

But that all changed when he retired prior to the 2014 football season. Now that he’s retired he’s the best form of himself. He was at every home game my senior year and got to see me warm up with the trombone section at the Greek Theatre prior to us making our way down Victory Hill. He even went with my mom and sister to Houston for the opener against Wisconsin and the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame. I like to think that links my dad and I with Joe Burrow and his father.

While Jimmy Burrow watched Joe win a Heisman and a national championship up close, my dad and I had to do it in two different states. But after every game, I’d call dad up and we would talk about Burrow and Coach O and that 2019 offense that vaporized every opponent that dared to cross their path. We were stunned watching Burrow throw five touchdowns against Vanderbilt, flabbergasted when the Tigers had that 20-point lead over Alabama and cackling at hapless Oklahoma.

I was able to go home for the national championship and watch it with him. I couldn’t imagine watching the game anywhere else in the world. It was the only game my dad and I got to watch together for the 2019 season but I wouldn’t change a thing. As much as we talked and reacted to the game it was like we were part of ESPN’s Megacast.

Moving away has weirdly brought me closer to my dad. Whenever he calls me or I call him we’ll be on the phone for at least an hour, and he always ends every call with “love you, buddy.” I’m glad we have those talks. I’m glad he got me so vested into sports. It’s the tie that binds us together and something I’ll hopefully be able to pass on to my kids.

Happy birthday, Dad. I love you too.