The Value of the Game

This month, my dad turned seventy.  He's now entering his eighth decade on this planet. But I'm not here to talk about that.  We're a German family, we don't share.  Every 'I love you' and 'thanks for everything' goes unsaid, we all mean to say it and we all know it's true but it doesn't need to be vocalized.  No - That's not what I'm here to talk about though.

I'm not here to talk about the rough times.  I'm not going to talk about that month in fifth grade when in a span of four weeks we lost two grandparents, one from each side of the family and I remember sitting in a worn out old recliner and having my Dad come sit next to me.  He didn't say anything... I told him 'We're having a bad month' and he said 'We are.'  Because we were. That's not the memory I'm here to talk about.

What I'm here to talk to you about is the beauty of a game.  Of any game.  It's the value of sport, the connection of family and the reason so many of us come to the games we love.  I'm here to share with you memories.  I'm here to help you understand why I love these games - not for the wins and the championships - but for the value they bring to my life and my relationships.

I'm here to talk to you about a season ticket holder.  Of Wisconsin Hockey since the late 60's.  A guy from a small town in southern Illinois who decided to check out something new and four decades later calls his 31-year-old son to convince him to come to town to catch the game with him (the son never goes back often enough).  That's the same son that can vividly remember sitting in the kitchen with his old man hanging on every word of the radio broadcast 20 years earlier, weekend after weekend.

I'm here to talk to you about three kids, and a terrible Wisconsin football team.  See this guy from southern Illinois also had season tickets to football and there was a time not long ago when the Badgers couldn't fill their stadium to save their lives, so we always ended up with better seats and more tickets.  I can hardly remember Tom Brady at Michigan but I can always remember my dad with seat cushions and hot chocolate.

See we went to Badger football games for years and years, my brother, my sister and I. Yet between the three of us, we can barely scare up a handful of results for all those games we invested our Saturdays in. However we can tell you about the brat stand by the train tracks (now bike path) that our dad always stopped at.  The kids didn't often eat there, but dad never missed a chance. And he never forgot sauerkraut.

I'm not here to talk about the dark times.  When I was unemployed and struggling to get back to the field I had worked so hard to break in to, I faced the end of the most important relationship I had to this point in my life.  Marriage can be ugly.  I'm not here to tell you how, when I broke this news to my parents - I broke down.  And my dad gave me a hug and I'll never forget that.  Because, the assumed had met a moment not to be assumed the most important people showed up for it.  That's not what I'm here to talk to you about.

I want to tell you about being a kid and learning to ski.  About all the fear dissipating because as I slid unbalanced and unsteady down the hill I did it with my dad holding me up.  We learned to ski when we learned to walk.  And each one of us three kids will still make time to fly down a mountain with this guy from southern Illinois.

I'm here to tell you about a soccer team without a coach.  And experience be damned, there he was again.  Fostering an experience for a group of kids because every kid should have a team and every team needs a coach.  Was he a good coach?  Probably not, but without those teams I wouldn't have the relationships I have today.

I'm not here to talk about someone who spends his retirement working on his kid's houses.  Be they five minutes away, 25 minutes away or an hour and a half away.  He and his better half will travel the distance to plant flowers, build shelving or even just mow the lawn.

What I am here to tell you about is a man who met his two sons at a bar on a Tuesday afternoon to watch a World Cup soccer game.  A game that resulted in an American loss but not one of the three family members that went to watch the game went home unsatisfied.

I'm here to tell you about why we love sports, and why we will pass that love on to those we care about.  Wins are nice but the experience is what will always be valued most.  All of those games with my dad, I can't tell you which side went home winners.  I can recall a big game here and there but the memories that stay with me are of my family, of my dad.  It's that time spent that gives me a fondness for the sports I love.  It's those times that have shown me why, win or lose, a great time should be had.

What I want to tell you is that I love sports.  I love being a part of a sold-out Kohl Center, watching the Badgers square off against the Gophers.  I love sitting at the 40-yard-line watching Wisconsin battle against Ohio State.  I love sitting at a bar, beer in hand, cheering on USA soccer or the Milwaukee Brewers.  I love lacing up my cleats and competing.

What I want you to remember is that it's not the teams that bring me back.  The names on the back of the jerseys will change.  Teams will win and lose, but there will always be more games.  The experience we have with those important to us will be what we remember most.

For all those Hockey and Football games in Madison, all those games watched at the bar.  I can't tell you who won, but I can tell you that I watched them with my dad. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


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