On August 8, 2015, I lost my father. My world changed when he was unexpectedly pronounced dead due to kidney failure. He didn’t own much, for he was a black man who spent most of his life trying to get his footing. Our relationship was a rocky one – complicated at best.
He didn’t leave my siblings and me with much. But the one thing he did leave us with was his love for sports. Yes, sports – that shallow entity in American culture where overpaid athletes and franchises compete for cheesy championships like the “Super Bowl”. But today, it hit me. Sports will cause me to miss my father like never before.
Tonight, the NCAA will hold its National Championship game between the North Carolina Tarheels and the Villanova Wildcats. Raised in Fayetteville, my dad was the biggest UNC Basketball fan. He made sure to record all their prominent games on VHS tapes. Growing up we watched them as if we were students in “UNC-Homeschool”. I remember names such as Shammond Williams, Ed Cota, Jerry Stackhouse, and Brendan Haywood. I was taught to hate and resist Duke like the Devils they are.
This will be the first time I will not be able to call my dad on the day of a Carolina National Championship game. The thought of this, made this grown man cry this morning. Some might say, “Corey, it’s just sports.” But, is it? Is it ever just sports? Is it every just “anything?” Sports has the ability to bring people together. It has the ability to create memories, and moments that we will not forget. Specific seasons, games, and moments, can take us back to a certain time in our lives. Is it ever just a game? No.
I’ve learned in life, that anything can mean a lot more to you than its intended purpose. That’s why people hold on to cars longer than they should. That car holds their memories, triumphs, and hurt. For this reason, people cried when Michael Jackson passed away as if they knew him personally. Was he “just a man”? Yes, but his music was their childhood. They remember their Afros, and their failed attempts to moonwalk in their grandmothers’ basement. “Thriller” was the soundtrack to their senior year of high school, and every memory and experience included in that season.
As we are blessed with more of this gift called life, let’s not relegate anything to the bare minimum reason for its existence.Rather, let’s allow for every entity we encounter, whether music, entertainment, fashion, objects, and sports to speak to us, and permeate our lives in ways that go beyond the sensible. Anything we touch, can become more than “just a _____”.
I hope we all are blessed to live long enough to experience such a beautiful phenomenon – an experience where simple and even shallow things penetrate our hearts and memories.
So tonight, as I watch North Carolina hopefully defeat Villanova, I will remember my father. I will remember so much about him, and I will miss him. Why? Because of this silly thing called sports.
UPDATE: April 5, 2016, 8:43 am
The Tarheels lost 77-74 on a last-second buszzer beater by Villanova in a National Championship game that my father would’ve definitely enjoyed. 🙂
By: Corey Johnson