I'm not all that mushy gushy when it comes to what people mean to me, and I know that I'm a lot like you in that way, so I thought I'd put my thanks in a way that you'd understand. Sports are your life, and now they are becoming mine too.
I didn't always love sports. For a little while I was just hanging out on the sidelines with pom-poms in my hands. Then I watched you and my sister play basketball for so long that I just had to get in on it. You were the first person to put a basketball in my hands, and everything changed that day.
I was never as good as my sister, but you worked with me anyway. You made me run endless suicides for back talk, but you never once made me feel like less of an athlete for not having the footwork and instinct of a lot of other players. Although I was, you never made me feel inadequate.
Suddenly you weren't my coach anymore. I was in other leagues that didn't have you in it, and when high school came along I knew the game would never be the same for me. Every time I made a mistake I didn't have a coach that would show me the problem and how to fix it. I had a coach that would holler at me and tell me to get it together, but didn't show me how.
You didn't just teach me the fundamentals of the game, but you taught me how to love it. It was because of you that I didn't feel guilty when I finally quit basketball after almost eight years. Because even though I knew being a quitter was frowned upon, I knew that it was OK because I still loved the game and I always would.
All those years of sitting on your couch in the basement watching football, I never dreamed that I would care for the sport. I didn't know the rules and I would never play, so what was the point? But then I watched how excited you got for every game, how many people would come over and crowd that tiny basement to watch the latest face-off, how you and Mom would talk about your days playing college football and how you were so adamant on making sure you had a mini helmet for every single NFL team so that you could face opposing helmets toward each other in the beginning of the week.
So I started watching. I started looking into what everything meant and why there was always a stupid yellow flag on the field. I started learning which teams were really good and which ones weren't making the cut that season. I watched highlights of my favorite team on ESPN the night after the game. No one noticed, but I was invested. So when I got to college I kept up with my school's team the best I could. I even started working for the football team to get a better understanding of the game. Pretty soon after that I decided that sports journalism was something I may be interested in. Now as a senior in college, I know that's the path I'm going down.
My love for football didn't start when I got to a college with an awesome football team. It started in that little basement with you and our massive dog that doesn't understand the concept of personal space.
And somehow in the middle of all of this you managed to keep me out of trouble throughout my childhood (for the most part anyway, I am a "Cook" child after all).
So my point here is that I have a lot to thank you for. I played on a lot of great basketball teams throughout my childhood, and now I work for a division one team at Appalachian. I just wrapped up my second year working for our division one football team as well. Through all of this, I've learned where I belong. And while it may not be on the court or on the field, it is most definitely amongst the blood, sweat and tears that go into these games that I love so much. I wouldn't have found that passion had it not been for you.
Most people don't realize that sports lie among some of my favorite things. So when they ask me how I got into writing, I tell them my English teacher, Mrs. Vey, got me really into books. When they ask how I got into music, I tell them my mom is an amazing musician. And when they ask why I like sports so much, I tell them that my dad was the best damn coach I could have ever asked for, on and off the court.
Thanks for teaching me everything that I know. It means a lot more to me than you'll ever realize.
Your youngest knucklehead.