I don't know how old my dad is. He didn't abandon me as a child. He was the parent that stuck through, and I was the one that fled. My relationship with my father has healed a bit after he moved thousands of miles away, first to California and then to Florida. (I hope I'm not tipping of your creditors dad.)
I think he's older than Mosi Tatupu. I think he turned 58 a few weeks ago. We talk now and again, mostly about sports. I am the only member of our family that still talks to him. He sends me emails super occasionally. His spelling and grammar would make a fourth grade troll blush. My dad dropped out of high school and took to the streets. Before that he was a junior Olympian. He told me he set the Lincoln High record for long jump. He also told me he dropped out of school in junior high. It was always a little hard to know what was real and what fantasy with Kenny Nunchuks. Kenny Nunchuks, incidentally, was real.
My dad was a gifted athlete and my older brother followed in his footsteps. I wasn't bookish but I was odd, a marginal athlete, that hustled onto my baseball teams and my football team. A junior Brian Russell without access to the coach's ear. My dad would help my brother learn how to pitch. I couldn't pitch a tent. I learned about baseball by tossing the ball in the air and catching it. Sports was still the bridge. When I failed to develop, I learned the professional game, and what I couldn't fulfill as a player I could fulfill as a discussion partner.
After my dad and I's cross country scramble to the Northwest, after my brother freaked out on acid and was kicked out for growing pot on his windowsill, it was just my Dad and I alone. If it wasn't for sports, we wouldn't have had a thing to talk about. He takes his politics from whatever talking head he admires (currently, Bill O'Reilly) and takes it seriously for what little he knows. Sorry, dad. Took a lot of things seriously, was a bit of an angry fellow, actually, and we needed something safe, unifying to talk at all.
We had cable, we had the Mariners, we had Fox Sports Northwest and 162 chances a year to sit in peace. We could discuss Tino and Junior and Edgar, and though my dad was never a true Mariners fan, I knew he wanted to share something with me as much as I with him.
He took me to see the Mariners play a double header in Fenway when Seattle was forced on the road because of falling roof tiles. We didn't have any money, so the event was special: A doubleheader for ten bucks, pick your seat. He stuck around when the second game stretched into extra innings and he wanted so badly to leave. We did, but only after Griffey went yard in 11th. We listened to the rest of the game on the radio.
If it wasn't for my dad, I would have never learned to love sports. Knowing sports compensated for my not being able to play sports. Sports gave my dad a piece of what he thought was robbed from him. He was sure he could have been great had his childhood been different. And maybe he could have been. My dad is still one of the greatest athletes I have ever known.
Lofa Tatupu lost his father yesterday. I don't yet know what that's like. When prominent athletes die, I feel incredibly conflicted. Death, in of itself, is sad-maybe more sad than I could ever wrap my head around. But when a stranger dies, even if I know his name and watched him work, when Gaines Adams died or Sean Taylor died, I had no sense of it, nothing to add but, yes, death is sad. But when Mosi Tatupu died, I damn near cried. Fuck it, I did. I just started right now. I don't know anything about Mosi. His name was introduced to me through the Simpsons of all things. Just yesterday, I saw him in the stands while his son kicked ass all over the football field in Super Bowl XL. I don't know a thing about Mosi Tatupu, but I think I know a little about how Lofa feels. And goddamn I wish I could take on a fraction of his burden, but I can't. I think I'll call my dad and tell him I love him though.