This is not a story about fantasy football.
I preface this column by saying that, because I firmly believe there is nothing more boring than listening to someone talk about their fantasy football team. And I should know, counting my newspaper/radio/TV gigs over the last 30 years, I’ve probably bored hundreds of thousands of you by now.
So long story made short, Monday, Dec. 22, 2003 was a very special day in the Kerr household. My daughter had just turned four, and my mom and dad came up for a big early family Christmas.
And perhaps more importantly, I was in our fantasy football league championship game, and losing pretty badly.
Quick background, this is our 28th year for my friends and family league. There’s no money at stake, just the glory of victory and trash talk among your loved ones, which is sweeter than any monetary reward. And I was about to go down in flames to my arch-nemesis Matt Pool, who also happened to be my best friend. He had just knocked my dad out of the playoffs the week before and was looking for the Full Kerr Sweep.
I was down and mathematically dead in the water, with just one player left to play.
And that player was Brett Favre, whose father had just passed away.
If you’re a sports fan at all, you remember the rest. We started Christmas that night with holiday music playing and the muted TV on in the background. And Favre threw a touchdown on the Packers first drive. And dad and I laughed about it, and went back to opening presents. And then he threw another, and even the road crowd goes nuts. Then led a drive for a field goal, and people are crying on the sidelines. My daughter opened her gifts and was playing, so the rest of us just paused Christmas, and watched Favre throw for four touchdowns and almost four hundred yards the day after the death of his father. I had won my championship by halftime, but that wasn’t the main focus anymore.
We were transfixed, watching this incredible performance and getting emotional right along with the Packers, their fans, and even the broadcast team. It was a championship heart on display, a tribute to the bond between a father and his son that we were all blessed to experience. Not a dry eye in the house, either there or in my living room.
“I knew that my dad would have wanted me to play,” Favre said after the game. My Pop heard that and put his hand on my shoulder.
“Son,” he said, “When I die … I want you to take the day off.”
Even 18 years later, that’s still a great line.
Football has always been special to my family. When I say I learned to count and add sitting on Pop’s lap watching football games, I’m not embellishing. Those are my first memories. The family joke was that if the kindergarten teacher gave me a math problem I couldn’t do it, but if she wanted to know what the score was after two touchdowns and a field goal, I’d be the golden child. I learned a lot from football, and from my dad. It obviously helped me in my career, but also in life.
It’s 18 years later, and the toddler tearing into her gifts that night is now somehow 22. Pop is 92, and after 52 years in the ministry, the last two have finally pushed him into retirement. And not that step-out-and-come-right-back track he’s been on since 1995, when we called him the “Michael Jordan of the Ministry” for his penchant for only staying retired for a month or so. He kept coming back and serving small churches in his area that couldn’t afford full-time pastors. While he had something to give, he was going to give it, and that kept him busy until last year.
I’m older now, too, and I understand life a bit better. I’ve figured out that wisdom is what you get in exchange for your back hurting all the time, and I’m glad to have a little of it. I understand where we all are in our lives, and I know at this point there’s only so many games left to watch together.
I know eventually, I’m going to have to take that day off.
Until then, I’m going to enjoy every single moment with my loved ones I can. And when that day arrives, I’ll tell all these stories again, and I’ll know how lucky I was just to be me, and to experience the wonderful family and friends I’ve known along the way.
And I’ll take that day off. In fact, I’ll probably go catch a game.
Coincidentally enough, this week is a playoff week for our league. Pop and I are playing each other again. And I love him dearly, but I’m hoping I can pound on him one more time. And I know he feels the same.
A Merry Christmas to all, dear readers. I hope it’s a happy and safe one for everybody, with good gifts and family and friends all around. Remember, good times make for pleasant memories, but the crazy times? Those make the best stories. Embrace them all.
And by the way, I’ll take the Packers to win and cover, beating Cleveland by eight or more, and for the Cardinals to beat the Colts also. See you back here on Sunday, where I’ll be posting my column while waiting in line to return things.
God bless us, every one.
Reid Kerr still doesn’t get “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” because most parts of Africa don’t get snow anyway. It’s not like it’s not snowing because they can’t afford it. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.