Sept. 25, 2007
This week I would like to share an article written by Sharon Randall of Scripps Howard News.
In Solid Orange, Terry Don Phillips Director of Athletics
A winner of a day in more ways than one By SHARON RANDALL Scripps Howard News Service Tuesday, September 18, 2007
(Sharon Randall is a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News. This column is reprinted by permission.)
You can learn a lot watching people at a football game. I discovered that in high school when I had the task (the coach called it the honor) to keep score and report on the games.
Talk about a bad fit. I ought to have been reporting on who bought what at the hot-dog stand and how much they paid for it.
“Interesting” is in the eye of the beholder. Most of us see the things we want to see, the way we want to see them.
And then there’s my brother, Joe. Blind all his life, he has never seen a thing — not a sunset or a baby’s smile or even the nose on my face. Yet he often seems to “see” things the rest of us tend to miss — things that light him up and make him smile in his own private delight.
You can always tell when he is especially happy because he flicks his hand back and forth really fast as if he’s fanning off a big swarm of flies.
Joe’s a huge fan of Clemson football. He wouldn’t miss a game on the radio for anything — not even, I suspect, to throw water on his sister if she burst, God forbid, into flames. But he had never been to a game.
So my husband, who is still new to the family and has a lot to learn, suggested that we fly to South Carolina, pick Joe up in Spartanburg, and take him to Death Valley to watch Clemson beat the fur off Furman, so to speak.
“What do you think of that?” I said, when I called my brother to tell him my husband’s idea.
“Sister,” he said, “I think you married a good man.”
In the background, I heard his hand flicking up a storm.
Then I wrote a column about planning to take him to a game and I started hearing from all sorts of Clemson fans, who offered to give us their seats, if need be, and agreed that I had indeed married a good man.
Clemson’s coach, Tommy Bowden, sent my brother a letter thanking him for his support. The president and his wife, James and Marcia Barker (and, yes, that would be the president of the college, not the country, as Joe first thought), invited us to sit in their box. And Pete Yanity, the announcer, a voice that Joe knows better than his own, offered to give him a tour of the broadcast booth.
The morning of the game, Joe was waiting on the steps of his apartment in his orange Clemson shirt and hat, holding his white cane. He looked good.
“I thought this day would never come,” he said. “I can hardly believe it’s true.”
I don’t recall much about the game. I watched my brother light up like Christmas each time Clemson touched the ball. I watched my husband making sure Joe had everything he needed, from hot dogs to detailed descriptions of the plays. And I watched the faces of the people around us and was relieved to see kindness, rather than pity.
At halftime, Joe opted to stay in his seat while my husband and I went to fetch him more food. I came back to find him red-faced and snickering.
“What’s so funny?” I said.
When the Clemson band had struck up the “Tiger Rag,” he said, he got so excited that he jumped up and started dancing in the aisle without his cane.
Dancing? He barely walks.
“But then,” he said, “when I tried to sit down, I couldn’t find my seat. I had to feel all over the place until a very nice man showed me where it was.”
I looked at the people around us. They were studying their hot dogs, smiling to themselves.
Funny, the things we worry about. I had worried that my brother might feel out of place; or he might be disappointed; or he might get so full of himself we would have to disown him.
I was wrong. The day was fine. People were good. God smiled. Clemson won. And my brother came close to flicking his hand clean off his wrist. But I doubt he would’ve cared.
You can learn a lot watching people at a football game.
(Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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