2011 ACC Championship was the last Clemson game Mom saw
When I was nine years old, I became obsessed with sports. I loved to watch football, basketball and baseball and later started watching tennis and golf. If it was a sports event, and it was on television, I was probably watching it.
Sports became my passion and my mom, like any good mother would, recognized it right away. Being the youngest of six, and with my brothers and sisters being a little bit older than me, I spent a lot of time by myself. So, sports, depending on what season it was, became my family.
When I wasn’t playing on a team or with the neighborhood kids, I had enough imagination to entertain myself. I would play for hours, mostly basketball. Sometimes Mom would come outside and watch me. She didn’t say much, she just watched me.
Before I came along, my mom wasn’t much of a sports fan. She would watch it here or there with my dad, who loved the Steelers and Pirates, but she didn’t really care. However, as Mom told me later on, I made her the biggest Clemson Tiger and Pittsburgh Steelers fan around.
As a kid I became obsessed with Clemson Football and the Pittsburgh Steelers. So much so, my attention to anything else happened rarely. From the time I was nine years old to about 15, I either wore a Clemson or a Steelers T-shirt every day.
I wrote down all the stats from both that I could during the season. I played my hand-held electronic football game and kept stats and records from that and even wrote stories from the games. During the college football season, I even had my own college football poll which, I will admit, I did until I went off to college.
I was a sports nerd. But the greatest part of it all, mom became one too.
Mom watched or listened to every Clemson game with me and the Steelers when they were on local television. There was no NFL Sunday Ticket in those days. She never left my side during a game. We cheered together. We celebrated touchdowns and big plays together and we were sad together if they didn’t win.
Mom lived on every play just like I did.
My fondest memories of mom, from my childhood days, came on Saturdays in the fall. In those days, Clemson played most of its games at 1 p.m., and there was no College GameDay Show. I would come out of my room on those mornings to the sound of Leonard’s Loser’s, which bleed into the Tiger Tailgate Show and then we would listen to Jim Phillips call the game.
Mom even listened to the Fifth Quarter Show with me. That was eight or nine hours of football we listened to every Saturday in the fall.
When I got older and moved off to college, Mom called me all the time to talk about the upcoming game and then we reviewed it on Sundays. Once I became a sportswriter, our Sunday talks became the norm. She rarely talked to me about anything else. She loved to talk about the Tigers and the Steelers, and she wanted to hear my thoughts.
Mom left us eight and a half years ago. She died exactly one week after Clemson won its first ACC Championship under Dabo Swinney. Mom loved Dabo Swinney. She told me all the time, “He is the one that is going to put us back on top.” She was right.
Obviously, I was covering Clemson that night when the Tigers beat Virginia Tech in the 2011 ACC Championship Game to win their first ACC title in 20 years. Mom called me the next day, and even though she wasn’t feeling good, all she wanted to talk about was the game.
After Mom lost her battle with cancer a week later, my older brother, who was with her the Saturday Clemson finally won the ACC again, told me how she was running around the house and celebrating like she used to do with me. He said she had not been that happy and energetic in a long time.
That is the last memory, even though I wasn’t there, I have with Mom. I felt like I was there, though, because she gave me so many of those when I was growing up. I wouldn’t be writing this column today if it was not for her encouragement and compassion.
She saw something in me when I was that nine-year old little boy, and she helped it grow. I am a sportswriter because of you Mom. I get to do what I love to do every day because of you. So, Happy Mother’s Day! I miss you. All of us do.
God Bless and Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there, too.
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