Unclassified Info: Reflecting on the father of all victories

As a self-professed hockey fan, I find it impossible to let the L.A. Kings' recent win of the Stanley Cup go without at least saying congratulations and thanks to the team I have followed since I was 12. Watching my team hoist the cup was so unbelievable and incomprehensible that I watched the entire game again as soon as I got home.

On Tuesday, I woke up early and tore into the sports page like a rabid animal, reading every word about our conquering heroes. As I looked at the images of the players celebrating their accomplishment, I took time to think about my obsession with sports and how that passion was passed from my father to me.

As Father's Day approaches, it seems most fitting to retrace the times I spent with my own father developing and sharing a love of competition — and how those events were often a major part of the fabric that kept us close through the different seasons of our lives.

I remember going to Dodger Stadium with him when I was about 5 years old to see Hall of Famer Don Drysdale pitch. It was at a time when I had no understanding of the game. I had no idea why the guy on the dirt was throwing the ball to another guy with a stick. But I think my dad knew that someday I'd be able to say I saw one of the greatest pitchers of all time take the mound.

We attended many other baseball games, including Old-Timers Day, where I saw legends like Casey Stengel, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese and others trot out to the cheers of those who watched them in their prime. I was a boy just happy to be spending time with his dad.

On Thursdays, we were in the kitchen watching 10 p.m. tape-delayed broadcasts of UCLA basketball on KTLA during their legendary dominance of college hoops. I cried the day their 80-plus game streak was broken by Notre Dame.

As I got older, I sat through many a Rams game next to my dad, including a few heartbreaking losses to the Cowboys and Vikings in the NFC Championship. These were my early teens, when I was often reluctant to open up and talk about my life. Sometimes drives to the Coliseum could be painfully silent, but even through my most difficult years, sports was the one place where we found common ground and a place to relate.

When the Rams moved to Anaheim, my dad became a Raiders season ticket holder, and we eventually watched Jim Plunkett, Marcus Allen and Howie Long beat the Seattle Seahawks in the AFC title game. I was in college, and together with a few of my friends, my dad and I watched our team win the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Later that year, I sat next to my dad as Edwin Moses, one of the greatest Olympians of all time, won gold in the 400 meter hurdles.

Regardless of whether our team was on the winning end, my dad was quick to point out the merits of the game or the excellence of an individual achievement we had just witnessed.

As opportunities have presented themselves over the years, I've added to my collection of sports memories, attending the Winter Olympics, Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, and a lot of sporting events in other major cities.

Of course, I've managed to return the favor, taking my dad to a number of events, including the BCS National Championship Football game at the Rose Bowl.

As life cycles through, I now find myself walking in my dad's footsteps. When I talk to my teenage son and conversations stall, there's always a sporting event to get the dialogue moving again. And during the Kings' recent run to the cup, I sat with my daughter, teaching her about the beauty of watching people compete at the highest level.

My passion for sports has been with me since I was a child. It was put there by my dad. By far, it is not the most important value he instilled in me. Nevertheless, I am grateful, and hopeful that there will be more opportunities to catch a game together.

It's times like Father's Day when one realizes how precious those little moments are.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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