Dave Ramsey puts it best on his national radio show when people politely ask him how he is doing and he responds, "Better than I deserve!"
My son and I should both repeat that phrase early and often when it comes our lives. We are blessed and surrounded by women who love us more each day and look past our many faults. We have men that we can talk to about all things and friends who would do anything for us. Plus, if you have met my son you know he has yet to meet a stranger he didn't talk to.
Outside of the love and support we receive on a daily basis sports play a big part in our lives and we are beyond blessed when it comes to sports adventures and so called accomplishments. I grew up watching SportsCenter re-run after re-run while memorizing the stats to tell anyone who will listen. Fast forward 25 years and there is a mini-me doing the same thing. He is so into basketball now that he doesn't put too much into the other sports but I know the passion for all is there.
I grew up attending South Carolina football home games every Saturday in the fall…win or lose. I vividly remember the 89 Clemson-Carolina game but not for the outcome. I remember the mascots play fighting right in front of us in the north end zone at Williams Brice like it was yesterday.
I was there for the first SEC home games in '92. I was there when Mike McGee cut ties with Brad Scott mere minutes following a weird loss at Clemson. I was there for the win that broke the 0 – 21 streak. I was there for The Fade. I was there for both Outback Bowl wins. I was there when No. 4 Ole Miss went down on a Thursday night!
Outside of the Gamecocks, I witnessed a NFL preseason game in Columbia before I knew how big a deal that really was. I saw Deion Sanders and Andre Rison pretty much go Holyfield – Tyson on the artificial turf in the Georgia Dome when it was still a state of the art venue. I saw Cal Ripken, Jr. play 2 games during his streak…1 in Atlanta as part of this crazy experiment called inter-league play and 1 in Baltimore after Gehrig's 2,130 was in the rear view!
I have been to major golf events at Pinehurst No. 2, Kiawah, and that unbelievable place where they give green jackets to the winners and the tournament doesn't start until the back nine on Sunday!
In my early days, I traveled with my dad and many of his friends to NASCAR events when NASCAR covered almost every back road of the Southeast. From Darlington to North Wilkesboro to Bristol to Daytona to Atlanta to Talladega to Charlotte to even as far north as Michigan…I have seen my fair share of NASCAR races!
I am extremely blessed to be able to do all of these things as a fan, but as we get closer to my favorite sport to follow and blog I cannot help but think how blessed Eli is too. As a dad, I hope that over time I not only enjoy the moment, but help him understand how blessed he truly is on a day to day basis. Also, to experience the games, the teams, and the players he has seen play in his almost 9 years on this big round ball.
It all started about 4 months into his life when he attended the LSU vs. Miami Chick-Fil-a Bowl in Atlanta on New Years Eve 2008. The Tigers won the game going away, but there is nothing quite like celebrating the new year on the MARTA! Oh, the memories.
Fast forward two years and Eli makes his return trip to the Georgia Dome for UNC – LSU in the kickoff weekend game. Another Tiger win, this time of the narrow variety! A few weeks later Eli was able to attend his first and only (to this day) LSU game in Tiger Stadium against the Cowboys…from McNeese State.
From there, Eli has been to Jordan – Hare, Neyland, and Lambeau (yes, where the Packers play) to watch the Bayou Bengals play. Actually, he had never seen the Tigers lose until the loss in Green Bay, but the L did not put a damper on that trip. Side note: These trips to watch LSU play (and a few baseball games) would not be possible without Hiliarie's dad and sports nut, Cliff. He is the mastermind behind these trips and always goes above and beyond the make them as memorable as possible.
Outside of LSU, he has been to Williams-Brice Stadium 4 times to see the Gamecocks play in-state FCS schools and the 2015 Clemson game.
Eli has also taken in 2 Clemson games in the Upstate. His first trip was Louisville 2014 when Hiliarie won a fan on the field contest I entered her in without her knowledge. A Tiger goody bag, pre-game tour of Death Valley, watching the Tigers run down the hill from the field, and suite tickets made for a pretty epic Saturday after a Tiger goal line stand preserved the win.
As good as that first Clemson experience was, a 2015 trip to Death Valley will remain soaked in our memories forever. I was able to score awesome seats just feet away from the Tiger bench from a great family man that I am able to work with. It is not every day that Notre Dame comes to Pickens County, SC but Mother Nature had other plans. We did not let the weather dampen our spirits. We took in the Tiger Walk from atop the hill near Littlejohn Coliseum, but it put us in prime real estate to stand in awe of the spectacle that was the arrival of the Golden Domers.
Eli's 7-year old body and mind only lasted for about 25 minutes of game time and we exited stage left a few minutes before half time during the start of one of the worst weather related weekends the Palmetto State has ever seen.
Outside of college football he has sat court side for a South Carolina – Clemson basketball game in the Capital City and sat a few rows behind the Kentucky bench against the Gamecocks. Side note: He earned a thumbs up from Coach Calipari during that game. He has seen a NBA game in person when OKC played in Charlotte post-Christmas 2015.
For baseball, he has seen the Braves play in a now extinct Turner Field and he has witnessed two games inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field on the shore of Lake Michigan. Kudos to Eli on the first game in 2014 as he made it through all 9 innings of an early April contest when the temperature read 42 degrees but the wind chill placed it at a balmy 35 degrees. His most recent visit to Wrigleyville was the first leg of our Midwestern trip last September as the Cubs won en route to hoisting the World Series.
After reliving these experiences again on paper my only hope as a parent is that Eli remains humble enough to know that memories (good and bad) are what make life L-I-F-E but his attitude and how he treats people during these memories will leave the biggest mark on his path and the ones that come after him.
We both will get another opportunity in a few weeks to visit new stadiums as we make our way to Houston for LSU – BYU on opening weekend. Our love for baseball will be exercised as well as we plan to watch the Astros play the Mets while in town.
Thank you to everyone, past and present, who has assisted in providing these opportunities for us both. It means the world to us!
Like I said, we really do have it better than we deserve!