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Instant Replay: A Father’s Love on Tape

Dad was supposed to record my final football game on video. But that’s not exactly what happened.

A last football game and a father's love.

In high school I played varsity football. I wasn’t a star, but my senior year I was good enough to start at defensive and offensive tackle.

Four years of brutal preseason football camps, sweaty shoulder pads and buckets of black eye paint all came down to my last game.

I urged my dad to bring our video camera. I wanted to capture the last plays of my football career for posterity.

Dad got me to play football in the first place. I enjoyed throwing the ball around with my friends, but I didn’t think I had what it took to play on a team. “I’m no football player,” I told my dad.

“You’ll never know what you’re capable of unless you give it a try,” he told me. So, I did. I remember how proud he was when I won the most-improved player award my sophomore season, prouder than if I’d been the MVP, and the hug he gave me after I received my varsity letter. There was rarely a game that Dad wasn’t on the sidelines, cheering me on.

I waved at my parents before the opening kickoff, and put on my game face. Our opponents had the ball first. I crouched down and awaited the snap. My pads crunched as I made contact with the offensive tackle. I grabbed at the jersey of their running back bursting through the hole, and dragged him to the turf.

A loud cheer erupted from the sidelines. I sure hope Dad got that one on tape. I straightened my helmet and looked over. There was Dad with the camera, cheering like crazy.

On the next defensive series, I did a spin move and burst through the line to sack their quarterback. Only the second sack in my whole high school career. Another one for the highlight reel.

A couple plays later, I made another stop of their running back. Great! My last game and I was turning my intensity up a notch. It seemed as if every time I came off the field, the coaches were congratulating me for another great play. 

By the end of the game, I had seven tackles and a sack—my best performance ever. A perfect end to my career. I ran into my dad’s arms. I was sweaty and smelly, but he hugged me anyway.

I couldn’t wait to watch the tape–relive every moment. As soon as we got in the house, I took the cassette out of the camera and rewound it in the VCR. My dad, mom, sister and I sat down in the living room in front of the big screen TV and dimmed the lights. I pressed Play.

The video started. The two teams, lined up before the snap, then the running back taking the handoff, running up to the line, me reaching out, and then…clouds. I could hear my dad, screaming, “Way to go, A!” as images of the sky shook up and down on screen.

“Where’s Adam’s tackle?” my sister said.

“Sorry,” Dad replied, sheepishly.

I leaned forward to see the next big play…and the next and the next. Not one was on tape. Not even my sack! Every time, just as I was about to make a play, the camera would begin filming alternating bits of grass and parts of bleachers, the audio of my dad’s loud cheering cutting in and out. “All right, Adam!” I could hear my dad yell. “That’s my boy! That’s my son!”

The tape ended and Dad was quiet. “I’m sorry, Adam,” he said, finally. That’s when it dawned on me. I didn’t have any of my football glory caught on tape—I had something better. A perfect record of Dad’s cheers, his excitement, his uncontainable joy in watching me play.

His pride in me. They say you can’t see love, but that day I knew I had. “I can’t believe I didn’t get anything on tape,” Dad said.

I smiled. “Yes, you did,” I said, and hugged him hard.

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