Tears of the Son

By Ramzy Nasrallah on June 25, 2013 at 11:30a
how firm thy friendship

Last week hundreds of Miami Heat fans prematurely exited Game Six with several minutes still remaining, only to discover in the parking lot that their team had valiantly fought back from the insurmountable nine-point deficit that convinced them to beat traffic instead.

Predictably (or at least as predictable as a lead quickly evaporating in any NBA game) many of those diehards scurried back to the American Airlines Arena to try and convince security to make hundreds of exceptions to its once-you-leave-you're-gone-for-good exiting policy.

And just as predictably, they were wildly unsuccessful at getting those security guards to basically fire themselves. The videos of their pleas - delicious failure diaries of adults in basketball jerseys - hit the Internet quickly. This is why the Internet exists.

So I watched several clips and gleefully savored the angst, up until the moment a distraught fan appeared in one video with his glum-looking child in tow. Then my schadenfreude came crashing down.

That kid did not choose to exit the game prematurely on his own. His ride made him leave. I've been that sad kid reluctantly leaving a full stadium, and I don't remember how many times it happened because it was damn near all of them.

Game after game and season after season throughout my childhood, I routinely left tie games, good games, close games and big games as they were still being contested because I had to, rather than chose to.

That’s because I was introduced to college football by my father, who for as long as I have known him - almost 40 years, though the first few are admittedly hazy - has never had the interest or the spare time to consume anything, let alone a four-hour football game in its entirety.

It's not just football games. He will open a beer and drink only half of it, on purpose. He will leave food on his plate, which a discipline I absolutely did not inherit. He regularly watches only some of a movie. I don’t think he’s had a full serving of anything in his life, and it's all quite deliberate.

In college I lived next door to a Ben & Jerry’s. One time while visiting, I watched him purchase four cups of ice cream, try one spoonful out of each flavor, and then - before I could stop him - dump the tray that held them into the garbage can on his way out the door.

“AAAAAHHHHH DAD!” I shouted, witness to his willful ice cream massacre. “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?”

“I just wanted a taste,” he said, smiling.

“They have free samples,” I protested. “There are little spoons specifically so you can taste the flavors without having to buy a whole scoop.”

“I liked buying it,” he shrugged, still smiling.

At the time I was working three jobs while a full-time student - McDonalds on weekends, waiting tables on weeknights and tutoring foreign exchange students on how to speak proper ‘Merican almost every day - so watching ice cream that would have taken me two hours of menial work to pay for being thrown in the trash was almost offensive. So wasteful. So unnecessary.

It was similar to the way he treated his Ohio State season tickets during my childhood. We went to every home game and always arrived prior to kickoff - because there are few things more inelegant than being late for a big appointment.

But just as we would arrive early, we would also leave early. Even worse, we would depart the stadium and walk right across the intramural fields to his building at the medical center so he could get work done while I hung out with him.

I could clearly see the South Stands from his office. Alcatraz was once the world's cruelest prison because its inmates on the island were close enough to the shore to still hear girls in bathing suits happily frolicking on the beach - while they were locked up in cells. Old Upham Hall was my childhood Alcatraz.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNOPE.No re-entry, not even for overtime. You all made a terrible mistake.

Whenever O-H-I-O made its way around the stadium, I could envision the people we had been sitting near an hour earlier doing the first O as we had done in the first half. Each time the stadium erupted, I could feel the euphoria from a thousand feet away as I cringed and imagined the two, silent vacated spots on that B-deck bench where we could have still been.

Every cheer. Every big play. Every dropped pass. Every groan. When they won the game, I was crushed that I missed it. Whenever they lost I felt personally responsible.

My father is, at best, a casual fan - meaning he doesn’t ask will Ohio State win tomorrow as often as did Ohio State play yesterday. But he fortified my formative years with father-and-son trips to stadiums across the country. Not a year went by when we didn’t dutifully attend several first-halves of football or five innings of baseball games.

Granted, our premature evacuations were never of the surrendering variety that occurred as the Heat were cheating uncertain death last week against the Spurs. They were very predetermined. Years later I figured out what is completely obvious now: The games were background noise. Sitting in Ohio Stadium was an expensive, clairvoyant, and very deliberate setting. 

Those days in the stadium really had nothing to do with consuming football. By halftime, the tickets he had paid for served their higher purpose. The game was secondary. 

Miami is routinely vilified for being a lousy sports town wholly undeserving of anything good at all - the fucking Marlins have two World Series - but there is not only great variability to the community importance of sports teams across the country, there's individual variability.

People find different utility in attending these events, based solely on their own demand. Some people go for the actual game. My father went to be with me, in a place for us. Leaving at halftime was just him being consistent.

Those days in the stadium really had nothing to do with consuming football. By halftime, the tickets served their higher purpose.

That little Heat fan was unintentionally thrust into the worst kind of sports sadness this side of the civic larceny of what is now Art Modell’s corpse: Childhood sports trauma. It will pass. He'll tell his buddies about it over drinks in 20 years. My dad pulled me out of Game Six to beat traffic! HAHAHA CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?

It's a story that will eventually render itself to being a fun memory he had of going to a game with his father, which just like everything else we take for granted in our youth, someday won't be a possibility. If he's fortunate, he'll get the opportunity to take his own kid to a game, or at least half of one.

My dad always worked his ass off, bought Ohio State season tickets, and took me to games. We almost always left at halftime. The second halves of so many games always ended up in the trash, just like so many half-beers and just like so many other things. I've tried for years to figure out why he's like that.

He grew up in squalor. Maybe, because of his poor childhood, he now enjoys having command of his possessions instead of them having command of him. Maybe he just prefers to stay unsatisfied. Maybe he likes that instead of going to sleep hungry every night as a child dreaming about ice cream cups, he's now throwing them in the garbage.

And maybe there was an important lesson buried in all of those halftime stadium escapes. Maybe that's why I think you should do whatever the hell you want with your game tickets, sports fans. And maybe that's why I love college football so much.


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COB's picture

I left the 2003 NC State game with 10 minutes to go and get beer for the after party.  I saw Rivers throw the game tying TD at the bodega and 13th and pearl.  I ran down the street with two flat cases of natty like a total clown.  I've never felt dumber in my life.  

builderofcoalitions's picture

I'm sure this is how many Buckeye fans felt after the Purdue game last season.

Because we couldn't go for three.

Bucki78's picture

Not me!  I stayed for the whole thing. I watched fans through the opening turn around as OSU scored the tying TD (with 2-pt conversion following).  So much enjoyment I had knowing they missed it.

"But I don't have to rely on a lot of people to tell me about the traditions of Ohio State. I lived it, I breathed it, I know it and I love it." - Urban Meyer

cplunk's picture

When it comes to sports, I am completely a stay-until-the-bitter-end guy.
I can understand your Dad though- in all other things I am steadfast in my belief that I have earned money in my life to be able to do what I want. If I want to buy four different flavors of ice cream, try a bite of each, and toss the rest in the trash then that is exactly what i will do. I didn't experience an awful commute every weekday and sit at a desk in a cubicle like a hamster or gerbil so that I could follow other people's rules in my outside-work life.

Hovenaut's picture

Wonder if any 'Hawks fans left TD Garden last night, that would have sucked.

I said it last week, Heat fans should be ashamed.

Poison nuts's picture

Fans in Miami - of pretty much any sport, really are the most fare-weathered there are...Yes they should be ashamed, but the fact they left early is no surprise to me at all. 

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

LexingtonBuckeye's picture

It seems that every time I am reading an 11W article and get about half way through to stop and appreciate the insight it provides, I scroll up to see the author is Ramzy. That's not to say the other writers don't provide insight or great articles and info, but Ramzy, you are pure class. Bravo.

cjmgobucks's picture

Another poignant, well-written article.  well done!

"When I look in the mirror, I want to take a swing at me."

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Rapping Bum's picture


Help is on the way.

jedkat's picture

I stopped reading at "I liked buying it"
Can someone paraphrase the rest of the article for me?

"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."

German Buckeye's picture

Go read the rest of it...

jedkat's picture

apparently the joke didn't even buzz the tower with a couple of people...geesh

"Can we please stop the message board fighting? I really can't stand the message board fighting..."

"No. You're an idiot, and your posts are terrible."

Earle's picture

Would have been better without the request for the paraphrase of the rest, no?

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

OSUNeedles's picture

I always wonder if my 7yo daughter really enjoys football as much as she claims, or whether it is a great way to get 4 hours of isolated 'Dad' time. She knows that we always stay.for "Carmen Ohio," but I fear that Buffalo may not hold her attention this year.

Stinson's picture

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

NoVA Buckeye's picture

The Purdue game took a stroke of luck for overtime. The Boilers made the grave mistake of throwing on third down instead of running, which would've made a huge difference IMO.

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

1MechEng's picture

Ramzy -
I really like your articles. This one is well written as usual. However, I don't agree with it completely.
IMHO, you are correct that any fan can do what they want with their tickets (within reason, and the law). And I agree we can feel bad for the kid who gets pulled away from the game before the end because it's not his/her choice.
But the fact remains that the ticket holder has a choice. If they choose to give up and leave early, then they can also reap what they sow.  This was evident in the many Heat fans who tried to get back in when all "wasn't lost" at the end of Game 6. And we have every right to call them fair-weather fans for making such a choice.
My $0.02 worth.
Added on edit:
It would be a bit different if the game had little to no effect on the overall outcome of the season, but this was Game 6 of the NBA Finals - do or die time. The stakes were huge.

rekrul's picture

In relation to Miami Heats game 6...  The fans tried to go back in and were from what I have read, rude, begging etc. to get back in.   Your dad did not try to go back to the stadium when he heard the crowd, want his trashed ice cream back or regret leaving any of those games.  You were the one that did not want any of that to happen which you had no direct control over, understandable.  Maybe the Heat game triggered these thoughts but I do not see it being apples to apples.  
One close comparison I see...
College football games are all elimination games, because one loss can cost you a shot at a Championship...

Out Work, Out Think, Out Play!!!

Stinson's picture

I've been going to games with my dad for years. I remember one game in particular when Wisconsin scored with 10 minutes left to go up 11 and people were swarming to the exits. I didn't understand. Those we're the diehards I had remembered from the 2002/2003 seasons.  I remember my dad giving people hell as they walked down the steps of 14C.
Good times.

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." -Wayne Woodrow Hayes

PlanningBuck12's picture

This past year with the Purdue game. We all know how that one went. My gf and I were about 4 rows up from not being in The Shoe at all, while my parents were down in the confides of B Deck. On Purdue's last drive I leaned over and told my gf that my Dad was probably leaving early because that just how he is with things like that similar to Ramzy's old man. I asked her if she wanted to follow the herds of people out as well. Then I stopped myself it was my first time back "home" since graduating the previous June. I wanted to experience Carmen as an alumni. We stayed and enjoyed one of the more exciting finishes at the Shoe with a back-up that I can remember in recent years. Dad and Mom watched the finish from High Street at Little Bar "Little Gate". Then as my gf and I excitedly walked to meet my folks. They had the walk of shame look. They couldnt believe that they missed out on the finish. I still don't let my dad live that down. I only left early for one game in my whole 4 years at OSU and it was JT's first time reaching 100 wins. 


"Anything easy ain't worth a damn" - Woody Hayes

Buckeye06's picture

I stay tiil the bitter end no matter what.  I was in the upper corner endzone in Glendale, an entirely Gator Section, and sat through it all.  I did the same in the student section at Miami 2 years ago.  Granted I went to Miami law, so i had tons of Hurricane friends, but still
The only time I ever turned off my tv early was after Spitler missed the block on the punt against LSU and they scored going up 21 with the 3rd winding down.  I left the bar I was at and went home (3 blocks) and watched the rest...so I'm not sure that counts. 
I would never leave the 'Shoe, one of the greatest places on earth, early

pjtobin's picture

To each there own. Some ppl realize its just a game. Some live and breath for their teams. I try to stay to the end of every thing I do. There were those premature moments as a kid that taught me to drive the last nail with everything. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

OSU_ALUM_05's picture

I was at a Reds game with my family around 1991 or 1992.  My dad always tried to leave early to beat traffic even though we only got to go to maybe 1 game a year.  The Reds weren't great, so it usually wasn't a big deal.  However, one of those years we left early and were listening to the game on the radio in the car.  The Reds hit back to back to back home runs - one of those things the average person would never get to see again.  Brutal.

Yeti's have feelings too.

thatlillefty's picture

My folks flew out to see UC play VTech last year at FedEx Field. There were only a few thousand UC fans among the crowd; the rest were all Hokies. It looked like VTech had the game wrapped up and my step mom wantedt o leave. But we stayed until the end and got to see a pretty sweet comeback and last minute TD.
Always stay til the end.

9Route's picture

Tears of the Sun, best scene:

I'm just happy to be here

Urban Nation Army's picture

I don't even know if I could handle that experience.

Bet you can't say "Bert Bielma is a bumbling buffoon" five times fast.

MassiveAttack's picture

To each their own.  If you want to stay the whole game, do so.  If you want to leave early, that's fine too.  But there is no need to bitch at people for doing what they do, unless it's blocking your view.
To the DIEHARD fan who stayed through the entire Florida NC beat down, wow.  It was so excruciating I couldn't even watch the whole thing on my TV.
I used to get so upset whenever the football Bucks lost, I was miserable for the entire weekend.  Now I have learned to pull back my emotional investment.  Now my personal stance is that I will stay and watch the whole thing, as long as the coach hasn't pulled the starters.  If he has, then that means he has conceded defeat.  Having said that, I love a winning blowout, and will watch every second.  See 2012 OSU/Nebraska.

The Ohio State University - "Haters love us!"

LABuckeye's picture

I WAS at the "Florida NC beat down" and stayed for the whole thing. It sucked, but I couldn't leave my school's players while that was happening...

JeffCoBuck's picture

I do not leave games early if I can help it. I don't get to many games of any kind, be it collegiate or professional, so I milk it for all it's worth. I've stayed for blowouts both for and against my team. It's all about the fact that I don't get to go very often, so I wanna soak it all in, and I also don't want to miss that miracle moment, either. A couple years back, we went to The Jake on Fathers Day to watch the Tribe and the Pirates. There was a rain delay late in the game, and the rest of my party wanted to leave. I was able to convince everyone to stay, and Cord Phelps hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eleventh to win it. Had we left, we'd have missed it. If it is within my power, we will stay at all events from start to finish. 

Jugdish's picture

"Premature Evacuation" put all kinds of different scenarios in my head.

Remember to get your wolverine spayed or neutered. TBDBITL

pjtobin's picture

I wanted to write something similar , but decided to keep it clean. 

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

CSAR Buckeye's picture

I stay and watch to the bitter end of any game I go to.  Maybe it's just me, but I can't even turn the tv off on my Browns getting spanked by yet another team let alone leave a stadium early.  Maybe I live and die too much with "my" teams, but I feel that as a fan, if I want to experience the highs of a team, I need to ride out the lows with them -- even if game time is all I can share in.  No judgment on anybody else, that is just my pathology.  Go Bucks!