Field of Dreams, Buckeye Football, and Father's Day

jbenz's picture
June 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I've always loved the opening narration in Field of Dreams.

          My father’s name was John Kinsella.
          It’s an Irish name. He was born in
          North Dakota, in 1896, and never
          saw a big city until he came back
          from France in 1918.
          He settled in Chicago, where he quickly
          learned to live and die with the White
          Sox. Died a little when they lost the
          1919 World Series...


          ...died a lot the following summer when
          eight members of the team were accused
          of throwing that Series.
          He played in the minors for a year or
          two, but nothing ever came of it. Moved
          to Brooklyn in ’35, married Mom in ’38,
          and was already an old man working at
          the Naval Yards when I was born in 1949.
          My name’s Ray Kinsella. Mom died when
          I was three, and I suppose Dad did the
          best he could. Instead of Mother Goose,
          I was put to bed at night to stories of
          Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig...and the great
          Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Much like Ray Kinsella, my father put me to bed with stories of his favorite athletes. Instead of the Black Sox, I heard about Archie Griffin, Woody Hayes, and the "the greatest play action passer who ever lived", Rex Kern.
Dad used to describe the way Kern would hold the ball after faking a hand-off. Sometimes he would just kinda jog away from the pile up, holding the ball in one hand, down behind his thigh. By the time the defense, and the cameraman, realized what was happening, Kern was heaving the ball downfield to a wide open receiver. To this day, a poorly executed play action will grind his gears. "He's not even trying!" Dad will say. "Who's gonna be faked out by that?"

I have to agree. The art of the fake handoff has been lost. Of course, Dad also talked a lot about "three yards and a cloud of dust". It wasn't until years later that I put two and two together, and realized how much of an advantage Kern had when he was faking a hand-off, mostly because they really were handing off ninety percent of the time.
My father graduated from Ohio State in the early seventies. Although I did grow up on Buckeye football, he never pressured me to follow in his footsteps. He wanted me to do whatever I thought was best for me. As a junior in high school I thought I knew it all, including these three things: I wanted to go to a big school. I wanted to study Industrial Design. And I thought I might like computer animation. At the time computer animation was only being taught in master's programs, and only two public schools in the country offered it: Texas A&M and Ohio State. My family had moved to Texas when I was in middle school, so of course my Mom was rooting hard for A&M. But A&M had no Industrial Design department. It just so happened that OSU was a perfect fit.
On November 23, 2002, I was a junior sitting in C-Deck, watching Will Allen pick off John Navarre near the end zone. We had beaten Michigan and were on our way to the National Championship game. As my friends and I ran down the ramps to rush the field, we could hear the chants building: TEMPE! TEMPE! My buddies were already making plans. How much would the flight cost? Should we stop in Vegas on the way? 
Those guys would have a blast, but I knew I would not be joining them. There was only place I wanted to go for that game: back home in Texas, with Dad.

As a Buckeye fan, there will probably never be another experience quite like watching that Championship game. When Krenzel's pass to Gamble fell incomplete, I looked over at Dad. Although the loss was devastating, we couldn't even be that mad about it. What a game! What a season! And then... what a yellow flag! Soon after the interference call (which seemed perfectly reasonable to me) we were national champions and Coach Tressel (or JT, as I like to call him) was going on about the "best damned team in the land".
Getting back to the opening narration of Field of Dreams...

          Dad was a Yankees
          fan then, so of course I rooted for
          Brooklyn. But in '58 the Dodgers moved
          away, so we had to find other things to
          fight about. We did. And when it came
          time to go to college, I picked the
          farthest one from home I could find.
          This, of course, drove him right up the
          wail, which I suppose was the point.
          Officially my major was English, but
          really it was the Sixties.
          I marched, I smoked some grass, I tried
          to like sitar music... and I met Annie.

Just like Ray, I had chosen a school a thousand miles away from home (though we had different reasons). At the time, I thought Dad liked my decision to attend OSU. It would be cool for him to see me at his alma mater, right? Now I wonder if he hadn't been quietly agreeing with Mom, wishing I would stay closer to home. By the time I was a senior, my life was continuing to parallel Ray Kinsella's. Instead of Annie, her name was Beth.

I had always planned on moving back to Texas after college. That never happened. I stayed in Columbus to be with Beth. A few years later we got married. Today, I'm celebrating my very first Father's Day as a father.
I have finally given my parents their first grandchild, but I feel bad that they are so far away. Luckily, we have family traditions to help us feel closer. Hopefully my son will enjoy Buckeye football as much as I do. If so, then we'll watch games together and call Dad afterwards and we'll all complain about the refs and about the poorly executed fake hand-offs. My son will grow up hearing stories about JT, Mike Doss, Teddy Ginn, AJ Hawk, and of course, Rex Kern. Also, he'll hear a lot of stories about my Dad.
Happy Father's Day, Dad.

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