Film Study's Biggest Fan

By Kyle Jones on August 31, 2023 at 11:35 am
Bob Jones was not only the biggest supporter of Film Study, but of its author.

It started with a scissor lift.

Film Study

I first understood the importance of All-22 film almost 23 years ago to the day. As my team prepared for the first home game of what would be my junior season in high school, our head coach asked if there were any volunteers willing to record the end zone view of every snap, allowing him and his staff to better evaluate our performance the next day.

It wasn't that hard to convince Dad to spend his Friday nights fiddling with a camcorder, you see, because he loved being a part of his kids' activities.

He'd give up summer weekends shuttling us back and forth to summer camp in a different state. He'd manage the microphones for high school musicals and sleep on a bus as he chaperoned class trips. That's how he found himself high up above the stadium behind North Olmsted High School, not in the stands among the other parents, but alone atop a 30-foot scissor lift, dutifully pressing the red 'record' button over and over so my teammates and I could be sure we executed '46 Power' correctly on a random 2nd down play in the third quarter against Elyria.

Robert 'Bob' Jones had never played organized football, but he was the one who first taught me the game that has played a major role in nearly half of my life: for six years as a player, three as a coach, and still today as I begin my ninth season writing Film Study for 11W. Not only did he teach me the basics, but he recognized the passion I had from an early age and did little to stifle it, despite Mom's worries about the inherent danger of the game.

Though Mom turned out to be right (as was often the case), as knee injuries continually marred my playing career, both of my parents always encouraged me to pursue my love of the game in other ways. Dad had been an amateur competitive cyclist in his teenage years, and while he never competed in the Tour De France, he maintained a love for bikes throughout his entire life, restoring them in his free time and bringing new life to what might look like junk to the untrained eye.

I wasn't surprised when after telling him that I'd started writing about my passion in the summer of 2014, he seemed more excited than I was. Although I don't think he ever quite grasped the difference between Covers 1, 2, 3, and 4, he never stopped encouraging me to keep writing and trying new ways to share my thoughts on the game. 

He loved asking me 'What are you gonna write about this week?' on Sunday afternoons, and only recently did I realize how much those chats helped me formalize what would eventually end up on these pages. The process of recapping my takeaways from the previous day's Ohio State game for him would act as an outline for what I'd type in the coming hours, meaning he probably deserves an Editor credit for countless pieces that have appeared on this site.

He was the guinea pig for my first attempts at creating video cut-ups, providing feedback on what elements needed to be slowed down or where more explanation was required. Just as I had been his assistant as he attempted countless DIY projects for the first time over the years, he became mine as I learned how to be a writer.

His support wasn't an extension of his fandom for Ohio State football, though. I was the first in the family to attend our home state's flagship university, and Buckeye football was really MY thing. But simply because it was my thing, that made it HIS as well.

His support was never more valuable than last fall.

An unforgettable night in Cleveland for Kyle and Bob last October
An unforgettable night in Cleveland last October

October 2022 was one of the best months of both our lives. Despite spending most of my childhood taping ESPN overnight to record Formula 1 races (before it was cool), Dad had never seen a race in person until my brother and I took him to the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. That came just a week after I had splurged on playoff tickets, leading to my 68-year-old father belting out the lyrics to the Spongebob Squarepants theme while walking down Euclid Avenue after witnessing a ninth-inning comeback to beat the Yankees.

But just a few weeks later, things changed. Quickly.

After nearly a decade working there, I abruptly left my day job after a hostile takeover led to a series of layoffs. While most OSU fans were fretting about a second consecutive loss to you-know-who after Thanksgiving weekend, I was far more concerned about staring down unemployment for the first time as an adult.

Yet although he was just months away from retiring and enjoying a very different kind of jobless lifestyle, Dad was there for me. Always calling to check in, responding to my texts, and assuring me that this was just a bump in the road that I'd get over.

Throughout January and February, my focus was admittedly not on OSU recruiting, transfer rumors, or the incredibly depressing basketball season that was in Columbus, as I threw all my energy into job-hunting. By late February, I had secured a new role and was excited for a return to normalcy.

Little did I know the real hard part was about to begin.

Almost exactly 19 years earlier, I was a sophomore at OSU when Dad had first collapsed with a dissecting aortic aneurysm. As I sped up I-71 toward University Hospital in downtown Cleveland, he was being prepped for a surgery that he had only a 50% chance of surviving...the procedure itself.

There are no words that can describe how grateful I have been that he beat the odds that night. What could have been a tragedy turned out to only be a hurdle, allowing him and I to spend literally twice as much time together as we would have otherwise.

But while that aneurysm didn't take him in 2004, it would require several more surgeries over the years, and this past February he went in for one more. This time, he didn't make it out of the operating room.

I have always wondered how things work. As a child, I was fascinated with taking things apart in an effort to understand how many small pieces fit together to create something most people never think twice about. 

It certainly helped, then, to have a father who was a mechanic by trade. Drawing a line between the fascination I felt when Dad once showed me a completely disassembled V-8 engine - with every valve, piston, and gear laid out on his workbench - to the feeling I get when dissecting Nick Saban's 700-page playbook, isn't exactly difficult.

This series, now hundreds of entries deep over the course of 8+ years, would have never happened without Dad. So as we prepare for the opening day of the college football season, it can't help but feel different.

I didn't write this in hopes of drawing any sympathy, though. Rather, I write it to recognize and celebrate the support I received for 38 years, as I know that my experience was somewhat unique. 

I've loved writing these columns for so many years, but appreciate the space Jason, Chris, Ramzy, Johnny, Dan, and the rest of the crew have given me this year to get myself together. I promise to any loyal readers that we'll be right back to dissecting the differences between Inside Zone and Duo next week.

But as anyone who has lost someone close knows, one of the hardest parts of grief is the year of firsts, when we celebrate the first events without that person, such as birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, and the like. Like so many of you, the first college football weekend of the season is a kind of holiday for me. And simply because it was a big deal for me, it was a big deal for Dad, too.

So once the season officially kicks off on Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, I will just admit to you all now that I won't be thinking about the action on the field and what I might say about it in next week's column. My mind will be on this series' biggest fan.

I love you, Dad.

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