I got a bit of a surprise this week when I saw our “Best of the Best” special section Tuesday.
Of course, having been in newspaper for many years, I was well aware of the basic parameters of choosing the best of the best.
What I was unaware of was one of this newspaper’s selections — best newspaper columnist.
I tell you, I was pretty humbled when I learned the readers voted for me. Believe me when I say I was very much taken by surprise.
So I’d like to say “thank you,” personally, for those votes of confidence. It makes a body feel pretty good to be appreciated.
So in that capacity, I thought I’d share a humbling time when my father got the opportunity to be proud of his son, and another time when he was likely embarrassed that he had a son.
I start with being proud.
I was on the English Academic Team in high school. When I was in school, the academic team was a newly-formed group — it started my sophomore year.
The first two years we did pretty good. We had some girls on the team who excelled at English and literature, and they carried the team those years.
Well, when I was a senior, I was the only senior on the team — so automatically I was made the team’s captain.
The reading list for the English team was pretty extensive, from novels to poetry to short stories.
That year the team decided to split the list, as there were very few English team members that year. Three of us would play every match, with one alternate each time.
We had a good season, but the way the matches fell after school, my father was never able to make those because of work. My mother was usually there.
But one match, he showed up.
It was the last match of the season, and it was to determine first place for that year. We were competing against the team that had won the previous year, so our team was nervous.
During a match, there were 10 direct questions asked to each team. If one team got one of its 10 wrong, the other team had the chance to answer and steal the point.
After those questions were completed, we were given hand buzzers and asked 25 “toss-up” questions, which could be answered by either team.
That night, it was like the emcee took questions directly from my own reading list.
We nailed the direct questions and, at the end of that part, we were tied with the other team.
The first toss up was asked.
I buzzed and answered.
The second one was asked.
Again I buzzed and answered.
That pattern repeated itself many, many times during that part of the match.
Always, I buzzed and answered.
I was almost drunk with pride — I know I beamed like a beacon on that stage.
With me nailing about 18 or so of those 25 toss-up questions — we were easily declared the regional winners that night.
It was a good day, and I was happy my father was able to sit in the audience and see it.
However, there was another day in the bleachers I know we’d both likely be happy to forget.
It was a lesson in what I can, and cannot, do.
I played pee-wee football when I was in elementary school. Well, I tried to play.
It wasn’t for me, but I was too young to know that.
But during the season, I learned very quickly.
I was really unfamiliar with the actual rules of the game, and unfortunately for me, the coach really only cared that his son was on the team. I learned very little from him, except that unless you knew what was going on you were an idiot who wasted time by joining these teams.
I was the tallest on the team, but likely the skinniest, and during practice was always pitted against the fattest guy on the team.
That guy had little trouble plowing me over during practice, and over a few practices, I tired of it altogether.
I did the best I could, and hung in until the season was over.
But before that could happen, we had a few games.
One game I vividly remember, because not only did I get to look completely stupid, but also I got booed for it.
We were on defense, and I was a lineman. It was dark, and the helmet really limited my vision.
I heard the ball get hiked, but I never saw who had it.
While I looked frantically around for the guy who had that football, I missed the guy running right by me.
He was so close all I would have had to have done was take a step to the left and he would have been down.
Instead, I missed it altogether, allowing the guy to score — the winning goal.
Of course, I got the grumbles from teammates, and the coach yelled a lot, but what I remember most is the booing from the crowd, followed by the knowledge my father knew I was being booed.
While I’m certain he felt bad for me, I’m sure he saw how obvious it was I was no football star that night.
Of course, I never played after that season — I learned it was more interesting to watch other people play on TV, and yell at them when they screw it all up.
I just won’t boo.
Reporter John Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.