Fathering a Love of Sports
what my dad taught me about sports and why I’ll miss him
“I kept playing catch with my dad through my 20s, and I’m due to do so again this summer even after I turn 30.”
I never did.
That was a line from my May, 2008, Athletic Aesthetic column about a renaissance in baseball in the Chippewa Valley. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, so much so that it was the one sport I was still involved with beyond my kid years: by playing catch with my dad. Despite my prediction, I did not get around to playing with him that summer. The thought crossed my mind again this year. In fact, I thought about it a day or two before the Fourth of July this year. The Fourth of July, 2009 ... the day my dad died.
You may know my dad: John Hoffland, News Director at WEAU. A tried and true Wisconsin sports fan, always rooting for the Packers and Badgers, and thoroughly enjoying Bob Uecker. He loved the Lombardi era, players like Ray Nitschke and Paul Hornung. After all, the Titletown era occurred during the prime years of his life, when dad was between the ages of 16 and 23. What an era of football to be exposed to while growing up.
I’m sure my dad was excited at the prospect of having a son. This would mean raising another Packer fan like him, having his own kin with him to experience the highs and lows of the green-and-gold; being born in 1978 and growing up in the 80s, this was an era of mostly lows. Yet I threw him a curveball, and you can probably blame the Packers. Or Les Steckel.
The first NFL game I remember watching was the December 16, 1984, Packers 38-14 blowout of the Vikings at the Metrodome. This was during perhaps the worst season in Vikings history, the year of 3-13. I recall watching the game on our television in Grafton, the six-year-old me witnessing Packer score after Packer score. The sympathy/underdog factor must have kicked in, and being easily impressionable at a young age, I decided to become a Viking fan.