The Journey

Husky Football and My Father
By Alex Blade

Washington Huskies' wide receiver Corey Williams had just caught a diving touchdown catch with 1:10 left in the 2003 Apple Cup to seal the win for his team, 27-19. In the stands of Husky Stadium, pandemonium ensued as 75,000 fans went crazy. In all my years of going to Husky football games, I had never experienced a celebration quite like this. My ears were ringing from the deafening noise; I could no longer find my seat and I was high-fiving people I had never seen before.

When I saw the look of elation on my Dad's face, I knew that it mirrored what was on mine. My 10-year-old brother stood on his seat, the excitement in his cheers causing me to feel even more joy.

Looking back, that moment defines why I love Husky football so much; it reminds me of all the amazing times I have had attending games with my family.

My father began taking me to Husky football games before I can remember. His passion for the University of Washington stems from his days spent going to college there, back when the football team was still winning championships. He wasn't the only one from the family, either: his dad and uncle also attended school there, and his brother is perhaps an even more ardent fan than he is. All of this history led my Dad to become so devoted a fan that he has traveled all over the west coast to attend Husky games. And with that much enthusiasm for the team, it was natural for him to involve me when I got old enough.

Washington Huskies football has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and according to stories told in our family, even longer than that. I can vaguely remember lying on the bed with my Dad while watching highlight videos of the Huskies' 1991 season when they won the national championship. There are also vivid memories of laying down mattresses in the basement so that I could make diving catches of passes that my Dad would throw to me.

Beginning at the age of 4, my Dad started taking me to Seattle with him on Saturdays to go to Husky games. He would wake me up early in the morning, already wearing his favorite purple and gray University of Washington sweatshirt, and tell me to get ready. Within two hours, we were sitting in a motor home with various grandparents, uncles, cousins and friends headed south on I-5 toward the stadium. Once there, the whole group would get out the fried chicken, chips and other tailgating foods that the motor home was stocked with. The adults would crack open their beers and the kids would get into the Coca-Colas and 7-Ups. My Dad and I got into the habit of throwing a kid-sized football around in the parking lot before heading into the stadium, something we still do to this day at the games we make it to.

Everyone else in the group sat next to whomever they felt like once they were in the stadium, but I always sat next to Dad. He would talk to me about the Husky games he went to when he was younger, about the current team and the rules of the game itself. Because of all he taught me, I know more about football than most people who have played it, even though I never did. But more importantly, I know a lot about my Dad as a person, and his passions and interests. I am closer to him today because of all those conversations in the stands prior to kickoff on those Saturdays in the fall.

Things look different today. Because I am away at college, we attend fewer games than we used to. In addition, because of how busy he is these days, my Dad doesn't pay as much attention to Washington football as he did when he was younger; and by contrast, I am the biggest Husky fan I know. Now when we talk about the team, it is me explaining things instead of being explained to. But regardless of these changes, Husky football still brings my father and me together. Even though when we watch the games we are hundreds of miles apart, that doesn't keep us from talking. After every game my cell phone will ring and Dad will ask me what I thought of what had happened. We spend the next hour or so discussing the game, and then our conversation will move on to other topics.

One thing that has not changed is how Dad and I interact when we get to head to Seattle to watch a game together. While it typically now happens only once a year, our routine has stayed the same. We still eat the same foods, throw the football around in the parking lot and sit next to each other while we watch the game. Some things are different; my older cousins drink beer now instead of soda and my younger cousin now throws the football farther than I can. But the motor home still gets parked in the same spot that it has for the last decade. Another constant: the interaction with my Dad.

I know that establishing my own life after college may mean attending even fewer Husky games with him in future. But those countless hours immersed in Husky football over the years allowed Dad to drive deep the pilings on which our father-son ties now stand. I couldn't wish for a better foundation, or better memories of how it was built.