Everyday can be Father’s Day if you want it to be

While it seems like it just happened yesterday, today will mark 10 years since my father passed away.

The best thing I can say about my dad is that he saw every game I ever played, no matter where, no matter when.

There always has and always will forever be, an eternal sports bond between fathers and sons.

The funniest story I can tell you about my dad came during a basketball game against Lockhart.

We were playing at Lockhart and he arrived late and had to sit down front, right next to the floor—and in the Lockhart section.

I was having a fairly good game and the Lions started pushing me around pretty good and he had just about enough of it and started letting the referees hear about it while positioned right there next to the court where they could hear him clearly.

Now, my father was hardly a screamer and he rarely concerned himself with what the officials were doing, but this time it was personal.

William T. Martin William T. Martin They kept pushing and he kept talking. Finally the referee had had enough and called a rare technical on the crowd.

Now because he was sitting smack dab in the middle of the Lockhart fans, they thought he was with them—and called it on Lockhart.

That of course results in two technical foul shots and guess who got to shoot them—me.

Now the Lockhart coach— Gerald Coppedge—was good friends with our coach Gerald Adams and he was going nuts on the sidelines because he knew precisely what was going on.

“That guy is from Rockdale, he’s from Rockdale. That guy is his father,” Coppedge screamed as he pointed at me, then at my father.

Coach Adams of course had walked way down at the end our bench and could hardly contain his laughter as he positioned his hand in front of his face.

My father was very popular among my friends because he provided us with a place to stay on the weekends that we went to Austin, which was nearly each and every week.

On any given Friday or Saturday night, you could find seven or eight teenage boys scattered about his one bedroom apartment off Riverside Drive.

Even if I wasn’t with them, they were still welcome to stay there.

Because of this, he always kept his freezer fully stocked with Totino’s hamburger pizzas for those late nights when we came home after hanging out at the Armadillo World Headquarters or the Abbey Inn or had gone pool hopping. Don’t ask.

We would often eat at Pancho’s Mexican Buffet off Oltorf where it cost 79 cents for all the 79-cent food you could eat. We would also often get sick after eating at Pancho’s 79- cent all-you-can-eat Mexican Buffet.

One of our favorite activities was moving all the furniture out on the stairway and playing carpet football, where we played football—on our knees in the living room.

My father would simply peak around the corner with the most quizzical look and then shaking his head, retreat back to his bedroom.

Sports was always a part of his life so consequently, it was a large part of mine as well.

A three-sport star at Hyde Park High School in Fayetteville, Ga., he had played quarterback for the Air Force service team in Korea and he groomed me to play quarter- back from fifth through eighth grade for the city champion Guaranty Bank team in Lafayette, La.

He was my first basketball coach for the Emmanuel Baptist Church squad.

With a radio and television degree from the University of Texas, one of his first jobs was as the sportcaster for KTBC in Austin.

The former cheerleader and I made a trip back to my childhood home in Lafayette last year and as I stood there out in the street, all I could see was us playing catch in the front yard.

Or us going one-on-one in the driveway. When he died two of his army buddies drove non-stop from New Jersey to be at his memorial service. Another came from Louisiana.

The thing I remember most on that dark weekend a decade ago was the way my friends started showing up unannounced at his memorial service.

Randy J. and Patti Morgan were the first ones through the door that day.

I had held up fairly well until my brothers started marching through that door, one-by-one.

Those guys who had slept on his floor and eaten his pizza and considered him a second father.

It was overwhelming.

For years after his death, it was impossible for me to even look at a picture of him. It’s easier now, but not much.

I feel deprived because he never got to meet my beautiful wife. He would have fallen under her spell as well.

He did get to spend lots of time with my knuckleheaded nephews, where to the youngest one, he was “pawpaw without a knife.”

I don’t think my father ever gave me any sage piece of advice, but what he did give me was an acute appreciation for the good things that make life worth living—books, music, movies, and good food.

That is a part of him that I will carry forever, so that makes everyday, Father’s Day.

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2011-11-17 digital edition

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