Happy 4th everybody! I am writing this on Wednesday morning because like most of America I will be celebrating the Fourth with family, fun, fireworks and, more than likely, heavy amounts of adult beverages, so please, if you are celebrating like me and the rest of America, please be safe and drink responsibly.
The proximity of Father’s Day to the 4th of July is not lost on me. The 4th almost seems like Father’s Day 2.0, a day where dads get to be dads, dressed clad in their star-spangled best, usually parked in front of a grill, beer in hand, telling stories of how it was when it was better way back when despite the facts sounding slightly off. Like…did Grandpa really punch Hitler at Normandy while also working in a factory to help out the war effort? Did Bernie Kosar really throw 13 touchdowns in a single game in sub-zero temperatures before being taken out by an angry Bill Belichick for drawing up a play in the dirt? Half the stuff seems accurate, but you can’t question dad on the 4th because you run the risk of being ostracized from the barbeque and being asked, politely yet firmly, to leave.
The Fourth of July is about fathers to me in more ways than one. Not only did the founding fathers decide to sip the tea and tell England to blow it out their ass on the nations birthday, but it’s MY father’s birthday as well. My dad loves to tell stories, especially ones that you’ve heard before; it’s one of the reasons I write and am a storyteller myself, as I am more like him than I’d like to admit at times and not enough like him in other avenues. He will tell you stories of how growing up he thought it was really cool that everyone got together and had fireworks for his birthday. How that same Bernie Kosar from before started his first NFL football game the day his oldest1 was born,2 and the moment I exited the birthing canal, Kosar slung a TD pass to Webster Slaughter.3
Stories of how, when I was five, I was so worried my two-year-old sister would ride her bike into the street, despite not even being close to it. Stories of the curse of Rocky Colavito, how Skinner should have sent Kenny Lofton in 2007, stories of how he got confused during his work softball league championship game and thought that if he was in foul territory when he caught the pop up, the out wouldn’t count, so he reached as far over the line as he could and dropped the would be final out. Stories of how his granddaughters make him the happiest and proudest he’s ever been.4
My dad taught me how to tell a story. He taught me baseball and how to keep score during his church league softball games, something I loved so much that any game we went to, we got scorecards and lamented when the tiny little golf pencils broke. He taught me football and loyalty, that regardless of how close in proximity we are to Pittsburgh, we can never be Steelers fans and how even as awful as the Steelers are, the Ravens are worse.5 He taught me it’s okay to cry and also how to walk off an injury, even if that injury is a soccer ball to the face from point blank range. Just kidding, he didn’t say walk it off, he ran to me as I lay on the ground, blacked out. I looked at him as I came to and asked him if it went in the goal or if I need to be ready for a corner kick. He chuckled and said “he’s fine” to the people watching and argued with me that I needed to go sit down despite my ready and willingness to cover the kick. Because somehow, even at age 12 or 13, I knew that the story would be something great to tell in the future. Happy birthday Papa Gerbs.