Friday, September 30, 2011

A Day for My Dad: Utah and the PAC 12

Tomorrow the University of Utah hosts the University of Washington in Salt Lake City for their first PAC 12 football game. As I checked the ESPN website, which I normally do about three times a day this time of year, there was an article by Ted Miller talking about the U's MUSS (Mighty Utah Student Section). Miller gave the words to "Utah Man," the school fight song, which is sung by the MUSS multiple times during a football game. I had not seen the words in years:
Who am I, sir? A Utah Man am I. A Utah Man, sir, and will be 'til I die; Ki-yi! We're up to snuff; we never bluff, we're game for any fuss, no other gang of college men dare meet us in the muss. So fill your lungs and sing it out and shout it to the sky, we'll fight for dear old Crimson, for a Utah Man am I.
I can't hear or read those words without thinking of my father. I went to many, many Utah football and basketball games growing up. Dad had season tickets to both. We both sang those words with relish at the games, even though I've never really known all the words. 
They also remind me of my father's funeral, because I sang part of the words, loudly, with a fist pump, when I gave a short talk during my allotted time on the funeral program. I pulled out the words to my talk today and have had Dad on my mind. So I decided to do a post. Dad died on June 19, 2002, a little more than nine years ago. My talk was as follows:

Dad and I shared a love of sports.
When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was sacred. Dad and I would watch four to six football games, from early morning into the night, while we ate a healthy dose of shrimp, crab legs, chips and dip, and other New Year’s staples.
Dad took me to a baseball game between the Oakland Athletics and the Salt Lake Bees and he and I went to many Utah Stars basketball games. He coached my little league baseball team and regularly attended my football and basketball games.
We loved the University of Utah basketball games and had season tickets each year. I started attending games with him at the Einar Nielsen Fieldhouse and, when the Special Events Center opened, we got season tickets on the second row, right in front of the cheerleaders. At the games, my buttoned-down Dad would transform into a maniac: yelling or booing at the refs and screaming the Utes on to victory. Together with Dad, I loved to sing the Utah fight song: “A Utah man sir, a Utah man am I, a Utah man sir, I will be till I die, aye, aye.”
Dad had season tickets to the University of Utah football games and I regularly attended with him, but my favorite game occurred on November 9, 1968. I was traveling with Dad back to Kentucky to pick up Mike from his mission.  We stopped in South Bend, Indiana and Dad took me to the Notre Dame/Pittsburgh football game. I was a huge Notre Dame fan: I watched every game on t.v. and knew all of the players’ names. In fact, I still have the ticket stubs, the program, and newspaper articles about the game. We saw Joe Thiesmann start his first collegiate game as a quarterback. The next day, at my request, we stopped for lunch at a Holiday Inn in Seymour, Indiana. Only my Dad understood the significance of this to me. You’ve go to understand that Jim Seymour was my favorite player on Notre Dame’s team.
When I went to BYU and learned to love BYU football, Dad also became a BYU football fan. After I got married, we traveled to San Diego for several Holiday Bowls. We also greeted the Cougars after their Holiday Bowl victory over Michigan for the national championship as they got off their charter plane in Salt Lake in freezing weather at 2:00 a.m. Mom even came along for that one.
In recent years, Dad and I often talked by telephone after a big victory, or a close loss, by either Utah or BYU, and discussed the highlights. But best of all, several years ago, as a coup de grace, we fulfilled a dream we had discussed over numerous shrimp cocktails and crab legs every New Years Day since I was a young boy: we attended a Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, watching Ohio State narrowly beat Arizona State.
Dad, if you have any clout up there, I’d love to see you pull some strings and get BYU into a BCS bowl game. I’ll be watching. I love you.
Well, Dad really must have some clout up there, because he's pulled off a few miracles. BYU used to be the great football team and Utah was usually a few steps behind. Well since he's passed, Utah has been to two BCS bowl games, beating Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. And now, something I never could have imagined - Utah is in the PAC 12. They just played USC in the Colosseum and now they will play Washington at home. I was urging Dad to push for BYU, but as you can see, he's really a Utah man at heart. 

This morning when I sent the ESPN article out over the family email, Judy responded, "I just have to reflect on Bob's dad's funeral here, where Bob sang the first part of the Utah fight song from the pulpit, complete with the "Ki-yi!" fist pump. Elder Faust [of the LDS First Presidency], sitting behind him on the stand and a Utah Man himself, had a big grin on his face. It's one of my favorite memories."

Judy's brother, David Kenison, responded: "I was there, and it was one of my most STUNNED moments. I had never seen anything like that in a funeral, never have since, and don't expect I ever will. Mom was with me, and I think she was even more shocked and stunned than I was." 

A few years ago, my sons, Sam and Andrew, both said they were horribly embarrassed when I did it. 

Ah, good memories. It is nice to sit back and reflect occasionally. I'll be watching the game tomorrow and hoping the U will account well for themselves. I'll also think of Dad and how much he would enjoy this moment. It would be a nice day to break out the shrimp, crab legs and chips and dip. I am a Utah man, sir. 
Well, the game is over. Utah got beat 31-14, had 5 turnovers. Dad wouldn't have been able to watch it all. Dad, it looks like Utah needs some more help - see what you can do. 


  1. Perfect photo for this post! I love these memories. I think YOUR sons will have similar stories to tell about spending time in the mountains with their dad. Ki-yi!

  2. Great post, Bob. What wonderful, treasured memories of a father.

  3. I am sure this pictures are so beautiful when it is something about a father every thing is perfect and this guy looks so happy in his life