I think it’s safe to say my family needed a win this year. My dad died March 3, 2017, and it was completely unexpected.
In the year that followed, sports became a little bit more important to my mom, brother and I — if that was even possible.
Sports were such a huge part of my dad’s life that it only made sense that we would pour ourselves a little bit more into Cleveland Indians baseball, Green Bay Packers football, Cleveland Cavaliers basketball and Marquette Golden Eagles basketball (my parents’ alma mater).
But our increased faith in those teams didn’t seem to help them this year.
The Indians were bounced from the playoffs in the American League Divisional Series by the Yankees — the freaking Yankees. Losing to the 27-time World Series champions only made it worse.
The Packers looked poised to make their first real run at a Super Bowl since 2011. They were 4-2 and coming off a comeback win against the Dallas Cowboys when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone against the Minnesota Vikings.
My dad grew up in northwest Wisconsin. His family eats, sleeps and breathes Packers, but when you live close enough to the Mississippi River, Vikings fans become especially intolerable. Again, why’d it have to be that team?
Then, basketball season started and our faith was in LeBron James. He’d brought the city of Cleveland to the promised land; surely he could give us something to believe in. Welp, a season of locker room and roster turmoil put a stop to that.
Now, the Cavs could still make a Finals run, but they’re already down 1-0 in the first round against the Indiana Pacers.
Okay, so now we’re left with Marquette basketball. Marquette’s usually good, we can trust them, right?
Wrong. They didn’t make the NCAA tournament this year.
So there my family was, more than a year since my dad passed away and all the hope, belief and faith we had placed on sports seemed to be useless.
But then, Donte Ingram pulled up from the logo with less than a second left. Clayton Custer took two dribbles, pulled up and got the luckiest bounce of his life. Marques Townes got the ball kicked out to him in the corner, pump faked and drilled a clutch late three. Ben Richardson played the game of his life to put Loyola into the Final Four.
I — and my family — was along for the ride. I had a front row seat to one of the greatest runs in NCAA tournament history from my school.
Finally, our faith in sports gave us something to believe in. My mom had coworkers texting her angel emojis, I had people freaking out because they could see me on TV and my brother started wearing Loyola gear on Ohio State’s campus.
Sports have always been important to me because of my dad. Some of my earliest memories revolve around sports and him.
I remember playing outside on a Saturday in fall with my brother when my dad burst through the front door screaming about how his Wisconsin Badgers had blocked a punt.
I remember throwing a football around the living room with the Packer game on — and trying to hide from mom the fact we were playing catch in the living room.
I remember countless trips to Indians games, the hours upon hours he spent coaching my brother and I in any sport we played, and the work he put into the soccer organization I played for growing up.
When I got the phone call from my mom last year, I was in St. Louis covering Arch Madness for The PHOENIX.
In the year since, I’ve worked as press at an NBA game and sat press row at the Final Four.
I wish I was able to share those things with him because he would’ve thought they were so cool. But, I do know the amazing experiences I’ve had covering sports in the last year still make him incredibly proud.