I was all set to write a blog about the Towson football team’s amazing victory against the Northeastern Huskies back in 1992. But late last week something jogged my memory of me and my father, so I started thinking about fathers and Towson athletics. I’ll get to the memory I had of me and my dad in a minute.
Towson Football Fathers
You look at the current athletic department at Towson, and fathers are very important. Just look at head football coach Rob Ambrose and his brother Jammer, the Tigers' offensive coordinator. Their dad Tim Ambrose is one of the greatest high school football coaches in the history of the state of Maryland. He is a legend in Frederick County.
Obviously, what Tim did for a living influenced his two sons. If there was ever a guy made to be a football coach, it would have to be Rob Ambrose. You can just picture a young Rob watching football practice and his dad at work. Rob went on to be a very good high school football player. When he came to Towson, he had a lot of promise but injuries took their toll. As he started to rise through the coaching ranks, I am sure he talked to his dad. Same with Jammer. Now, Tim has retired and will help his sons with the Tiger football team. I know Rob loves having his dad around.
Men's Basketball Fathers
Men’s basketball coach Pat Skerry has a father who follows everything. My basketball broadcast partner Vince Angotti tells me all the time how much Pat’s dad enjoys listening to the broadcasts. There is an obvious love between Pat and his dad. I’m sure his father is just thrilled with the success that Pat is starting to have at Towson.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Mike Harris and his father share a great love of sports. Mike’s dad had some health concerns recently, and Mike didn’t think twice of going back home to help. Having met Mike’s dad on several occasions, he is a great guy. I actually met Mike’s dad before I met Mike. His father worked on the game day staff at Miami Ohio. When the Tigers played Miami in basketball back in 2011, Mike’s dad was the guy who showed me where I was supposed to broadcast from. Mike’s dad has been to about a million straight Daytona 500s.
Then there is the sad side to this time of the year. Director of Media Relations Dan O’Connell lost his dad a few years back, as did Director of New Media Damon Lewis. I know both of them would just love to be able to pick up the phone this Sunday to give their fathers a happy father’s day greeting.
One of the bravest performances I have ever seen at Towson happened in the early '90s. The Tigers had a football player named John Swigart. John was as tough as they come. He played both linebacker and fullback for the Tigers. One of the few two-way guys Towson has had in the last 20 years. John went on to coach on the Tigers' staff under then-Head Coach Gordy Combs. As a matter of fact, John went on to replace Rob Ambrose as the Tigers' offensive coordinator when Rob left to go to Catholic University as head coach.
My memory is kind of fuzzy on the year, but it was a beautiful crisp fall day for football when we were told before the Tigers took the field that John Swigart’s father had died suddenly the night before. The info we got was that John would play. I don’t know how he did it, but John played well. He said it was what his father would have wanted. That took not only guts but a great strength over your emotions. It’s a performance you can't forget.
So do what you can to make sure you tell your dad what he means to you this week. You don’t know how many more father’s days you will both have left.
Morekas Family Memories
What got me started on this story happened on August 17, 1972. The Orioles were playing the Chicago White Sox. My father promised me and my cousin Alex he would take us to the game.
My dad commuted everyday from Baltimore to Washington. He left the house before 6 a.m every day. In 1972 Oriole games started at 8 not 7 p.m. It had been raining all day, but the game had not been postponed.
When my dad got home, he asked if we really still wanted to go. He thought we would get down there and the game would be cancelled. But my cousin and I were too excited to miss a game we had been looking forward to. So we went. It was pouring.
We sat through a long rain delay, and finally they started playing. During the delay, I could tell my dad thought the game wouldn't be played, but he didn’t want us to be disappointed. The only disappointing thing about the night was the Orioles lost 6-1. It was also a record-setting night. It was the lowest attended game in the history of the Baltimore Orioles: an announced crowd of 655.
As I think back on it now, my poor father watched a rather meaningless baseball game in miserable weather all because he didn’t want to disappoint his son. We probably didn’t get home till near midnight, but as he did everyday of his life, my father got up early and went to work. Pops, I apologize for making you go to work on short rest.
My father lives in Florida now, we talk often, but don’t see each other much. He is the best dad I could have asked for. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!