No one ever told me that a voice could take you back. Back more than 20 years. Back to pre-game. Back to the stadium. Back to waving at players at half-time. Back to my youth. This afternoon I watched most of the Gator Bowl and thought back.
In 1985 I bought two tickets to the Gator Bowl and gave them to my Dad for Christmas. I was 19, Dad 51. I was a sophomore in college. He drove us up to Jacksonville in the Porsche 944 he'd gotten for his 50th. I remember flying north on I-95. Dad saying, "that's the difference between a car that can go fast and a Porsche that's made to go fast." We must have topped 120 mph. We must have listen to Gene Deckerhoff's pre-game show on the ride up--I always did. We talked. About the game, my time in college, about the players we knew. Dad drove straight and strong--fast to Jacksonville. Our seats were high up in the stands, but it was my first bowl game and a gift I'd given to my Dad.
There were more than 79,000 people in the stadium with Dad and I that night. Florida State beat Oklahoma 34, 23. It was cold too, if I remember right. A Mr. Henry H. Beckwith was the chairman of the game that year. I didn't know that then, but it's a fitting detail now that I'm feeling nostalgic. Beckwith is a family name.
A lot of people, myself included, have wondered if Bowden's past his time. How difficult that must be--33 winning seasons and suddenly folks and fans are speculating about your retirement. Calling for it, even. Mickey Andrews is retiring today too. A team at its end. Change is coming for Seminole football. We give our lives to what we love and we work and work and work, but in the end what happens? I wonder about that sometimes.
I tuned into the game today and at Gene Deckerhoff's voice felt my eyes tear up. How could his voice sound just the same. Just the same as when I was 19 and Dad, 51. Voices can do that. Bobby Bowden has aged like the rest of us; he's someone we have seen change, grow, and age gracefully working the sidelines. He's had a lifetime of strong work in Tallahassee. He will be missed and lauded. But Deckerhoff? His voice took me by surprise today. Took me right back he did.
image: Florida State schedule card picturing Paul McGowan from 1987, our senior year, mined from my cigar box of ticket stubs and memories.