Oct 24, 2011, 1:48 PM EDT
People often ask me how I became so interested in sports. I assume I get asked this question because I’m a woman. Can’t think of many male sports reporters who would be asked this question, but I digress.
For me, the answer is that I grew up in a house with a father who loved sports. I mean really loved sports.
And that father of mine passed away last week. So if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to write my reporter’s notebook through my Dad’s eyes. And keep in mind that my dad was a fan, not a reporter. But he would have had a lot to say about the Saints domination of the Colts on Sunday Night.
So I present the top ten things my Dad, Orlando “Olie” Tafoya, might have said about Sunday night’s game, along with commentary from me, his daughter:
10. DAD: “How could Olin Kreutz have walked away from his team? Here was a guy with a chance to play on a team that is likely headed to the playoffs with the realistic goal of getting back to the Super Bowl. Sure, he wasn’t playing like he used to, but couldn’t he have been satisfied backing up Brian de la Puente?”
MICHELE: The 6-time Pro Bowl center reportedly lost his passion for the game. He and Saints head coach Sean Payton, along with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, had more than one conversation about the decision, but Kreutz left the team for good on Friday Morning. Dad, you always said you should give your job everything you have. Kreutz didn’t have anything left to give.
9. DAD: “Good for Brian de la Puente! He’s a Cal grad! How many Cal guys played in this game?”
MICHELE: Just two, Dad. Rookie DE Cameron Jordan was the other Golden Bear. (Dad graduated from Cal in 1955. There are only a few things he loves more than the Golden Bears.)
8. DAD: “These Saints remind me of the 49ers of the 1980s. Remember when Joe Montana had Jerry Rice, Dwight Clark, Roger Craig, and Tom Rathman? These Saints are a machine, just like the Niners used to be!”
MICHELE: Easy now, Olie! Dad was a 49er fan from the time he moved to San Francisco at age 11. Even after he migrated south to Los Angeles after college, Dad would drive the six hours up to the home games at Candlestick. He attended one Super Bowl in his life — Super Bowl XXIII in Miami, when Joe Montana engineered that amazing come-from-behind 4th quarter drive capped by a TD pass to John Taylor to beat The Bengals. For my Dad, every NFL player, coach and team is measured against his beloved Niners.
7. DAD: “I love this Drew Brees kid. See, not everyone has to be 6-3, 220 to play quarterback. And this guy Brees is smart. He sees the field so well. He’s like an engineer the way he uses all the angles and anticipates the defense! He reminds me of John Stockton in a football uniform.”
MICHELE: Dad was 5-10, 180 pounds soaking wet. He loved guys who turned what some might call “physical limitations” into strengths. And he appreciated brains. He was an aeronautical engineer.
6. DAD: “That Marques Colston is tough. Did he really break his collarbone in the opener at Green Bay? No way could he have come back after just two weeks of healing. Was it really broken?”
MICHELE: According to Colston it was really broken, Dad. The wide receiver told me before the game that doctors repaired the break with a titanium plate. He even said the area still feels “lumpy.” But Colston hates being out, so he’s tolerating som pain in order to play.
5. DAD: “What in the heck are the Colts going to do if Peyton Manning doesn’t come back? And what about all these guys with only a year left on their contracts? They need Andrew Luck. I hate to say that about a Stanford guy, but he is pretty good.”
MICHELE: Well, Dad, I spoke with Bill Polian Sunday night. He tells me WR Reggie Wayne and DE Robert Mathis are the Colts’ most important considerations in terms of contract negotiations. And he also said that none of the teams’ decisions would hinge on what happens with Manning. Polian said the Manning situation is a separate, stand-alone issue.
4. DAD: “Doesn’t the Superdome look good? I can still remember it during Katrina. Gosh, that was horrible. I sure hope those people are recovering OK down there in New Orleans.”
MICHELE: Mercedes Benz picked up the naming rights to the Superdome, and they’ve cleaned it up nicely. The new exterior lights provide a show to passers-by who aren’t even attending events there. So all of New Orleans can enjoy those lights. And a couple of gentlemen in town told me that business in The Big Easy has really picked up. In fact, the guy who drove me to the airport Monday morning said, “If you aren’t working in New Orleans you don’t want to work.”
3. DAD: “Man, these Colts quarterbacks are getting killed. Why don’t they just throw their emergency quarterback, Pat McAfee in there and see what he can do?”
MICHELE: Not kidding. Dad would have been half-serious about letting McAfee, the punter, give it a go. And I would respectfully remind him that it was better to give Dan Orlovsky some experience than try something gimmicky at this point. But Dad liked his gimmicks…
2. DAD: “This Jimmy Graham kid is the real deal. See, basketball skills can be applied to any sport. That Graham can jump out of the gym. He looks like he’s boxing guys out, going up for rebounds and dunking. I wonder if he could shoot?”
MICHELE: True, Graham played college basketball for four seasons at Miami and just one year of football. And even though my Dad played both high school football and basketball, he somehow related better with the latter.
Dad would have been amazed by Graham Sunday Night. And I would have been happy to tell him about the young TE’s unbelievable background, which is too much to detail in this column.
(SIDE NOTE: Dad attended and played for Galileo High School in San Francisco, the same school that produced O.J. Simpson. My Dad used to boast that O.J. broke all his football records… He was kidding, of course.)
1. DAD: “This Sean Payton is an offensive genius. Either he is, or this Pete Carmichael fellow is. Heck, they’re probably both geniuses. I wonder how much of this stuff they took from Bill Walsh?!”
MICHELE: Again, Dad was a huge 49er fan. In fact, I’m guessing he’s stalking Walsh in heaven. But as much credit as Dad would have given to Drew Brees for executing so flawlessly Sunday Night, he would have doled out kudos to the guys calling the plays.
If you believe Payton, Carmichael called all the plays Sunday Night. That’s what Payton said in his post-game press conference, anyway. Brees couldn’t tell me right after the game who called how many plays because he hadn’t spoken with Payton all game. Not once did Brees get on the phone to Payton’s coaches box.
Payton, Carmichael and Brees are all of one offensive mind. And that’s a mind my Dad truly would have appreciated.
ONE MORE THING…
After the game in New Orleans Sunday night, Dad would have told me to travel home safely.
You, too, Daddy. You, too.
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