My father is lodged these days on a large cruise ship, out on a large ocean somewhere. He’s retired and he vacations a lot, often lavishly, and despite this I still love him. He is among great friends on this trip and having a great time I’m sure, but often he’s the lone hockey fan in his excursions, and often he’ll message me from abroad: ‘Can you help a hockey-starved father?’ Dad on vacation is wholly dependent on his only son to get him timely updates on all things Capitals. Last night I texted Dad: ‘Caps 5, Edmonton 0.’
I know for a fact that he received it in timely fashion, and that makes me smile every bit as much as last night’s outcome at Verizon Center.
Texting with my father is a very big deal. Using technology with my father is a very big deal. It was only recently that Dad took an email account for the first time in his life. He had a secretary the entirety of his law career who handled things like faxing and, at the end, the primitive iterations of business email for him. Dad just wasn’t interested in technology. To this day, when he’s at home, every morning without fail he gets in the car with the family chocolate lab before breakfast and drives 5 minutes to the grocery store to retrieve two Washington newspapers and the Wall Street Journal. There are two computers in his home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and until recently he wouldn’t turn on either.
Without notice family one day late last summer began receiving email from Dad. At first I thought it was a hoax of some sort. (Dad’s email address has “Caps” and his birth year in its prefix.) It remains somewhat startling to interact with him electronically; family was resigned to Dad’s stubborn stand against technology, and truthfully there was an Old World charm to it. But he’s coming around, slowly.
Dad’s cruise ship departed its Florida port the Monday before last at 4:00. At 3:15 he was on board and up on deck holding his cell phone and awaiting word from me of deals made by the Caps before the trade deadline. That’s my kind of cruiser. I’m quite sure with modest initiative Dad could keep reasonably well apprised of hockey happenings while out at sea, but I think he holds special this puck-bond we have while he’s away. I know I do.
Dad and I talk two or three times every week when’s home, a little about life, lots about hockey in season. This is a tough time for me not to have phone access to him, as I’m starting to get terrifically excited about our new-look Caps. But I do enjoy sending him the update texts, and allowing word of win after win to represent well the changed state of things.
This winter I’ve noticed Dad taking extra heightened interest in the welfare of the team. One Sunday afternoon a couple of months ago he was driving back from a visit with his granddaughters in Connecticut, and he rang me from a gas station seeking an update on the game with the Senators then. It just sorta struck me as odd, his anxiety and concern over a mid-season game against a non-rival. And he pushed hard for the two of us to go to Pittsburgh for the Winter Classic New Years weekend. I was concerned about iffy weather, and spending New Years Eve in Pittsburgh, and losing that game among all those insufferable Steel City partisans. I also simply wanted to watch that game with him in his shore home, on his fancy flatscreen, with a few cold ones. But Dad pushed and pushed and eventually he won me over, and we traveled, like so many other Washingtonians, and that ended up being a weekend I’ll never forget.
Recently it occurred to me: should the Caps fail in the quest again this season, I will dust the disappointment off, compose constructive criticism here, recharge my battery over the offseason, and get back at it come autumn. That’s what we Caps’ fans do. But I am beginning to suspect that for Dad the disappointment would be different — a good deal different.
My father will turn 70 next year. He was in Verizon Center for game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, and he counts that moment watching the Cup being paraded around the ice as one of the highlights of his sporting life. He’s a true hockey fan. And on any number of occasions he’s told me that one of the things he wants most in life still is an opportunity to see in person again the Cup awarded in Washington again, but this time to the right guys. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately: if the Caps come up short again, and particularly if they fail to make a strong showing this postseason, there could some significant changes. Significant changes often don’t lead to swift returns toward elite triumph. I think Dad this season is sensing a bit of hockey mortality with his team, and mortality with his big goal.
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An OFB reader named Doug just this week left us as comment this golden nugget: “I read you folks daily — even aboard cruise ships (much to my wife’s chagrin). At least she won’t find me in the ship’s casino — reading hockey blogs and keeping up on the Caps. Hmm . . . maybe I ought to be found in the gym, working out (not).”
Gym workouts on cruise ships? Nah — that’s for land-living, Doug.
There are many rewards to investing the time and energy we do in cultivating this forum, but I have to say, learning about offshore patronage ranks way up there in thrill and satisfaction. I’m beginning to imagine my father downloading the blog on a Kindle he’ll tote along on his next vacation.
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Still my favorite OFB-at-sea story: about a year and a half ago we received email from a seaman in the United States Navy. He was messaging us from abroad. A Caps’ fan, born and raised in our region. Occasionally, on training missions, he’d be submerged on his sub for weeks at a time. He told us that one of things he’d first do when surfaced was power up his laptop and get updated on the Caps by accessing our site. My dad was an Army guy, but I bet he’d buy that devoted follower a beer.
[Admin update] : You can get your OFB fix via the Kindle. Here’s the link to OFB The Kindle Edition.