Winning with Whitt

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By Whitt Sparks
Tribune Sports

My Grandfather, Steve Sparks died a month ago.  My dad is still struggling with his death.  So is the rest of the family.  I thought I would do something a little different for this article, and interview my dad and ask him about his dad and just see where the conversation went.

Me:  How old was Pa(Steve), and what were your earliest memories of him?
Dad:  Pa was 65, and my earliest memories of Dad was when my brother, Danny was born.  I was around three and Dad came and picked me up at my uncle’s home and took me to my house to meet Danny for the first time.  I also remember not long after that, that Dad was building a grandfather clock.  And I went with him to the shop to pick it up and bring it home.  

Me:  What did Pa do for a living?
Dad:  Pa was a teacher.  He taught mostly at Liberty Eylau and then for Texarkana College at the Federal Prison in Texarkana.  When I was little he taught wood shop and then he started teaching drafting, architecture, photography, computer science.  When I went to his classroom it was like stepping into a world of science and experiment.  The first time I saw a lot of things we use today were in his classroom.  I saw the internet, digital cameras, CDs, DVDs, Wi-fi, robots, remote controls, crazy stuff.

Me:  Did Pa like sports?  
Dad:  That’s a complicated answer.  He tolerated it for us.  But I wouldn’t say he loved sports.  But he did coach some when I was a kid.

Me:  Really, what did he coach?
Dad:  Soccer.  When I was a kid(early 80s) New Boston had a soccer league.  They played on an open field north of the interstate by what was then a skating rink.  Hooks had a team for my age group and my brother’s age group.  We didn’t have a coach so my dad became the coach for both my brother’s team and mine.  We did it for about three years.  

Me:  Did he know anything about soccer?
Dad:  Not really(laughing).  But he wanted us to play if we wanted to and so he volunteered to coach.  I have some great memories of those days.  

Me:  Did he like any teams or schools in sports:
Dad:  He really didn’t watch college sports very much.  If you pinned him down he would say he liked Rice, because he lived in Houston when he was in high school, but he didn’t follow them much.  He did like baseball, that was really his favorite sport.  He loved the Astros.

Me:  Didn’t you say something about Dad growing up around someone from the Astros front office?  
Dad:  That’s right, Dad’s next door neighbor when he was growing up was Spec Richardson who at that time was the general manager for the Astros.  So dad met a lot of the players in the late 60s and pretty much went to see all the games he could in the summer when he was a kid.  So when I was a kid and my grandparents still lived in Houston we went to Astros games all the time.  It was a lot of fun, and while my dad wasn’t a big sports fan, my brother and I were ,so unintentionally he directed us towards the Houston teams.

So when I was a kid we were Oilers, Rockets, and Astros fans.  And still are.

Me:  I am too.
Dad:  Right. Your kids probably will be too.

Me:  A lot of people talk about Pa’s mustache.  Do you think you are growing your beard and mustache out because of his?
Dad:  That’s a very thoughtful question.  Probably.  I’m calling it the Sparks “stache”.  My dad grew a mustache when I was little kid, and never shaved it off.  I have had some facial hair since I graduated college.  But in recent days I’ve been a little more intentional about it.  Probably to honor him in some way.  I’m pretty sure I’m never going to shave it off.

You know he was very proud of all his grandkids.  I’m thankful that he got to see your sisters dance at last year’s recital.  I’m thankful that he got to watch you play varsity football, that’s pretty awesome.  

Me:  Since he didn’t watch football do you think he knew what I was doing out there?
Dad:  Well, he knew what was happening in the game for sure, but to say he understood exactly what you were doing…probably not.  But he was there because you were playing.  

Dad and I talked a lot after that about Pa.  We miss him a lot, but we know we’ll see him again.  In the mean time it’s like Dad said, “We will do our best at everything we do, to make him proud.”

Have a great week!

ps.  Dad and I started a facebook live show a few weeks ago.  You can check it out on his facebook page(I’m getting one for the show soon) on Thursdays at 8pm.

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