If you know me, you know that I’ve been a lifelong Miami Dolphins fan. And I always get the question “How did a kid from Iowa become a fan of the Dolphins?” It’s partially my Dad, but a good chunk of my love for the Phins came from my uncle Jack.
Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, Jack passed away after a long battle with Alzheimers.
When I was little, Jack lived with my aunt Sharol in Miami. Being in the area, he was a fan, and through the years he also knew people in the Dolphins organization. Many Christmas and birthday gifts from Jack and Sharol were Dolphins related. Apparel, an actual kicking tee from a game, a real NFL football, a helmet. It helped fuel this love I have for the team, and why, win or lose, I never miss listening to or watching a game.
The pinnacle of this was when I was 11 years old. My parents, grandparents and I drove to Miami for a vacation over Christmas and New Years. The Dolphins were in the playoffs that year, and Jack not only got us tickets to the playoff game, but with his connections, got us into the closed-to-the-public practices leading up to the game.
I got to meet the great Don Shula, as well as Bob Griese (who was retired from playing but part of the organization) as well as many awesome players. I got pictures taken with them all and many signatures on the Dolphins newspaper, the Dolphin Digest. That newspaper sits proudly under glass on the wall of my man cave.
We then got to see the game, which was one of the classic playoff games of all time. Three overtimes and a tremendous back and forth game ended with the Dolphins sadly losing, but it was an experience I will never forget.
We went to the Orange Bowl parade, and the game itself, where undefeated Clemson went on to win. I had a sign in the stands with NBC (who was televising the game) that said Nobody Beats Clemson. I actually was shown on TV with the sign, another football thrill for a very excited 11 year old.
I didn’t get to see Jack and Sharol much because they lived so far away, but Jack had a huge impact on me. He was a fantastic gentleman, a super nice guy, and very kind. He reminded me so much of my grandfather in that way. I cherish the time we had, and the impact he made on my football fandom.
The last couple of years were rough on Sharol as she took care of Jack, who no longer said much, and had many issues. But she is one of nicest people I have ever met, and took such good care of him. She was even featured in a story in their local newspaper on the importance of caregivers.
I got a Facebook message from Sharol to call her yesterday, and I just knew. She had tried to call my Mom (Jack’s sister) but they were driving to our house for Thanksgiving. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do was tell my Mom that her big brother had died.
She’s the last one remaining from her immediate family, and I can’t imagine what that’s like.
She called Sharol and they talked and cried. Sharol will be okay, she’s tough, and kind, and resilient. My Mom will be okay too. She was able to enjoy Thanksgiving with our family and take solace in her grandkids. And despite starting the day with terrible news, we all had a lot to be Thankful for.
I’m sitting in my man cave typing this, surrounded by tons of Miami Dolphin memorabilia, and he will always be with me, no matter how bad this team is 🙂
So long Jack, and thanks for all the Phins.