Fathers, Sons, and Football: A Commentary on Life and Death
DeCori Birmingham had barely settled to the War Memorial Turf when my son, Landon, found himself swinging around in circles at the end of my arms. The comeback was almost complete, and we were overjoyed. Only an extra point stood between the Hogs and Atlanta, and David Carlton quickly disposed of that. Landon and I jumped and shouted and basically acted the fools that we are when the Hogs play a football game.
As we drove home from my mother - in - law's house that Friday after Thanksgiving, we talked the whole hour about the game. We retold the storylines and relived the plays with and to each other. Four days later, we haven't quite stopped. I have thrown him at least fifty passes as he announces, " Matt Jones back, pass into the end zone -- Birmingham has it! Birmingham has it! " Then he falls to the ground and pretends to be under the weight of his teammates as they celebrate victory.
Genetics make Landon my son. Football makes him my friend. When my friend gets in from school today, I will have the sad burden of telling him that Mark Pierce's dad has died. Mark is one of Landon's favorite Hogs. Landon always keeps up with Mark's carries and his receptions. He was thrilled at Mark's performance in the Ole Miss game last year and hopping up and down with excitement when Mark scored his touchdown against LSU.
Landon sometimes sits with me as I post and read on the HI Board. He was really excited when he found out that the Rick Pierce on the board was Mark's dad. I was glad to have my son sitting beside mereading the good words Mr. Pierce wrote about his son. They were words of love and deep emotion. Words that let all of us who don't know our fullback get to know him a little better. Mr. Pierce would write about how proud Mark was to be a Razorback, about how much Mark loved Fayetteville, the coaches, and his teammates. I always considered it an honor to post with Mr. Pierce and to read his perspectives on Razorback football from an intimate point of view. His presence will be missed.
My impression of the relationship that Rick Pierce had with his son Mark is that it was open and honest and trusting. Mr. Pierce must have reveled in Mark's play this past Friday at Little Rock, and I hope that Mark will come to draw buckets full of comfort from the fact that his dad saw him play in such a wonderful and great game three days before his death.
Football, of course, isn't the most important part of this tragedy; however, it had its place in Mark and Mr. Pierce's relationship, and because of that place Mark and Mr. Pierce effected us. And they will continue to do so.
In a couple of hours I will throw some balls to Landon, and I will find the opportunity to tell him of Mr. Pierce's death. I'm glad we'll have a football to toss as we talk about life and death. Somehow, I think Mr. Pierce would approve. There is something special about fathers and sons and football.
May our prayers be turned toward the Pierce family. May God's Spirit comfort them and guide them through these harrowing times. May they find peace and consolation in the power of God to heal and help.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Mark A. Davenport ( Hog in Texas )