An important moment remembered on Mother’s Day

It’s a line my mother wants me to forget.

These days, when I’m with a group of people, I’ll tell the story, and she’ll cringe.

But in some ways, it’s a bit of a window into why I turned out the way I did.

In seventh grade, I was small and was a target of bullies. I’d lost plenty of confidence, but had yet to lose my delusions of grandeur.

Yeah, I may have been the least athletic 13-year-old in North Olmsted, Ohio. But in my head, I was the next Dan Marino. I still wanted to be quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. But gym class was a struggle. Kids were tough on me.

Finally, I went to the one person who I knew would listen to me.

“Mom,” I said, in a moment of self pity, “the kids at school are telling me I’m a nerd.”

My mom looked back at me and sighed.

“Well,” she said, “not everybody can be a jock.”

At that moment, I finally realized something.

I was never going to be a great athlete. And it wasn’t all due to my physical limitations. Even then, I’d much rather watch a football game than play in one. And I’d much rather write about the Indians than try to field grounders.

This wasn’t necessarily a good thing — my disinterest in physical activity at that time shouldn’t be encouraged — but when your mother gives you some reality, you should listen.

I loved sports. But my ticket in wasn’t going to be through athletic prowess.

Later that year, when I was on the basketball team, my mom almost never missed a game.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t play — I was the eighth-grade team manager and my duties included keeping stats and running out with ice for injured players — she was there, encouraging me as if I were a point guard.

And as I look back on my career, I realize my mother — the woman who told me I’d never be a jock — has been there with me as I found a way into sports.

She was there when I was in college at Bowling Green. When I covered a BG-Ohio State football game at the Horse Shoe, my mother — an Ohio State grad and intense Buckeye fan — attended and wore brown and orange.

When I covered a BG-Cleveland State basketball game at the Wolfenstein Center, she ignored the fact that she took classes at CSU as an adult and cheered on the Falcons — and the team’s beat writer.

And five years ago, when Heidelberg’s football team made its first playoff appearance in 40 years, she insisted on attending, even if her 30-something son merely was roaming the sidelines.

“Mom,” I said, “why would you want to come to this game? You don’t even know the teams.”

“Because,” she answered, “I know it means something to you.”

On this Mother’s Day, I just want to thank that person who’s always been there for me. She was the first one to hug me after the Indians lost the 1997 World Series, and the first one to celebrate with me when the Cavaliers won the NBA championship last year.

And as she tells me over and over, “I don’t even LIKE basketball.”

My mother has been there for me for everything, not just sports. But it was her encouragement — even if at the time it didn’t feel like it — that started me to where I am today.

And for that, I’ve got to say “thank you.”

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. And Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

We owe you so much.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

Contact him at:

zbaker@advertiser-tribune or on Twitter @ZachtheWriter

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