You’re In Good Hands

Steve Largent was my hero.

For a hot second in the 1980s a lot of kids like me looked up to the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver. He was short (for a football player) and not too fast or well-built. Despite these obvious disadvantages, Largent had something special that set him apart. He had good hands.

Steve Largent was the perfect role-model for the 12-year-old me. I was a decent athlete, pretty good hands, but I had no chance of ever playing collegiate sports, let alone professionally. I was too small and too slow.

Neither reality ever stopped me from dreaming that I would one day quarterback Notre Dame to a national championship.

Although an All-American college player at the University of Tulsa, Largent barely squeaked into the National Football League in 1977. The league had expanded the year before and the Seahawks, a new team, needed every pair of good hands they could get.

Another inspiring thought for semi-soft suburban strivers: Numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Some guys bring the intangibles.

Largent’s small stature and slow feet really didn’t hold him back. When he retired in 1992 he possessed all the NFL’s receiving records, including the one that started me following the career of a flyweight on the far side of the country in the first place—177 consecutive regular-season games with a reception.

Fourteen seasons as a pro and he almost never dropped the ball. Those aren’t good hands; they’re great hands.

I was so enthralled by Steve Largent that in 1985 I told my parents what I wanted more than anything for Christmas was a Seattle Seahawks jersey with #80 on the back.

That may sound like a reasonable request in 2018, but it wasn’t 2018. It was 1985. And we didn’t live in the Pacific Northwest. The stores in our part of New Jersey weren’t exactly overflowing with branded merchandise for NFL teams on the west coast.

Needless to say there was no internet, no Amazon, no NFL store then, and wearing sports jerseys wasn’t as common a thing as it is now. Still, my parents somehow pulled it off. They scored a Steve Largent jersey for me and got it under the tree in time for Christmas.

The happiest kid in North America that day was the only kid in New Jersey repping not Big Blue but the Blue Wave.

I asked my dad recently how he managed such a trick, but he has no memory of buying the #80 jersey. He remembers Steve Largent, and he remembers my fascination with him, but whatever strings got pulled to find me that shirt have receded into the mists.

His best guess, he says, is that he bought it at a store. But we all know that no such store existed in New Jersey circa 1985. Something extra was involved.

Now that I’m a parent, I know what it feels like to worry that your kids are going to be disappointed on Christmas morning. Children have outrageous expectations. I did too, once upon a time, and that was long ago.

The outrageousness of the expectations has evolved exponentially. Kids today want drones, phones, and smart homes.  

But I also see now what my parents also surely saw then—none of the stuff that goes under the tree really matters. The only thing that matters are the intangibles. If the family is together, it’s a good Christmas. If the Holy Spirit fills the home, then the baby Jesus smiles.

If Christ is at the center of the family celebration, then nobody should worry too much about dropping the ball. You’re in good hands.

Most of my childhood Christmas memories have blended into one. When I look back on those magical mornings, I don’t see piles of presents or overstuffed stockings.

I see my parents drinking coffee in their bathrobes. I see my brother and sisters sitting cross-legged on the rug eating homemade cinnamon buns.

I see Darby O’Gill, our inexplicably morose black lab, curled up under the boughs of the tree, tinsel draped across his forehead. It was the best day of his year, with all his favorite people gathered in one place.

And I see myself, with a 100-yard smile, pulling Steve Largent’s jersey over my pajamas and saying, “Thanks mom! Thanks dad!” And them, giving nothing away about their extraordinary achievement, smiling and saying, simply, “You’re welcome son.”

From my family to yours, have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

From the December 2018 issue of Fairfield County Catholic.

%d bloggers like this: