By the time Saturday's paper finds its way into your home, I’ll be preparing to say one final goodbye to my grandfather, Marvin Boyles, who was called to his heavenly home Thursday morning.
I’ve spent the majority of the past three days reminiscing about some of my favorite memories we shared, one of which just happened to involve football. I decided to share it with you all because, well, what better way to preserve it?
Those who were privileged to know my grandfather knew him to be a calm, soft-spoken gentleman; and that he was. But one of the biggest outbursts of excitement I saw from him in over 27 years occurred at one of my junior high football games — a game that I lost.
This was my seventh-grade year, my first to play for head coach Johnny Sellers and the mighty Beat Four Tigers (We barely “beat four” teams, actually). That night, we played host to the seemingly much-better-fed Stringer Red Devils.
At that age, I’m not sure if I even knew where Stringer was. All I knew was that several of their kids already had facial hair, and they walked off the bus with scowls on their faces, as if they’d just seen combat in Afghanistan. I wouldn’t have bet my lunch money on our chances to win that ballgame.
After three quarters, things were going just about how I’d imagined. The Red Devils were up 40-8, and we had already redirected our attention to the free hamburgers and hotdogs that would be handed out when it was all over.
But that just didn’t sit well with Coach Sellers. He looked each one of us in the eyes and urged us to take pride in ourselves, our school and our community by refusing to go down without a fight.
What ensued was probably the wildest eight minutes of football I’ve ever witnessed in person.
With a few big plays and onside kicks, we managed to put together five scoring drives for 40 more points before the final horn sounded.
Stringer still won the game, 58-48 (I guess our defense missed the speech), but we won our pride back. We walked across the field with our heads held high, shook their hands, thanked them for their service and turned around to find a large crowd standing at the gate, cheering loudly in support of the effort we had given.
One of those loudly-cheering fans was my grandpa. This was a special treat because he rarely got off work in time to attend games. He couldn’t have been more thrilled. He had me call several family members that night to share the story of how the mighty Tigers valiantly went down swinging, like Sonny Liston against the great Muhammad Ali.
The older I get and the more I recall this story, the more I seem to realize that my grandpa’s excitement had very little to do with the game. He was always a “bigger picture” kind of guy, and he chose to positively reinforce the valuable lessons he knew we had learned that evening.
The lessons? Don’t pick and choose when to give your best effort, and don’t stop fighting just because the odds are against you. If you’re truly proud of who you are, where you’re from and what you do, then that alone should be enough motivation to put your best foot forward with every single opportunity.
I’ll miss my grandpa until my very last day, but I’ll always be grateful for the countless memories we shared and valuable lessons he taught me.
With a life coach like him, I always felt like a winner — even when I lost.
In loving memory of Marvin Boyles
Feb. 15, 1944 - Jan. 21, 2021