The rest of the story is that John has been preparing for Super Bowl all his life – or at least since he was old enough to throw a football. The family story is that John’s first word was “ball,” and if that’s not true, it should be. John’s dad snapped a photo of him passing a football when his legs were barely long enough to reach the ground. The photo makes everyone laugh. Even John. Here’s a recent photo of John laughing at his own photo.
But there’s more to this story. You see, John’s dad was a commercial artist in Cleveland, Ohio where he owned Jack Waszak Studios. He created advertising campaigns for major companies whose names you would recognize. So Jack didn’t just snap that photo of little Johnny and forget about it. He snapped it and turned it into a work of art. I call it “Little Johnny Throws a Football.”
Jack thought his son might follow in his footsteps and be an artist, but John wasn’t having it. He only wanted to play football. He practiced every day. He practiced when he should have been doing homework.
His practice paid off. When he got to high school he made a name for himself. He once scored five touchdowns in one game. He also got the girls. We still hear about them sometimes.
Then there was college and the army. After the army, John tried out for the Cleveland Browns.Those were the glory days of the Browns when they won eight championships – four in the AAFC and four in the NFL.
John made the team. He was hired as a fullback and a punter. His contract was a whopping $7,800.
He was a Brownie in the days of Lou Groza and Jim Brown. One day in a scrimmage he tackled Jim Brown. It wasn’t that big a deal at the time, but in retrospect, it’s a big deal. John would love to tell you about it. “I tackled Jim Brown,” he’ll say. And the youngsters in the family ask, “Was Jim Brown on the team?” And John laughs and says, “Jim Brown was the team.”
So John had fifteen minutes of fame. Then the real world intervened. John was cut from the team. The Boston Patriots called and offered $9600, but John had never heard of the Patriots who were only in their second year. And John’s dad was offering him better pay as an apprentice artist on the drawing board. He had a family to think about so he went to work for his dad. Later, he became a businessman and a remodeling contractor. He raised a son and two daughters. After a challenging divorce, he bought a cowboy hat and moved to New Mexico in search of a fresh start.
One day he came to Corrales and walked into the old Frontier Mart when we were still in the Bunkhouse. He bought an ice cream. I was running the cash register. The rest is history.
We merged our families and for years Super Bowl Sunday meant that John and I would take a day off from thinking about our grocery store. For one day we’d stop stocking shelves and balancing books. We’d just sit on the couch and watch the game. John was never big on Super Bowl parties because it was too hard to focus on the game. For years the Broncos played the Browns. John would lie on the couch with his feet in my lap and we’d watch mostly in silence. When the Broncos would take the lead, John would start to sweat. He’d mutter under his breath and his punting foot would twitch. Then the Broncos would win, and we’d get up and have something to eat.
Nowadays, John prepares for Super Bowl by grooming his famous avocados. He moves them from sunlight to shade so they’ll be perfectly ripened and ready to sell.
Then we watch the game. We also talk and cook and eat guacamole. We watch the commercials and think of John’s dad in his advertising studio. Sometimes we look at old photos and John remembers what it was like to be on the field. And we reflect on all the ways, over so many years, that John has been preparing for this Super Bowl.
My Mom wrote this great article, hopefully it’ll sell a few avocados this weekend. This also partly explains the brainwashing that led me to become a cursed Cleveland Brown’s fan. I remind my parents that the Browns haven’t won a damn thing since I’ve been alive. Maybe John should’ve taken that Patriots job, for the kids sake.