This blog today is written by my amazing son Nick Grad, in tribute to his father. Nick watched as grief suffused me, and felt it was important to express his own profound sadness. This essay rocked my soul so much that I had to share it today:
THE AUTUMN WIND: BY Nick Grad
I have always loved professional football. I still do. A lot. My 13-year-old son and I spend Sundays glued to the Red Zone Channel, watching the NFL for hours. I have a special affection for NFL Films, narrated by the great John Facenda, The Autumn Wind in particular. It is a poem written by former NFL Films President and co-founder Steve Sabol. It is the unofficial anthem of the Oakland Raiders, played at all their home games. I know it's not Shakespeare, but it inspires and moves me as if it were. See for yourself:
The Autumn Wind is a pirate
Blustering in from sea,
With a rollicking song, he sweeps along,
His face is weather beaten.
He wears a hooded sash,
With a silver hat about his head,
And a bristling black mustache.
He growls as he storms the country,
A villain big and bold.
And the trees all shake and quiver and quake,
As he robs them of their gold.
The Autumn Wind is a raider,
Pillaging just for fun.
He'll knock you 'round and upside down,
And laugh when he's conquered and won.
You can listen to it here.
When I think of The Raiders, I think of my dad. As soon as the Raiders moved to Los Angeles in 1982, he bought us season tickets. We were obsessed. Sundays at the Colosseum were a huge part of my childhood. We either left in elation if they won, or moped back to our car if they lost. But either way I was happy: I was with my dad watching the team we loved. We often had the pleasure of watching Raiders owner Al Davis walk from the field back to his suite. He walked right by us and every time he would smile at us and give a wink. Life was good.
Eventually, the Raiders moved back to Oakland. And I stopped obsessing about them, but my dad never stopped. He still watched every game without fail, yelling and ranting all the way because the Raiders did not make it easy. Aside from an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII, it was a tough road.
This year the Raiders are back. A great record, a great offense, and a franchise quarterback in Derek Carr. And I keep thinking of my dad. How much he would have loved to watch this team. Or I should say, how much I would have loved to watch this team with him.
People experience grief in different ways. My mom has inspired me with how she has dealt with my dad's passing unflinchingly and unfiltered. As for me, I try not to think about it too much. I have a busy job and an amazing family, and don't have (or carve out) a lot of time to dwell or reflect. Instead, I grieve in small doses. Something will remind me of him, I'll cry and then feel a little better.
I'm thinking about my dad a lot this football season. I know he is watching my son and me yell and cheer while we watch the Raiders. It reminds me of all the great times we had together.
Win or lose, this football season has been tough, but it has also helped me grieve a little more. And maybe that's a good thing.
The Autumn Wind is a raider.
I miss you dad.