On the Road: Danny samples culture, cuisine and tradition in Oakland
SPONSORED — First, Mom got a hug from Pete Carroll.
Then, she took a picture with Marshawn Lynch.
And after my Mom got a peek behind the curtain of a sports-media career she helped make possible, she returned to Santa Cruz County with a new Beastmode T-shirt and (hopefully) a big smile.
Thursday’s trip to Oakland was a special one for me, and not just because it’s as close as I get to a homecoming in sports travel, having graduated from high school in Northern California. It was exactly a year ago that my Mom was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor that was growing on her kidney. One year and two surgeries later, she’s feeling great and we have every reason to hope that’s the last we’ll hear of that, and on Thursday we got to celebrate a little bit.
I flew to Oakland early, a 6:05 a.m. flight on Alaska Airlines. She drove the 90 minutes from Santa Cruz County and we got breakfast at the Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland, Calif. It’s a down-home classic. It’s the kind of place where the buttermilk biscuits are warm, and Mom’s cornmeal waffle was served with spicy fried chicken.
She got to reminiscing, which Moms are prone to do. She told me that I was in second grade when I started reading old Sports Illustrated issues from my father’s friend. It was the first sign of a childhood devotion to sports that is responsible for the thousands of baseball cards that she’s still got in the attic of her garage.
She was patient with me. She was always encouraging. She has never hesitated to tell me how much she enjoyed my work. In other words: She’s been a Mom. One of the best.
I’ve been incredibly lucky. I’m doing exactly what I talked about in junior high: I’m working in sports media, and while that might speak to my less-than-lofty ambitions, my Mom not only encouraged me, but applauded every step, first in Klamath Falls, Ore., where we lived until I was 15, and then in Northern California. When I read a story on catcher Gary Carter and decided he was my favorite player, it was my Mom who found the Expos’ address in Montreal so I could mail him a letter. He sent a personalized autograph back and became my favorite player.
That’s part of what made Thursday so fun for me. The Mom who has done so much for me got to meet a few of the people I get to cover in the course of a career that she helped encourage.
I certainly didn’t plan it that way. I was checking into the hotel when we saw Carroll, and he came over and talked to her. I thought Lynch was still in Australia where he’d watched Cal play Hawaii, but when we drove past his store in downtown Oakland, there he was. We went inside, found a shirt for my Mom, and talked briefly with Doug Baldwin about what a headache I was at times in high school. On the way out, we asked Lynch for a picture. You can tell a lot about a man by how he treats Moms, and Lynch could not have been nicer to mine.
Oakland is an afterthought of a road trip on Seattle’s schedule. The stadium is old and the franchise is more than a decade removed from its last winning season.
But the Coliseum was the closest pro-sports venue when I was in high school. I sat in the bleachers to watch baseball games, and this year I was happy to be able to show my Mom this little corner of the world I’ve been blessed to work in. This is my 12th season covering Seattle’s football team. I’m thankful for many reasons. I’m thankful for the job I have. I’m thankful to everyone who listens to our show and anyone who reads my stories.
Mostly, I’m thankful to have a Mom who encouraged me like Carol O’Neil did, and grateful that one year after her diagnosis we got to enjoy a day together in California as Seattle prepared to finish up its preseason schedule.