Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bring-Your-Dad-to-Work Day

Why my dad will no longer a spectator in my track meets.

My father:

David commuting around Tennessee. No joke

He has been to one track and field meet in my career: 2008 SEC Championships.

There are a couple of key things to point out about this meet:

1.     This is THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIPS. You know, that one race that really really matters. For those normal people who know nothing of the sport (my father would be included in this), think huge business proposal to the bossman.

2.     I walked on to the track team at UT. In layman’s terms, I kind of sucked for the previous year.  This year I really started to shine as my best and put together a string of decent performances. This race was my first opportunity to show that I belonged on the team.

Well, I thought there was more you’d need to know. I guess not. It was a big meet, and it was my time to prove myself.

I am calm and cool on race day now, but this is a skill that has been crafted over many many botched races.  As a 19 year old, I was a complete nightmare. I prepared as if I was going to war.  My nerves had my indigestion at an all-time high. I had become an insomniac. I was constantly shaking a little bit, and had let my personal hygiene really take a back seat to the more pressing matter of the 2 minutes of death I had to somehow survive.

My dad had decided to watch me race. This is not so much to support me, but more so to test out his new video camera. He had filmed himself playing guitar all week. Side note: This video feedback made him rethink his career as an aspiring musician. Let me use graphs to demonstrate:


This is actually wonderful for me, as he was trying to have me join his band as a side gig to my collegiate career.  As great as the Partridge Family looked on TV, I am not sure that is how the Wright Family would have played out.

He and two of my friends drove down to Auburn the day before the race. They surprised me at the team dinner. The first thing my dad says: “Hey sweetie! Your Coach doesn’t drive a black Mercedes, does he? Because I just Van Dammed my car door into the side of this black car. It is not my fault, the car was black! It was night! It’s cool though, we moved and parked in the McDonald’s lot instead.”

My Coach does, in fact, drive a black Mercedes.

He saw my face. It already had adopted a terrified look as the current norm, so when it turned a red hue from the embarrassment, he got the hint. He left and said he’d call tomorrow.


Normally, Race day was a stressful day. It was a time of choking my food down and trying not to throw up on my roommate’s face. My dad, on the other hand, thought that this little Auburn trip was a father-daughter vacay. He called me at the crack of dawn; apparently he was already on his way to pick me up. I tried to argue with him on this. He had his heart so set on this excursion that I would have had better luck trying to reason with my track spike.

We went to breakfast. He filmed it. We drove around Auburn. He filmed it.  At one point he found a round-a-bout preceded to dance in the center of it while I drove in circles filming the whole performance. He wanted me to join and asked why I was no fun when I declined and murmured something about my race in 4 hours. For lunch, he insisted we get corn dogs and ice cream. To this day, the thought of a corndog brings a flood of anxiety. He held me hostage. If there is one thing more terrifying than racing in your first SEC final, it’s missing the SEC final because your dad was force feeding you corndogs while filming the whole ordeal.

He dropped me off 1 hour before the race. I had just enough time to get dressed and start the warm up. A couple of times during the warm up I wondered what my dad was doing left up to his own devices—apparently I had forgotten that he had a video camera and would surely have me admire his videography skills.

While I was warming up, he had bought a sheet and spray paint from Wal-Mart and filmed my friends painting a “GO PHOEBE GO” sign. He filmed this for an hour and 2 minutes—I know I watched the footage. He was proud of my friends’ artwork and his directing skills, I guess. At the time of the race he was filming the sign. A picture would have sufficed, as the sheet was not animated, but who am I to judge. In the footage you hear the gun go off. The camera was still on the sign. 30 seconds into the race, it was still on the sign. At  40 seconds the camera whips up in just enough time to catch my back right foot. Here was the moment. My father’s first cheer at his daughter’s first collegiate SEC final:  “LOOK AT YOUR SIGN PHE! LOOK AT YOUR SIGN WE MADE YOU!” The filming then immediately went back to the sign.

I finished 3rd and set a massive personal record. I had not had time to objectively process this though, and felt mostly disappointment that I couldn’t pull off the win. During my mix of emotions, my dad excitedly ran to me, hugged me, and said “you saw your sign we made you, right?”

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