Saturdays with Daddy, Stoney, and Those Sorry Cats…

Introduction by Dawn. Written by Guest Blogger, Bret Baierlein (yes, Cilla’s husband :))

Cilla and Bret are currently with Andrea, Brad and kids laying on the beach, sharing several laughs and having an all around wonderful time on vacation. So while Cilla is not here to give her wonderful introductions that she is so known for, I am honored to introduce her wonderful husband, Bret, to all of you. If Cilla is the happiest pregnant lady I have ever seen, Bret is her equal and is the happiest dad-to-be around. Their joy and excitement is infectious. And one thing I know for certain is they are going to be wonderfully amazing parents.

As Father’s Day is only a few days away, us ladies at Our Cups Runneth Over are excited to celebrate both our dads and our husbands for the next few days. Please join us as we do this. Bret has the honor of going first…and for all you Kentucky Wildcats football fans I am sure you can share in his misery a bit :).


I have been a football fanatic for nearly all of my life.  A fact that I don’t suppose will ever change.  My Dad dragged me to Kentucky home football games from the time I could first take a halting step, and it just sort of stuck. The funny thing is, years later, I am still not sure how much my dad really likes football.  Don’t get me wrong, the man loves his Kentucky football, but I don’t think he went to games with me toddling behind him because he couldn’t stand to miss a game.  I think he took me because his dad took him– it is what Baierlein men do with their sons.  You see, my dad lost his father at the young age of sixteen, and, when I was five, he was suddenly facing with the unenviable task of raising a little boy virtually on his own.  He didn’t have his dad around to help guide him, so I think Dad did what he knew – he took me to UK football games.

I respect my dad a great deal for this.  You see, as UK football fans, we share a sort of heroic optimism for, and a perpetual disappointment in, the fortunes of our blue-clad warriors.  We were there for Mark Higgs’ Four Crashes into the Goaline against Tennessee, Chris Doering in the East End Zone against Florida, the “Miracle in the Bluegrass,” Four Overtimes Versus UT, and a host of other disheartening near-misses, as well as more than our share of blowouts.  Couple this demoralizing state with the fact that he had to listen to far too many fourth quarters from the truck because his darling boy had just decided that he couldn’t stand the heat, or the cold, for another quarter and a half or so; and Dad was downright, well, noble.

Such nobility did not extend to his willingness to express his displeasure toward the team.  As far back as I can remember, I shared my dad’s frustration at that “damned (fill in the blank with the name of whomever happened to be Kentucky’s coach at that time),” but, we took it all in stride, and I loved the time with him.  I did finish out most games and grew to demand of the team as he did.  We yelled at the players by their first names, as if we knew them.  We cupped our hands around our mouths and yelled things like “lesgo Cats!” and “C’mon Deeee!”  We held our hands over our hearts during the “National Anthem,” and sang “My Old Kentucky Home” with thousands of other people.  We always split a bag of peanuts, which we both still eat in the exact same way; stick the entire peanut in our mouths and get all of the salt from the shell – then crack the shell w/our teeth, pull the peanut back out of our mouths and eat the little nut.  We drank large cokes – always large, because we got to keep the commemorative cups.  After games, I would scramble around the bleachers, collecting plastic cups left behind by other patrons – to be honest, it was one of my favorite parts of going to games.  I was always amazed by the fact that people would leave behind these perfectly good cups, for which they had paid money.  The obsession was one with which Dad was unfailingly patient.

My father was always loving and honest, but many times stoic.  Not when it came to the Wildcats, though!  For a little man, he sure did (and still does) have a huge voice.  And boy would he cut it loose on those Saturday afternoons.  I think to this day that the most beautifully resonant sound on the face of the earth is my dad unleashing his signature cry.

“S’go Big Blue!”

It was a thing to behold. . .  The “s’go” was barely audible, then the “big” came sharp and crisp, like the horn of a tractor-trailer.  After that came the best part – “BLUE!”  He would draw out that “u” sound so powerfully that I could feel it vibrate within my chest.  I just knew that everyone in that stadium could feel it too.  From the upper-deck above us, to the field below – whether the band was playing or not.  I always thought the band must have terrific concentration to have such a disruption and still stay in step.  And I always imagined how jealous other fans must have been of Daddy, because they weren’t that resonant, and their blood just wasn’t quite as blue. . .  None except maybe Stoney.

For the entirety of my first 21 years as a football fan, there was Stoney.  He was old the entire time I knew him.  Through my youthful eyes, he never seemed to get older, but he was always old.  He was however, the most physically impressive old person I have ever known.  Stoney’s shoulders were as broad as any man I have ever seen, like a massive bull, wide and uncompromising.  His face was large and fleshy, beset by thick, deep creases and lines.  He had thick bushy eyebrows.  It seemed that, at any moment, his eyes would be swallowed into a mass of flesh and eyebrows.  The fact that his face was always shaven made the battle his eyes waged for survival seem all the more futile.  I never saw the old man bareheaded, for he always had the same ball cap perched atop his block-like head.  I am positive however, that Stoney had a head full of straw-like, gray hair.  It is hard to imagine that he was bald, so I picture him with unruly hair, perpetual hat-head.  His voice was nearly as distinctive as my daddy’s, though entirely different.

Stoney’s voice was not resonant.  It was gravely and sounded as if it was always on the verge of cracking.  I suppose this was a result of the cigarettes that he smoked for close to his whole life.  That voice held a lifetime in it.  “Aw, hell!”  Was typical of what came out of it.  His favorite player was always the backup quarterback, whom he was always convinced was a better player than the starter, even if the backup was the starter at that time.  Stoney hacked and wheezed, and he and his wife smoked what seemed like a carton of Pall-Malls and Virginia Slims per game.  Stoney kidded with me and poked fun at my dad, who said Stoney was an old man when he was a kid.

Stoney passed away in the summer of 2000.  There, now remains a huge void in Commonwealth Stadium.  At least I know there is in section 111.  When Daddy told me that Stoney had died, he sounded heartbroken – as if his own father had passed away, again.  Dad grew up with this man as a part of his life, as did I.  We may not have seen him everyday, but he was a part of our lives just the same.  He was our link to Dad’s father, whom I never had the opportunity to meet.  Stoney’s passing saddens me, still, over a decade later.  It saddens me because I miss his voice, I miss the way the bleacher shifted when he sat down.  Most of all I miss the reassurance of knowing he will be there on Saturday to greet Dad and I.

As time moves on, things change.  That is truth, pure and simple.  Things change.  Dad and I gave up the bachelor life in 1989, when he was remarried, and I suddenly became the eldest child, rather than the only child.  I was ten . . .  Most of the large, souvenir Wildcat Cups (which we would collect after all the fans left) have disappeared.  A few pop up every now and then.  Sometimes they contain turpentine and paint brushes, some materialize in the bathtub for use in rinsing hair.  It is no longer acceptable to drink from the gallon jug of milk.  As I grew older, I went to games and spent time with friends, rather than my old dad.  Eventually, girls even replaced that.  I missed a lot of games when I was away in the Marines.  The relationship between my father and I definitely changed…  Dad is still my hero, but now he is also my friend.  When I look at my life now, as compared to then, I see how different it was.  Not better, just different.  Then I realize that someday, just as Stoney didn’t make it to the season opener in 2000, I will have to face a football season without my father.

As I prepare to become a father – I think about the type of Dad I want to be…  It is a daunting thought, becoming a father.  I worry that I won’t be equal to the task, and that I won’t know the right things to say, or the correct skills to teach.  I wonder to myself how I will ever be able to raise a man in this age, when the whole world tells him that he owes respect to no one, not even him self – a world where fame has replaced accomplishment.  How do I love my boy enough, but not make him soft?  These are just some of the myriad questions that I ask myself constantly.  I never come up with a satisfactory answer, but I do know two things, without a doubt:  One.  If I am half the Dad for my son, as Read Baierlein was to me, I will be pretty damned good.  And – Two.  I will take my son to UK Football games.  It is, after all, what Baierlein men do with their sons – especially Baierlein men that are, in the deepest parts of their souls, terrified of the little fellow now dependent upon them for survival and success.  So, we will go to games, and I will pass on a bond that goes beyond the “Curse of Bear Bryant,” or unfathomable 26 game losing streak to Tennessee.  We will go to games and take our place in a line of men that includes one of the best I have ever known – my Dad.  We will sit in section 111, right around the 40 yard line, and watch a game.  More than that, we will be able to watch each other change throughout the countless seasons.  Then perhaps my son will think that my voice is the greatest sound on the face of the earth, and perhaps we will eat peanuts together and walk out of the stadium with cups stacked past our heads.  Perhaps, as I did, he will go to games with girlfriends, buddies, and other people rather than his old dad.  But perhaps, at the next game, he will sit next to me, again.  We won’t cuddle, and he might not think I am Superman, but he will love and respect me, as I do my father.  It will just be different.  Not better, not worse.  Just different.

brinkley - June 13, 2011 - 1:26 pm

Bret, I couldn’t be happier for you and Cilla as you get ready to welcome your baby boy. You will both be amazing parents! I love this story, and I’m so glad that you will have a son to share this special bond with.

Amy Parsons - June 13, 2011 - 10:33 am

Bret, you are a wonderful writer and you are going to be an even more wonderful daddy. What a lucky boy to have you to look up to.

Andrea - June 13, 2011 - 9:53 am

{sniffle}, {wipe tear}, type. What a heartfelt recounting of a father’s love. I feel like I know you and your daddy both, although I’ve never met either :) Congratulations to you and your beautiful bride on the impending arrival of Baby S.

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