CINCINNATI -- Sports can bridge the past and present unlike anything known in the universe.
It's the mix of excitement and emotion peppered with your surroundings that makes you not only remember where you were but what you were doing and what you felt at a precise moment in time.
As Chris Davis was sprinting down the sideline Saturday, giving Auburn one of the most improbable and legendary wins in college football history, my mind was racing back in time to the moment Doug Flutie's Hail Mary was answered on the other end by Gerard Phelan. Both happened Thanksgiving weekend and I watched both in my dad's family room with the old man.
But the timing of Saturday's game lent itself to reflection. Like millions of Americans, I am dealing with moving a parent into assisted living and out of the house he has come to call home. It's also the home I grew up in and where I came to love sports.
The family room with the television is where most kids come to enjoy college and pro sports, watching on television with family, and in my case, my dad.
I've been back and forth between Boston and Cincinnati several times this fall to help with the transition while keeping tabs on the New England sports scene -- my job, after all. But on Saturday, past and present came together in powerful fashion.
It began in 1975 when I watched most of the World Series with him. I remember vividly when my cousin came in and watched Game 2 with us. She arrived just as the Reds scored two in the ninth to escape with a 3-2 win and even the Series, 1-1. It was in that family room that my dad surprised me with tickets to Game 4 of the Series just three hours before first pitch. That night, my heart was broken when I watched -- in person -- Luis Tiant throw all 163 pitches in a 5-4 Red Sox win over the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.
It was in that family room that I experienced heartbreak again six nights later when Carlton Fisk drove a Pat Darcy pitch off the left field foul pole in a 7-6 Sox win in Game 6. The next night, everything was made right when the Reds wiped out a 3-0 hole and won Game 7, 4-3.
I still remember the old man waking me up just in time to see the final three outs. Carl Yastrzemski's fly ball landing into Cesar Geronimo's glove was the best moment of my childhood, by far. I still remember where I was in the family room that night of Oct. 22, 1975, watching a celebration inside some place called Fenway Park.
I was all set to cover the first World Series Game 6 at Fenway since that unforgettable night in 1975. I was thinking how neat it would be to actually cover a World Series celebration at Fenway after watching one 38 years earlier on TV.
But then, on the eve of Game 6, real life called me back to Cincinnati. So, it turned out, I was back in the very same family room where I'd watched that game in 1975, watching as Koji Uehara fanned Matt Carpenter for the final out and Fenway erupted in World Series jubilation for the first time since 1918. Red Sox fans certainly believe their team was destined this year. And maybe it was just destiny that I sat in the same spot and watched the moment with my dad.
Nine years after the 1975 World Series, the Friday after Thanksgiving, I was home from my freshman year at Villanova spending the holiday weekend with my parents. It was a late afternoon game on CBS. It was No. 10 Boston College led by a Heisman candidate by the name of Doug Flutie.
They were on TV playing the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes in the Orange Bowl. The game was a full-fledged shootout between Bernie Kosar and Flutie. BC led 28-21 at the half. But Miami, coached by Jimmy Johnson, led 45-41 when Flutie let go with a prayer that fell into the arms of Gerard Phelan as time expired. "Hail Flutie" and the "Flutie Effect" were born.
Who knows? If it were a year earlier, I might have attended Boston College, not Villanova.
On Saturday, I took a break from packing up dad's house and watched Ohio State and Michigan at noon. Watching "The Game" is like a holy day of sports obligation for anyone growing up in the two states. My dad and I are no exceptions; I grew up a Buckeye and Woody Hayes was the man most Ohioans related to most. My dad is now 88 years young and I cringed on Saturday as I watched him get furious with a third-ranked Ohio State team that couldn't tackle. I cringed as I watched him get worked up as the Buckeyes fell behind 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14. I tried telling him to be patient and it paid off as he yelled "Good man" every time Braxton Miller or Carlos Hyde ran through Michigan's defense for a 35-21 lead.
But then I wondered, would he survive the end? I knew this was Tom Brady's Michigan in Michigan. Sure enough, 35-21 turned into 35-35. Then a 42-35 lead turned into a Michigan chance to win the game on a Brady Hoke decision to go for two. I was in the family room thinking back to all the memories before. Would this be a nightmarish finish or -- like 1975 -- a moment to cherish? Thanks to Tyvis Powell, it would be a game to remember, 42-41, Buckeyes.
With our heart rates coming back down, we decided to tune into No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn in the "Iron Bowl" at Auburn. Like the rest of the country, we figured at 21-7, Alabama was well on its way to another SEC championship game and likely another BCS title game. But then Auburn -- which had a miracle of its own just two weeks earlier against Georgia -- decided one miracle wasn't enough. As Auburn trailed 28-21, Alabama failed to put the game away with two minutes left by missing the third of their four field goal attempts of the day. When a wide-open Sammie Coates hauled in a pass from Nick Marshall and raced into the end zone with :32 left, the game that was left for dead had new life.
I sat in the same family room rich with so many memories, including the ones from just three hours earlier, wondering just what could possibly be next. Well, little did we know the greatest and most improbable ending in football history would be the answer. With an added second put on the game clock, Chris Davis took the missed 57-yard field goal attempt from Alabama red-shirt freshman Adam Griffith to the house for a 34-28 Auburn win. My mouth dropped. My dad -- rooting for Auburn the whole game -- was jumping up and down in his chair like I was when "Flutie did it" 29 years earlier.
The 1975 World Series, the 1984 Flutie Miracle, the 2013 World Series and the most dramatic Saturday in college football history. I had the privilege of watching them all with the old man in the same room. On this Thanksgiving weekend, father and son had plenty to be thankful for.
Truth of the matter is this will likely be the last time we share a moment in this family room. The house is on the market and hopefully will have a new owner shortly. I'll miss it. My dad will miss it. But more than any of the trinkets we take from the house, the sports memories we shared in that room will be the ones we will hold closest to our hearts.
I took my dad back to his assisted care facility late Saturday evening and he kept telling me, "Thanks son for the chance to share this with you."
The way I see it, the pleasure was all mine for the past 40 years.