It was the fall of 1982, and BYU was playing New Mexico. Steve Young, the quarterback, was waiting for the snap. I settled comfortably into my seat, opened the lunch my first wife, Carol, had packed, and put a handful of Cheetos in my mouth.
The ball was snapped, Young faded back to pass, but instead, he handed it off to Eddie Stinnett, a running back, who took the ball and ran 80 yards along the sideline to score a touchdown. There were 65,000 fans in the stadium that day and they all stood up to cheer and I was one of them.
As I cheered, the gob of Cheeto that I was chewing flew out of my mouth, straight up in the air. Stunned with what was happening, I followed its trajectory, unable to do anything except watch as it landed on the head of the man sitting directly in front of me. It’s important to realize that this was no ordinary gob of Cheeto, it was a ‘GREAT BIG GOB OF CHEWED UP CHEETO’ at least one and a half golf balls in size. I was surprised the guy in front of me didn’t suffer a concussion or at least get knocked out cold when it landed on his head.
I remember thinking to myself, “Calvert, you’ve got a problem.” I mentally examined the situation, did a quick analysis, and determined I had three choices: 1) I could tap the guy on the shoulder and say, “Hey, mister! You have a ‘GREAT BIG GOB OF CHEWED UP CHEETO’ sitting on the top of your head”; 2) I could reach over and try to very carefully pick it off his head without him knowing it was ever there; or 3) I could just ignore it.
People who know me realize that I have always been a brave sort of guy, so I decided to do the brave thing. I ignored it.
Before long I realized I had made a big mistake. I couldn’t look anywhere in that stadium without seeing that ‘GREAT BIG GOB OF CHEWED UP CHEETO’ in my line of sight. Even worse, all of a sudden, I was struck with the horrible thought, “What if the guy’s wife looks up and sees this ‘great big gob of chewed up Cheeto’ sitting on his head and asks him how it got there?”
Reality sunk in, and I realized the situation could not be ignored. I had no choice but to use my next best option and pick it off his head. I was confident I could pluck it off without him feeling anything. I’ve always had excellent finger dexterity.
Carefully I bent over, reached for it, cautiously grabbed it, and started to lift it off his head. What I hadn't realize was when it hit his head it got stuck in his hair so as I picked it up, it pulled his hair straight up (no he wasn’t wearing a toupee). By now this guy knew that someone was playing with his head, so I just thought, “Oh, Crap,” flattened my hand on top of his head, grabbed hold of that ‘GREAT BIG GOB OF CHEWED UP CHEETO’ and pulled it off. He turned around and gave me a funny look, and all I could think of saying was, “I’m sorry mister, BUT my wife had an accident!”
The Cheeto incident, as this experience came to be known, has become a beloved part of our family history. And like many of my stories, it’s even mostly true! What is absolutely true, is that over the years, the time my sons and I spent driving to and from BYU football games, sitting together in the stadium, talking about life, girls, cars, even religion, was time well spent. It takes time together to develop a close bond and a sense of trust that lays the foundation for future, more meaningful, and at times even difficult discussions.
Though it is always more fun to win, we loved going to those games, win or lose. Some years the tickets stretched our budget, but every penny we spent was worth it to strengthen our father/son relationships. Until the quarantines of COVID 2020, the tradition continued and even expanded to include the grandkids too.
Oh, and I still have our seats reserved for next season. Fingers crossed!
What treasured traditions have been disrupted or lost in your family this past year? Do you have plans to revive them or build new ones? It’s not too late.
Happy Failing Forward,
Calvert and Anne
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