Why Am I a Packer Fan? My Dad, Of Course.

My dad passed away on Monday afternoon. If you've wondered why I haven't been as prolific this season, it's because my dad was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer seven weeks ago and, well, you get it.

He spent his final days with the wonderful people at the Lawlis Family Hospice at Columbia St-Mary's in Mequon, WI. By Sunday afternoon it was hard for him to talk but he scratched out two final questions: He wondered if his dog was home (she wasn't) and how the Packers were doing (they weren't doing much of anything).

I forgive him for forgetting it was the bye week; but I'm not surprised that football was on his mind. He was a lifelong Packer fan, even though he spent his first 30 years in Saint Paul. The Vikings weren't around in the 40s and 50s; the Twin Cities was, perish the thought, Packers country (though they weren't very good--kind of like my formative years, the 70s and 80s).

Sundays were always reserved for Packers football and playing catch in the backyard. I have old photos of five year old me wearing a Packers helmet with Travis Williams' #23 stenciled on the side of the helmet. I don't believe jerseys with players numbers were available on nflshop.com back then. He may have been a one year wonder, but the Road Runner and his 41 yard kickoff return average obviously had a huge impact on this preschooler.

More often than not, we watched the game at my grandparents' house, ruled by Grandma Dorothy, whose relationship with my dad was as close as a mother's with her son. For those of you who go back to the early years of "Packer Preview," you'll recall that Grandma Dorothy was the original star of the show. She came on at the end each week to give her prediction. Imagine a loving, always worried, nearly perfect 90ish grandma sweating out the score, always fearing that Brett Favre would throw the fateful pick to snatch defeat from victory. Watching games with her and my family was, like it probably was for most of you, a religious experience--even though most years the team offered little hope. I was born at the dawn of the Lombardi era. By the time I was old enough to get it, Phil Bengston was patrolling the sidelines.

My dad loved the game and rarely missed his Gophers and his Packers. My last great memory with him was a few weeks back when my family visited in Milwaukee. He was still doing okay and it was a perfect afternoon. We had a quick lunch at a family tradition, Benjy's Deli and then went home and watched the second half of the Gophers game against Purdue--a furious and unlikely comeback win by Goldy.

His battle lasted only seven weeks and mercifully he went out on his own terms and with very little pain. For my mom and sister and brother and our loved ones it's been a very difficult final couple of weeks, seeing the man we loved most in the world taken away so quickly.

But the funny, kind, loving man that Mel Sinykin was will never be forgotten. I hit the dad jackpot and am thankful for the 52 years I got to hang with him. I'll think about him every day. Especially on Packer game days.


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