When my husband the sportswriter walked onto the Penn State campus as a freshman nearly 50 years ago, the first thing he did was go watch the football team practice. If someone had told him he would make his living watching athletes play sports, he wouldn't have believed his luck.
We "met" when he was phoning in results from a golf tournament to the Associated Press bureau in Pittsburgh. He thought he'd play a trick on the new girl by making up names and scores for as long he could get away with it; I never caught on, and, embarrassed, he admitted the ruse. I cursed him and slammed down the phone.
Later, he would look at himself wearing surgical scrubs at the birth of our first child and lament that if he hadn't spent so much time in the Penn State library reading back issues of Sports Illustrated, he might have made his mother proud and become a doctor.
My husband, Gary Mihoces, is retiring after 46 years in the news business.
In addition to all those Super Bowls and all those Olympics, he has also covered one of Johnstown's floods, Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, the Little League World Series and the murder trials of those accused of slaughtering United Mine Workers rabble-rouser Jock Yablonski and his family at the behest of the union's president. He was on his way to Three Mile Island when the nuclear power plant accident was brought under control. He says his blood pressure goes down and his heart beats slower when he is working under a deadline.
He was at the 1976 Olympics to cover wrestling, but he took some time to catch a little of the gymnastics — one of the many sports he liked to watch at Penn State — and was there when Nadia Comaneci scored the first perfect 10 in Olympic competition. He covered the death of Pirates legend Roberto Clemente and the disgrace of Joe Paterno, for whom I think our son is named. He saw Mean Joe Greene toss veterans around like rag dolls in his first training camp as a Steeler, and he profiled the most famous bull in Professional Bull Riders history, Bushwacker, who retired this year, too.
He is the unofficial expert on football concussions, and he knows how to track down the police reports on misbehaving athletes. He is most certainly the only person living who knows how to score figure skating, bull riding and Greco-Roman wrestling. He once counted the chips on the table at the World Series of Poker and realized there were more than were supposed to be there. He calls himself the Swiss Army knife of sportswriters.
A generous buyout offer from USA Today removes some of the financial uncertainty of retiring, but it doesn't remove any of the emotional uncertainty. I don't think he ever took a sick day in all these years and, truth be told, not all of the vacation to which he was due. Now an unending column of days off stretches out in front of him.
People ask what he will do in retirement, and he says he's going start by messing around in his garage. By the end of the summer, he promises, his lawn will look like Augusta National. It is my plan to keep working. This is something he needs to figure out on his own.
There are two little boys who call him "Abba," and I expect they will take up a lot of his time. He was gone so often and so long when our children were little that I often felt like a single parent, but he also gently conveyed to them the best lessons sports can teach. Another generation will learn those lessons now.
Sports will continue to be a big part of his life. He is still the guy who couldn't wait to watch Penn State practice. After all these years of lugging typewriters and then computers through airports and into stadiums, you will now find him walking up the street to watch Navy play football.
Carrying nothing but change in his pocket for a Diet Coke.