Dropping Me Off at College 26 Years Ago

In life we all have moments that we’d like to take back and do over.

I’m not thinking about redoing a missed free throw at the end of a basketball game or retaking a test you should have aced.  I’m thinking about doing over a moment where you made a poor decision.  Maybe you yelled at someone when a softer approach would do.  Maybe you were late to an event where someone counted on you to attend.  Maybe you took things too fast or too slow on a date, ending a relationship that could have been something.

This week, as a few of my colleagues left to drive their children to college to begin their freshman year, I was reminded of a moment in my life I’d like to take back.  It occurred just about 26 years ago, give or take a few weeks.

Now that I have a 15-year-old, I can see this drop-off day coming for me.  Three years from now, God willing, Mrs. Spidey and I will be delivering our oldest to his first year of college.  I now know something I didn’t know back in 1984, when my parents took me to Williams College for my freshman year.

I now know that this delivery or visit or drop-off or whatever you call it is more significant for the parents, more emotional for the parents, more trying for the parents that it is for the child.

My Freshman Dorm at Williams. My room is first floor, 4th window from the far right.

Back in 1984, I didn’t realize that, and I’d like a do-over.  I’d like a do-over, because after my parents and I found my dorm room in the freshman quad, after we unloaded the car, after we picked up my linens (those were the days!), I basically pushed my parents back into the car to go home.  My mother wanted to help me set up my room.  She wanted to help me make my bed.  I assume, because I am her oldest and was the first going away to college, that she wanted to make sure that I was comfortable and had what I needed.  Unfortunately, I all but yelled at her to stop making the bed.  I wanted to do it myself and move on with my life.

I’m not going to claim I know exactly what happened after that, but I’m sure it involved my parents leaving and me moving on with my life.  I now know that it also involved my parents moving on with their life, but from a much different perspective.

There’s no preachy ending to this post, no admonishment to the incoming frosh and no words of preparation for their parents.  This is just a reflection on a moment 26 years ago for which I want a do-over and a note to myself on how to prepare for August 2013, when I’ll be the one my oldest dropping-off.

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The Day I Gave George Steinbrenner Advice

George Steinbrenner and I have two things in common. We are both alums of Williams College, 1952 and 1988 respectively, and we both love the New York Yankees.

The former brought us together in the fall of 1984.

I was a freshman at Williams then. Both my freshman roommates played football. Both were running backs. I don’t think either played all four years, but on this day, homecoming 1984, my roommate Kenny started at halfback against our arch rival Amherst.

The record shows that Williams lost that day 23-6 and that Amherst completed an undefeated season. It wasn’t until my senior year that we next beat Amherst in football, starting a streak of eight victories in a row.

I’ll remember that day, however, because that day I gave George Steinbrenner advice about the Yankees.

I had found a spot in the stands around the 40-yard line, wanting to watch Ken, rather than join the tailgaters just off the end zone at Weston Field. At the start of the first quarter, George sat down next to me.

I had been a Yankee fan since elementary school. We had no team in D.C., the Senators having left for Texas when I was 4. I didn’t like the Orioles, even though everyone said I should, because Baltimore was the closest city to us with a baseball team.  Instead, I decided to root for the Orioles’ rivals, the Yankees.

And there I was in November 1984, a Yankee fan sitting next to The Boss. An 18-year-old kid with clear opinions about his favorite baseball team had the ear of that team’s controversial owner. Way cool.

I nodded and said hello. He asked how the team was doing. I said ok, and I pointed out Kenny and told George that Kenny was my roommate. George watched and said some nice things about Kenny’s performance. He was cordial and friendly.

Steinbrenner and Winfield in 1989 – 5 Years After I Told George Not to Trade Him

Nothing else stands out in my memory until halftime. As everyone got up to go get a cocktail or beer, I said to George, “Don’t trade Dave Winfield.” (Sportswriters then were suggesting that might happen.) George chuckled and replied back, “I’ll see what I can do.”

The sports almanacs show that, indeed, Winfield was not traded from the Yankees that off-season.  The following season (1985), Winfield was an All-Star, and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award. As this New York Times article from 2008 explains, Winfield and Steinbrenner would have some trying times, but finally reconciled in recent years.  As a fan, I never knew what happened behind the scenes.  I just wanted to see Winfield in right field wearing number 31 for the Yankees.

After talking to George that November day and relaying my opinion, I got to see #31 in the Yankees line-up until 1990, when he was traded to the Angels.

Rest in peace, George.

Thanks for listening. I’m glad I could help, and thanks, as a fan, for following my advice.