Barry Sanders = 0 rings. Dan Marino = 0 rings. Dave Conca = 3 rings (my wedding ring that I wear and Kim's engagement ring and her wedding ring, that I wear along with the crucifix, around my neck, that Kimmy got me when we were married).
As I continue to put things into perspective, it occured to me - that if my life were a sports career, it would be comparable to great sports legends that retired, champions, in their prime - while they were still having great seasons, great careers - at the top of their game.
There was Jim Brown, arguably the greatest, all time running back. He retired after just nine seasons and retired as the league's career leader in rushing yars, all-purpose yards, rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns. He went out at the top of his game, unlike O.J. Simpson (who had a whole second career in a different field...), who, after a dazzling career with the Bills, languished with the 49ers or Johnny Unitas moving from the Colts to the Chargers...or Franco Harris, from the Steelers to the Seahawks.
I had a Jim Brown-like marriage. I guess we didn't set any official records, but, would have led the league in sharing. My sister, Sherri, used to pick up on that often, mentioning it to us one day after she noticed we were splitting our Subway sub. "Wait a minute!" she shouted. "Youse even share your sandwhiches!?! You share everything!". And we did. And we enjoyed it. Iced teas, meals, beds, pillows, glasses (Sherri was astonished to find Kim and I had the same prescription for our glasses), contacts (see previous explanation about us sharing the same prescription for glasses, but insert the word 'contacts' in place of 'glasses'), driving, socks, shirts, chairs, sunsets, beach towels, books, gum, the moon, the stars and sunrises...Jim Brown made the pro bowl every year of his career!
How about Ken Dryden? He played just 7 full seasons in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens and is considered one of the greatest goaltenders ever. He won the Vezina Trophy (best goaltender award) FIVE times and hoisted the Stanley Cup SIX times!! Six...that's twice as many rings as I have, but, my marriage could have been considered Dryen-esque in many ways...for one, Kim and I were not tired of each other. If anything, we were still building up steam. It was an amazing run, with very little time apart over the many years we knew each other - but, if we had one complaint, it was that we didn't seem to have enough time together - despite spending 100% of our time off together. That, alone, is worth 6 rings! Dryden retired at the age of 31, having posted a .790 regular-season win percentage and a 2.24 goals-against average.
Our marriage could have been compared to Rocky Marciano, without the slugging. Marciano remains the only heavyweight in boxing history to retire with a perfect record. He finished up 49-0 with 43 KO's! Our record would have been, that we just didn't fight. Don't get me wrong, we did have disagreements (9 times out of ten it was because of me, something I did, said, didn't do, etc), but they were rare. Neither of us ever had to shout, scream, get so mad that we would say things we didn't mean, and never walked out on each other. Our disagreements were typically quickly resolved. Kimmy was wonderful, understanding, patient (Lord knows! She should achieve sainthood just for putting up with me all these years...). Marciano was the heavyweight champion from 1952 through 1956.
Now, I'm not a big John Elway fan, but, he did have a distinguished 13 year career, retiring at the age of 38, even though he looked like he could have played another few seasons. He made it to five Super Bowls, losing the first three and then figuring it out and winning the next two. I prefer Joe Theismann, who was the best quarterback in Redskins history, took them to two Super Bowls, winning one. The amount of fun Kim and I had, roadtripping, sight seeing, vacationing, or just running errands - compares to these two NFL great's career. We did so much and I thank God every day for the time we shared and all that we had the chance to do together over the years.
There are a lot of other athletes I could mention that had stellar careers and were able to walk away before they became an after thought or the punch line of a bad joke....Ted Williams - who homered in his last game and last at bat, at the age of 42. Jerome Bettis, who played for the Steelers for 13 years, winning rookie of the year and a Super bowl. Marvin Hagler, who had a brilliant boxing career and retired at the age of 32. Kim and I may have been getting up there, but we still had pop!
Let's talk about longevity...playing your whole career with one team....Brooks Robinson played his 22 year career with the Baltimore Orioles - best third baseman ever (with Mike Schmidt, who played 17 seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, a close second!), appeared in several World Series and 16 time Gold Glove winner. Theismann spent his entire 12 year career with the Redskins. Mike Modano, of the NHL's Stars, played his entire 21 year career there (whoa, that's right! He is now a Red Wing!! A momentary lapse of reason, on my part, so a shout out to Stevie Yzerman who played his entire career with the Red Wings, was a great athelete, a good guy and earned 3 rings in a 20 year career!), Well, Kim and I did nicely in this category, too. In a day when divorce is widely accepted, the thought never crossed our minds. We were with each other until the end.
Bottom line is, I feel so blessed to have known Kimmy for so long, been with her for so long and married for 17 years, with so many great memories, smiles, hugs, kisses, milestones and, the 'hat trick' (a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game)- the bambini!! Three blessings - our 'hat trick' in life. Wayne Gretzky holds the career hat trick record in the NHL with 50. Soccer hat tricks are rarer - Filippo Inzaghi, holds the record in Italian pro soccer league Serie A - he had 10 playing for power houses Juventus and A.C. Milan.
There have been so many great players, like Mario Lemiuex of the NHL's Penguins (2 rings), too many to mention. And the friends that have supported us along the way and made us a better couple, are many, too. Helping us to make great memories, and sharing greatest times with us. We were blessed in this category, as well.
So, I do feel like a champion, in life. Kim always made me feel that way. Cheering me on in my career, with my kids, and in whatever community service we were involved in. And always at my side. I have three rings to show for it and I proudly wear them, to remind me of our championship seasons, our victories, triumphs, accomplishments - great memories...
'secret' ingredient to the dip - vanilla. Add 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp to your egg/milk/cinnamon mixure - it is so good! Kim used to add a dash to her pancake mix, too. I worked a full shift, cohesively, coherently - well, except when I checked my email and saw that Barnes & Noble was instituting a blogging/facebook/twitter/etc policy. I read it through and thought to forward it to Tom, my D.M. and wrote "Tom, do you thing they have instituted this policy because of me? Must I got back and edit my material, or are my posts grandfathered?"...however, instead of hitting 'forward', I hit reply and sent this communication back to corporate...who wrote back 'Dave, did you intend to send this to your D.M.?" Yeah. I was a little embarrassed...Autumn and Tonio stayed after with Mrs. Rudzena and Mrs. Schrantz, who helped them get their homework done...and Cody had a grueling track practice over at Empire High School...then, after a quick meal..it was off to swim lessons! Aut and Tonio are doing better, but still have some work to do.
When swim lessons were over, we hustled out to Purple Heart Park near our home to meet up with Janene, Andrea, Angie and their kids to watch Janene's son, Brendon play baseball. They lost a heartbreaker, but the kids had a blast running around the park, eating 'bird seed' (Janene's son, Bryson, calls sunflower seeds 'bird seed'!) and watching some baseball! It was a beautiful night...a little late, just getting the bambini settled, but they had so much fun...they'll sleep well and have good dreams...and we'll do it all over again tomorrow!!
Oh, and after we said good night to Mama, and were walking inside, I'm giving instructions: 'Get your water, brush your teeth and get right in bed, it is late!' Autumn, not missing a beat, gives me her best Robert DeNiro in serious deadpan 'you talkin to me?'...there is no shortage of sarcasm in this house - but that is a story for a different night!
Dave - Three Ring Champion, 17 wedding anniversaries, 27 years living together, 33 years as friends...and hat trick scoring champ!