By: Kennae Hunter
The photo sits on the cherrywood dresser in my bedroom.
The photo of me in a silver frame.
Me, at two years old, modeling the outfit my daddy gave.
One ponytail with a black and red bow in it.
Big ‘G’ in the middle of the Georgia red and black cheerleading outfit.
White socks with black and red ruffles around the ankles, the ‘G’ on the side.
Classic white Reeboks.
Me, posed with my fist out front, my face serious.
Me, in the outfit I loved. The outfit I had to wear every Georgia gameday.
Spring weekends. Summer weekends. Fall weekends.
The wind whistling through my clothes as I chase after the ball when I missed a basket.
The sweat running down my forehead after being outside for hours, the Wilson glove on my right hand, daddy’s lobs drifting to me.
And the laughter I hear from my daddy when I don’t catch the football.
I’m standing in right field.
We all know what that means — the place they put the worst player on the team.
I’m determined to be good. Daddy’s determined for me to be good.
That’s why we went to UGA’s field the weekend before the game to practice my catching.
And I miss throw after throw after throw. Daddy’s high pop ups, slow-rolling grounders, cheesecake line drives.
“Catch at least one before we go,” he says. I can hear the I’m-your-biggest-cheerleader in his voice.
About 10 pop-ups later, I’m soaked wet from rain, and I caught one.
Three days later, I’m standing in right field.
Front row, behind first base, as usual. The place he sits even when I’m on the bench.
He’s there. Always.
When I want to quit, he’s cheering “just keep trying, you got it.”
I’m five years old, playing dolls in my room when I hear a “WOOOOOOO!”
What happened? What’s that?
I go into the hallway, peek around the corner to the den and see it. See Daddy, smile bigger than the kool-aid man.
“What happened, Daddy?”
He grins, “Georgia just scored a touchdown.”
We sit and I try to follow the excitement. No clue what a touchdown is, but if Daddy stands up and claps and yells, so do I.
During halftime, Daddy gives me a lesson, teaches me the terminology — Field goal. Punt. Touchdown.
Each week, I learn something new.
Player names — D.J. Shockley, the team captain, Greg Blue, the defensive captain, Mark Richt, the coach.
Positions and their responsibilities — quarterback, tackle, wide receiver.
Other team names — Florida, Alabama, Tennessee.
Penalties — targeting, offsides, interference.
Not only do the lessons happen with football. They happen with EVERY sport.
We watch basketball. We watch Nascar. We watch Wrestling. We watch everything. If it’s a sport, we watch it.
Speeding home from the store to make sure we don’t miss kick-offs on Saturdays.
Wolfing down Sunday lunch so we don’t miss kick-offs on Sunday.
By age ten, I’m a full on sports fan.
I’m my daddy.
Anticipating the start of games. Dressed in matching team clothes. Waiting to cheer on whatever sport’s coming on TV.
Even when I switch from Georgia and decide I’m going to be a LSU fan, my daddy buys me and him the same purple LSU Tigers shirt — LSU in yellow with tiger on the front.
At 16 years old, every Saturday in the fall I put on my Georgia gear, buy food and countdown to kickoff.
“WOOOOOOOOO!” echos through the house.
And my mama yells from her bedroom, “Kenny, be quiet.”
And my daddy yells back, “That was Kennae.”