Mom was the best of good sports

Posted May 06, 2010, at 10:28 p.m.

Patricia Clark wasn’t a big sports fan.

Not that she was totally unfamiliar with the competitive arena. She always had on a chest of drawers in her bedroom a trophy cup her mother, Henrietta Cleland, won as a member of the Washington County champion 1925 Shead Memorial High School girls basketball team.

Her dad, Ernest, was a fairly passionate Red Sox fan, as was her brother Roy, who also was big into youth baseball in New Britain, Conn.

And when the third of Patricia’s five children became more comfortable carrying a basketball or a tennis racket than a good book while making his way through school, she and her husband became loyal supporters — hoping he’d be successful, but more concerned that he be happy and healthy.

As the years went by, she became a contrarian Boston sports fan, secretly hoping for the best, but anticipating the worst — a trait, I suppose — that stemmed from living the 52 years of her life joining the rest of what was to become Red Sox Nation in chiming “wait ‘til next year” each September.

And as her sons watched the Patriots begin to enjoy a measure off success, so, too, did she regularly assume her chair in the living room to watch many of the games, though there was never the sense that she completely understood the sport.

But NASCAR — that was something she could understand well enough to look forward to every Sunday afternoon.

She quickly became a Dale Earnhardt fan, appreciative of his ability to do what other drivers could not, and amused by his curt replies to the media after a disappointing day.

But when Earnhardt died at the 2001 Daytona 500, so, too, did some of her passion for the sport.

Yet some of that passion survived. She eventually adopted Tony Stewart as her new favorite driver — much to the chagrin of her best friend Barbara — and she continued to dislike Jeff Gordon.

Gordon, of course, had overtaken Earnhardt as NASCAR’s dominant driver before Earnhardt’s passing, and like most Earnhardt fans she wasn’t easily accepting of the changing times.

It got to the point that at the urging of her sons she took ownership of the “Jeff Gordon Voodoo Car” in an effort to do her part to impart bad karma on the No. 24.

Upon being presented a miniature die-cast of the rainbow-colored Dupont Chevrolet, she proceeded to attack it with all the fervor a fan could muster while those around her celebrated the weekly ritual.

One Sunday morning the weapon of choice was a hammer. The next week, she ran over the die-cast with her Chevrolet Caprice Classic. The following week, she squeezed it in a vise.

After more than a month of such antics, the die-cast was most assuredly demolished – and she had the satisfaction of knowing that Gordon had gone all that time without a win.

It was all in fun, of course, and indeed it was great fun to share so many such episodes away from the pressures of everyday life.

Times are different today. Patricia Clark passed away last Dec. 10, leaving her family with an incredible void but also a lifetime of memories filled with her humor and willingness to give of herself.

As the first Mother’s Day without her approaches, such memories flood the mind. They don’t replace the loss, but they sure help brighten the moment.

Thanks Mom.

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