Tim Farkas: Big shoes to fill at the big game



I shouldn't have been there. I shouldn't have had to be there.

At Ohio State-Michigan. In historic Ohio Stadium. At the 15-yard line. With his son. In his seat.

In my brother's place on Saturday, I attended the 109th meeting between the Buckeyes and Wolverines -- one of the biggest rivalries in football -- for the first time ever.

As a show of support for my beloved team, the one I've followed since 1969, I wore a red Buckeyes hoodie and a black T-shirt emblazoned with the team's logo.

For my brother, I wore purple -- a wristband designating support for pancreatic cancer patients.

Last April, I wore it enthusiastically, in celebration of his strong fight against a disease that has a five-year survival rate of only 1 percent in its most aggressive stage.

In June, I wore the wristband sadly.

At his funeral.

My brother, Stephen A. Farkas -- no, Stevie -- died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 63 after battling the relentless disease for nine months.

He was a father, a husband, a son, a brother. He was an avid cyclist and a sports fan, especially of the Buckeyes and the Chicago White Sox, two teams that bonded us forever.

He was a doctor who saved lives, but no one could save his.

Stevie graduated from medical school at Ohio State in 1973, and as an alumnus, he had the opportunity to buy two tickets for one game each football season. He had a chance to see home games against powerhouse schools Texas and Miami (Fla.). He also received tickets for lesser opponents.

Five years ago, my oldest son and I attended the Buckeyes' home game against the University of Akron with Stevie and his son, Joey, because they got extra tickets through Akron U., the university in my hometown.

That game marked my first trip ever to Ohio Stadium.

This past May, as part of his spring routine, Stevie applied for Ohio State tickets, and he again was awarded them -- for The Game for the first time, about a month after he had lost his fight with cancer.

My nephew, now living and working in Columbus, invited me to attend Saturday's game in Stevie's place.

And so on that bittersweet day, we traveled from Joey's house to the stadium, up the old, steep steps to Section 24C, Row 38, Seat 35.

His seat. A seat I shouldn't have had, yet a seat I embraced with pride.

Joey and I talked about football, we talked about family, we talked about his dad and my brother. We shared memories that made us laugh and ones that brought tears to our eyes because we knew he no longer was with us.

Ohio State won 26-21 before a crowd of nearly 106,000 to finish 12-0, the sixth undefeated and untied season in the team's history. As the game clock was winding down, I looked at the red-clad mob on the field, and then I looked skyward. Stevie and I always reveled in Ohio State's big wins together, and this day was no different.

"Dad would have loved it. A perfect season," Joey said.

If only the day itself could have been perfect.

If only Stevie could have been there.

Tim Farkas is The Eagle's executive editor. To reach him:
or (413) 496-6205.
On Twitter: @BEexeceditor.


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