Six degrees: Friday’s Flashback

We live in a small world. 70 percent of Earth is water, the rest is land.

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.
— Neil Armstrong Apollo 11 astronaut and first man to walk on the moon.

'Earthrise' first photo of Earth from space - December 1968 courtesy of NASA
‘Earthrise’ first photo of Earth from space – December 1968 courtesy of NASA

I grew up in Houston in the late 60s and early 70s. I remember the night Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, but I was more interested in football, and other sports, than I was in space.

My parents moved to Sugar Land, a small growing suburb of Houston, in 1967. We moved in in early August and my mom still lives there. The same year, the Regners moved in next door. Tom Regner and his wife, Shirley, moved in next door. He was 21 and less than a year out of college with a baby on the way. I was six years old and my world was small, very small, little did I know how truly small the world was.

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Mr. Regner played football for the Houston Oilers. He was drafted in the first round, the 23rd overall pick in the 1967 NFL draft. His NFL career lasted until 1972 when he was traded to the Baltimore Colts and he retired. He came out of retirement in 1974 to play for the Houston Texans of the World Football League. After the season, he retired for good and opened Venetian Village, an Italian restaurant.

Mr. Regner always seemed larger than life; he was big – 6’ 4” and 240 lbs., strong, and always had a smile and a laugh, even after I dropped an entire tray of bar glassware when I was working as a dishwasher on night in the restaurant. I think he said, “Well, you didn’t break them all, get a broom….”

I remember being in their home and looking at his ‘football wall.’ There were team pictures from his college years at Notre Dame and each of his Houston Oiler team photos and helmets. There was a game ball from the Notre Dame – Michigan State game that had ended in a 10-10 tie and a photo of Mr. Regner and his coach at Notre Dame, Ara Parseghian. I stared in awe.

I moved away from Sugar land in 1984, the Regners moved away a few years later in 1987. I lost contact, but I always remembered growing up next to Mr. Regner and his family and working for him in his restaurant.

The same year I moved away from Sugar Land, I met B, my wife. We met the summer of ’84. I met her dad, John Weaver, when he and his wife came to visit that summer. He was a big guy, just over six feet and strong in every way – physical and personality, but he was personable and always had a smile and laugh. B and I married in ’91 by then I knew Mr. Weaver better and a little more about Mr. Weaver. He, too was larger than life, and had played college football, and a year of professional football in the NFL.

He passed away last summer and we miss him, life is not the same without him.

W, my son plays high school football. This summer he and his team played in several 7 on 7 tournaments, one tournament was at Notre Dame. 7 on 7 football is a passing game – the quarterback and six receivers against seven defenders. W plays tight end. The tournament games were played on Notre Dame’s practice field and the final game was to be played on Notre Dame’s famed football stadium.

The Tigers played well and made the final. I thought of Mr. Regner when I stepped on to the field and I watched the Tigers play well, but were outplayed by a team Texas and they finished second in the tournament. Ironic. After the game, the teams were allowed to tour the Notre Dame locker room. You could feel the history of the program, but I could sense more.

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A few years ago, I noticed a comment a Facebook post on a friend’s status from Mrs. Regner and I ‘friended’ her. She replied we exchanged notes and over time, I’d see a status update and leave a comment. A few weeks ago, after W’s trip to Notre Dame, I saw an update that Mr. Regner had passed away. I was saddened to learn the news.

Six degrees of separation is a theory that seeks to explain the smallness of the world. According to the theory, a person is separated by six relationships from everyone else in the world.

In 1967, when the Regners moved in, I was five degrees away from my wife. I didn’t know it then and it was only until a few years ago that I put the relationship together.

  • 1967 – I lived in in Sugar Land
  • 1967 – Tom Regner moved in and was my neighbor – he would be my boss a few years later – he played football for Houston Oilers.
  • 1963-66 – Tom Regner played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – he was an All-American his senior year. Mr. Regner’s head coach was Ara Parseghian.
  • 1946-47 – Ara Parseghian played football at Miami University. John Weaver was his teammate. Weaver played 1946-49. Both Parseghian and Weaver are in Miami University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
  • 1984 – I meet B, we marred seven years later.

Me – Mr. Regner – Coach Parseghian – Mr. Weaver – B

Five degrees and the rest is history.

While I was at Notre Dame, I could sense the importance of my visit. The locker room visit was special and on the way out of the locker room, I saw the legendary sign. I made a point to touch it on the way out.playlikeachampionBoth men played football and life like champions. We live in a small world and we are here on Earth for just a short time. It’s important to make or days count, both did, and they paid it forward.

Today is gonna be a great day, I know it and I can feel it. The past couple of days have been very windy and we haven’t had the boat on the lake. We made the day count in other ways – the oven arrived, installed, and works. However, we moved our dinner to tonight – long story. We cleaned the kitchen and dinner tonight is ribs, baked beans, coleslaw, and blueberry crisp with homemade vanilla ice cream. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one relationship, one degree at a time.

How small is your world?

NOTE: I have blogged about the two extraordinary men before, but never explained the relationship.

Regner

Weaver

History is a funny thing, when we look back we can always see how we got where we are, but when we are living it, it’s difficult to see. Abraham Lincoln observed, “The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.” Indeed.

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5 thoughts on “Six degrees: Friday’s Flashback

  1. Football perhaps is the ultimate example of how we’re all connected, and how one event impacts a million more. One draft pick, one trade, one tackle, one catch, can change history for so many. Remember that the difference between Terry Bradshaw going to the Chicago Bears or Pittsburgh Steelers was the result of one coin flip.

    I love this story, Clay. Especially the part when all the parts made sense to you.

    1. Thanks, Eli. When I wrote the piece I felt as if I were pouring out my soul and I thought it would get a lot of hits and reads, but hardly any. But I don’t write for the masses, I write for me. The blog has helped me through a lot – it’s sort of a public diary with a filter, of sorts. Thanks for stopping in, today is gonna be a great day. I know it.

    1. Mr. Regner was under 30 when my dad left and sort of filled a void when my dad left In high school I had a class with Andrea Phillips, Bum Phillip’s daughter (the Oilers head coach) – she was a great person – her older brother Wade was a head coach in the NFL for several teams. Indeed it is a small world.

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?