by Ben Hargrave
As the eldest child and head anchor of the Sports Sports Sports Network, it behooves me to be the first to speak, and I have to say – it’s an absolutely gorgeous start to the evening here in San Diego, California. By golly would a night like tonight make for some fun football – 88 degrees, a light breeze rolling through, and the last light of the sunset shining on us in an orange-red glow – wow! You couldn’t ask for more perfect circumstances to watch elite athletes play classic American gridiron, but that’s not what tonight’s about. Folks, we’re here to honor the life of my father – Buster Puviano – who died last week.
Despite the somber mood, it’s really great to see everyone. The crowd here is nuts! This funeral must be sold out! Dad would’ve loved that. To see everyone on the family team here together – despite some bitter rivalries – it’s a breathtaking sight. You all were his biggest fans and if there ever was a man who was inspired by his supporters – it was Dad. I knew if he were here right now he’d tackle each and everyone one of you, then ask for your autograph. That’s the kind of person – I mean – coach, Coach Buster was.
To paint a true picture of the man, I think it’s important we mention Dad’s stats: he spent most of his life as a 6’1”, 223lb human male with the physique of a silver-back gorilla and the mind of an aerospace engineer. In his 86 years Dad experienced or obtained 37 individual sexual encounters (34 female, 3 male), 2 Master’s Degrees, 1 marriage to our loving mother, 3 kidney stones, 8 children, 1 1973 Corvette, 9 Steely Dan studio albums, 4 Weber grills, 109 prostate exams, 3 Golden Retrievers, and about a million High Lifes! Boy, did the man love to drink – in moderation – and only on Sundays.
With those kinds of numbers, it’s a surprise to no one that Dad flourished in his younger years. His brain held no equal while attending both Champaign High and later, the University of Michigan, where he performed extraordinary feats of the mind: he could square root any number in 4.23 seconds, his brain easily bench-pressed the heavy philosophical works of Hume and Kant, and he consistently caused the demons of poverty and hunger to fumble through a lifelong commitment to community service. Dad had made a pact with himself to always be there to stiff-arm the needs of the needy, right in the face.
When mom passed away, her departure as head coach of the family left a hole right in the defensive lines of our hearts. And what did Dad do? He kept his assistant coach hat on, and plopped hers right on top, assumed both roles and inadvertently started a fashion trend that lasted four years. He taught us that to be an productive member in this the sport we call existence is to be a utility player – a quarterback of caring, a referee against the off-sides and face-masks of evil, and a wide receiver of the accolades that only you yourself can earn through blood, sweat, tears, beers, nachos, hamburgers, hot dogs, and determination.
Coach Buster’s philosophy was that we each were the head coach of our own lives. Ha! We all knew that at the end of the day it was his call to put us in the time-out bench if we were being unruly. He was the real owner of Team Puviano – a Bob Kraft of crafting us into intelligent, empathetic, and goal-oriented individuals. To Coach, we were on a contract – and you bet your butts he threatened to terminate it every time one of us forgot to do our chores! He severed mine once when I forgot to take out the trash on Sunday and I then lived with Nana for three weeks. Lesson learned.
You see, Dad knew that manual labor would instill in us the appreciation of hard work. It’s also statistically known that children who perform household duties end up being more emotionally stable, successful, and super jacked with eight-pack abs, delts for days, and glutes you could bounce a quarter off of. So he made sure the chores we did around the house as youths combined intense physical and mental stimulation, which is why we’ve always been in amazing shape, graduated from Ivy League schools, and was a large motivating factor for holding this funeral on Coronado Beach. To not glaze these bods with would be a sin.
Simply said: Coach was an amazing father who raised us right, and I frankly don’t have the words or the time to say everything there is to say about him. Seriously, I have to peace out soon – the co-ed beach football tournament starts in 12 minutes.
Before I go, I do have time for one more story. After my first high school breakup, I was a wreck. Sensing this, Dad said, “Son, dating someone and being there for them means that your heart must drop deep in the pocket of love. When that happens, you’re at your most vulnerable, and the only way you can succeed is by throwing a Hail Mary of the heart. Well, Brooke caught it, and you two scored a soul-touchdown together. Now, you both didn’t end up winning, but you did discover what it means to be a player in this game of life. And that often entails feeling like shit.” He was an eloquent man.
Well, I’m gonna pass the mic over to Joel now, though there’s something Dad told me to ask everyone in the event that he died because – as we all know – he wanted his passing to be a celebration:
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FUNERAL?!
A MONDAY NIGHT PARTY!
Ben Hargrave is a comedian, writer, and videographer living in New York who makes his own peanut butter (is so good). Check out his tweets @HarHarHargrave – it would mean a lot to him.