Dear Stubby,

Last week I learned that you were at Oregon Health and Sciences University in critical condition. I decided that for my column this week I'd send you a get-well letter. I was a little hesitant at first, but then I got to thinking about how in your time here in Seaside you haven't exactly tried to avoid the spotlight. Besides, I bounced the idea off your minister and he gave me the A-OK, so if you find this whole thing a little insensitive, blame him.

When my wife and I moved to the North Coast 22 years ago, you were the second person I had a conversation with. The first was Ed Rippet, who hired me. We'd arrived in late August just in time to start daily doubles. I had never coached high school football before, so I was a little apprehensive. My wife was very pregnant. Due any day, as a matter of fact, so that was having an effect on the stress meter, too.

The Monday evening before school was supposed to start, I was in the crawl space trying to redo some plumbing in the house we'd just bought so that we'd have hot water. We'd gone several days without a shower. I was under the house when my wife started stomping on the floorboards above my head saying, "Mark, I think it's time!"

I crawled out from under the house and gave you a call to see if your offer to take care of our son Michael was still good. You told us to bring him over and to plan on having him spend the night.

When we got to your place, I asked if I could use your shower so I could wash the dirt and cobwebs out of my hair before driving to the hospital. A little insensitive, now that I think about it, considering the fact that my wife was going into labor.

When I got out of your shower, my wife let me know that she was starting to have some serious contractions. We left your house and less than a half an hour later Lindsey was born. If I'd delayed us any longer, Becky would have given birth on your lazy boy.

Those who merely know of you, but don't actually know you, probably see you as 90 percent ego and 10 percent undecided. I'm not saying the ego part doesn't exist, but over the years, I've come to know that you are generous almost to a fault. In fact I'd use the cliche that you'd give people the shirt off your back, but in my case it's true.

Being the clotheshorse that you are, you tend to change wardrobes regularly. Several years ago, you started giving my son Michael your hand-me-downs. When he started to outgrow them, he gave them to me. Last year I was walking down the hall at school wearing one of your shirts. A student approached me and said, "Hey, Mr. Mizell, you're stylin'." That was the only time a student ever said that to me.

It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since you coached the Seaside football team to a state championship. I can still picture you pacing the sidelines in the cold October air, barking instructions to your players (and to the officials).

That was quite a group of kids. Kelly McKirdy and I coached that group when they were seventh-graders. And, I remember an administrator at Broadway Middle School telling Kelly and me that maybe we were putting a little too much emphasis on winning. "It's pretty obvious that winning isn't our only objective," I protested. "Look at our record." We didn't win a single game that year.

When those kids moved up to the high school, though, you and your coaching staff really put in a lot of hours with them. By the time they were seniors, they were a well-oiled machine, brimming with confidence. You've always had a knack for building kids up, the most important thing a coach or a teacher can do.

My son holds you in high regard, primarily for that reason. I remember a time back when he was a sophomore that his loyalty for you got him into a little trouble. You were coaching the varsity baseball team at the time. You asked one of the players to help clean up the bus. He got angry and said the same thing to you that Dick Cheney recently said to one of his colleagues. My son and a couple others followed the boy into the locker room and taped him to a pole. As misguided as it was, I couldn't help admiring him for sticking up for you.

A few days later Michael apologized to the boy and he forgave him. However, the Portland media got ahold of the story and ran with it. Pretty soon the incident was "gang-related." Pretty soon there were trucks from two different Portland television stations in the estuary parking lot just outside my window. Ironically, it was the kid that got taped who ended up feeling sorry for the kids that had done the taping because they were getting such negative media attention.

Ultimately, the authorities ordered Michael to serve 40 hours of community service, which he did, I'm proud to say, without protest.

In the back of my mind I thought perhaps the taping incident would lead my son to a life of crime. However, he ended up graduating from Willamette last spring and now he's working for AmeriCorps, so I think he's going to be OK.

Speaking of graduation, I hope Michael sent you a thank you note for the college graduation gift you gave him.

Anyway, that's about it. Hope you pull through this okay. Get better.

Sincerely,

Mark

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