The story starts with a father and son watching the Super Bowl, Super Bowl VIII in 1974, to be specific.
The father asks his 6-year-old son who his favorite team is.
"What's the team in blue?" the son says.
"That's the Dolphins," the father replies.
"Then I'm a Dolphins fan, the son says decisively.
"Who is your favorite player," the father asks next.
"Who's that running the football, dad, No. 39?" the son asks.
"That's Larry Csonka," the father replies.
"Then Larry Csonka is my favorite player," the son says.
By now you've deduced that son is me. That's how my 45-year love of the Miami Dolphins started.
Over the years, I wanted to meet Csonka and tell him what he meant to me in my youth. In 1988 when I was attending SUNY Albany, there was a sports banquet featuring Csonka. I had to go, so I paid $100 (a lot of my spending money for the semester) for a ticket.
I arrived at the hotel and saw a sign in front of the ballroom where the banquet was to be held. Because Csonka endorsed a different beer than the banquet's sponsor, he had to cancel his appearance at the last minute. I still went to the banquet, but boy was I disappointed.
The next year Csonka made an appearance at a Syracuse department store. I couldn't make it home, but my mom went and got an autographed photo for which I was grateful.
More years passed, but I still wanted that chance to meet my childhood idol. Then I read that Csonka was coming back to Syracuse University last weekend for an autograph and picture opportunity at the spring scrimmage. This was my chance, finally.
So last Saturday, my daughter Kaeleigh joined her dad, wearing a Dolphins No. 39 jersey, as we joined a long line on the side of the Carrier Dome to meet Larry Csonka from 11 a.m. until noon.
When I realized the line wasn't moving that fast as high noon approached, I knew my chance of meeting him and getting his autograph went from slim to none.
But there was one more opportunity. After the scrimmage, there would be a chance for photos with Csonka and other SU legends Floyd Little and Tom Coughlin.
As soon as the scrimmage ended and we were allowed onto the Dome turf, I looked for Csonka. As soon as I found him I walked over and introduced myself, told him I'd been a Dolphins fan for 45 years and that he was my all-time favorite player.
I'm almost 52 years old but I didn't care how that sounded, in a way I was 7-years-old again, an enthusiastic kid. I showed him the Sports Illustrated from Super Bowl VIII that he was on the cover.
"Would you like me to sign that?" he said.
All the years of waiting and patience, finally came to fruition.
"Please, if you could, thank you very much."
Then Csonka joined Coughlin and Little for pictures. Kaeleigh and I waited in line and when it was our time, Coughlin looked at me and said with a smile, "I know who he wants to stand next to."
After the picture, I still couldn't believe all of this actually happened. I had finally met Larry Csonka. Wow!
We left the Dome and walked back to the parking lot. Then we heard a car beep at us. We turned our heads, and saw in the front passenger window, of course, Csonka waving at us. It was the perfect ending.