“This is the Place”

by Bob Sparrow


SLC and the Wasatch Mountain Range

That’s what Brigham Young said in 1847 after a long overland trek from Illinois, when standing at the mouth of Emigration Canyon on the east bench of the Wasatch Mountain Range looking over what is now the Salt Lake Valley. It was there that their journey would end and where the Mormon religion would call home as they committed to “make the desert blossom like a rose”. It is said that there was only one tree in the valley at that time, now there are over one million trees and lots of roses.


I was first introduced to Utah in 1964 when visiting the campus of the University of Utah on a football recruiting trip. I was immediately taken by the beauty and majesty of the surrounding mountains. It was January and a blanket of snow covered the Wasatch Range as well as the wide boulevards of Salt Lake City. It was a spectacular winter wonderland, especially for a young man who was born and raised in California.


Tuscany entrance

In recent years Linda and I as well as brother, Jack and wife, Sharon have tried to get back to a Utah football game each season. This year we were joined by Mark & Kathy Johnson for the Utah-Oregon game. The Johnsons had an additional incentive to go to Utah as Mark’s parents and a brother live there.  For the last seven years we have always had our ‘pre-game Friday night meal’ at a wonderful restaurant in Holladay, a southern suburb of Salt Lake, called Tuscany. It is nestled among cottonwood and box elder trees making it barely visible from the street and has a ‘cozy old world’ feel inside. On this Friday night we had one of the owners of the restaurant, Mark Eaton, eating at the table next to us. He was a professional basketball player for the Utah Jazz and is hard to miss at 7’4”. At 59 years old, he looked like he could still play. Delightful dinner, the pork chop is to die for!


Rice-Eccles Stadium

The game was at noon on a clear, crisp Saturday, which kept us from using the day to stop by the campus of my son Jeff’s and my alma mater, Westminster College. But it did not keep us from heading to the tailgate party across from the stadium where Jeff had alerted a Utah alum friend that we would be there and so we were invited to their tailgate party, which was no small bash! With no professional football team within 500 miles, Salt Lake is a college football town, which was easily seen by the throngs of supporters wearing red and pouring into a sold out stadium. Rice-Eccles Stadium was brought up to its current state-of-the-art condition when Salt Lake hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. The football game itself? I suppose it was exciting, but not a good exciting, as Oregon scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2 seconds left in the game to win 30-28.



Our ‘consolation dinner’ that night was down town at the Market Street Grill, which was just a couple of blocks from our City Center Marriott hotel. We were directed to the Main Street Grill by dear friend and neighbor, Marge Dunn, whose niece, Sarah works there. We had a delicious dinner and were able to talk with Sarah, who was bartending this night.

In spite of the Utah heart-breaking loss, which kept them from playing for the Pac-12 South championship the following week, the visit was invigorating. The weather was truly ‘fall-like’, which we don’t get much of in Southern California and Salt Lake has to be one of the cleanest and safest cities in the country. If you’ve never been there, put it on your bucket list, you won’t regret it . . . and don’t forget to have dinner at Tuscany.




The Scarlet Shirt

by Bob Sparrow

                               “The pang of it will always be in the heart”

                                                                                                                                                        Nathanial Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

 Red R     My travels last week were supposed to take me to Salt Lake City for, what I must say with all false modesty aside, an induction into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. OK, it wasn’t exactly me being inducted, it was the entire 1964 Liberty Bowl football team, of which I was a member. OK, I wasn’t actually a regular member – I was a ‘red shirt’ member.

     For those unfamiliar with the term ‘red shirt’, it is a college athlete, who is on the team, but does not suit up and play in games for the entire year in order to save his or her eligibility.  As a ‘red shirt’ quarterback, I ran the offense of our opponents that week, against our first team defense. I felt it was my job to give our defense confidence with my inept play – I apparently succeeded beyond my wildest expectations. “That was a feckless performance Sparrow”, the coaches would shout and I would beam with pride until I learned the definition of the word feckless.  The origin of the term ‘redshirt’ is sketchy at best, but my experience tells me that these non-playing athletes were so bloodied from getting beaten to a pulp in practice that their jerseys were red.


Picture Day – The only time I was allowed to wear a University of Utah uniform

   My red shirt never came off; I came to Utah from junior college and transferred after my redshirt year to play for George Siefert, who had taken his first head coaching job at Westminster College in Salt Lake; yes the same George Siefert who coached the San Francisco 49ers to two Super Bowl championships. The same George Siefert, who at a reunion was quoted as saying, “Yes, I coached Joe Montana and Steve Young, but Bob Sparrow was my first quarterback.” I approached him afterwards to thank him for the recognition and he said, “No, I didn’t say first quarterback I said worst quarterback.”  Oh.

     The Utah Liberty Bowl team was honored at half time of this year’s Utah-Fresno State game and at a banquet held the previous night – I imagined my ‘redshirt invitation’ to these events would look something like this . . .

 Dear Redshirt,

     The 1964 Liberty Bowl football team (and you) will be inducted into the University of Utah Athletes Hall of Fame. There will be a banquet Friday night at 8:00 p.m., could you please get there an hour early so you’ll have time to eat before hand and then serve and clear dishes for the regular team? We have sent commemorative blazers and rings to all the regular players, and have enclosed for you to wear that evening, a double extra large commemorative red shirt. As a special favor, we’re asking that you please plan on sticking around afterwards to help clean up.


The shirt says it all

     The team will be honored at half time of the game on Saturday; would you mind getting to the stadium a little early to wipe down the seats after you finish lining the field? Don’t forget to wear your redshirt to all events, as we don’t want anyone to confuse you with any of the regular team members.

    Maybe I was letting my imagination run a bit wild , but I was just trying to get something off my chest . . . and back – it’s that damn red shirt! Truth be known, I actually got a nice invitation and would have loved to attend, but had other commitments.  I actually had a good experience at Utah and a great experience at Westminster College, where I played football, wrote for the college newspaper and met my first wife . . . OK, two out of three’s not bad; I think she was just a red shirt anyway.


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My Real ‘Next Adventure’

by Bob Sparrow

yogiSince returning from Nepal, I have been asked a number of times about my next adventure; it seems some of you folks take a perverse pleasure in watching me bust my ass in some far-off, third-world country. I am indeed embarking on my next adventure and no, it’s not to Yemen, Somalia, Syria or the Antarctica “just before they close it for the winter” – but thank you Sister Suzanne and several loyal subscribers for your amusing, albeit life-threatening, suggestions. I’m trading in that 26-hour, back-wrenching, butt-numbing flight, for a short hop within the U.S. borders this time. And while this trip may not be as exotic as traveling through Nepal, I’m hoping it will provide a unique look at the spectacular beauty of my favorite part of the country.

I’ll have more company on this adventure, as it will be with couples from ‘the ‘hood’, affectionately, or maybe that’s ‘infectionately’, referred to as the ‘Hoodwink Hikers’. The ‘Hoodwink Hikers’ include our ‘Trail Boss’, Patrick (my Nepal companion) and his wife, Pam; long-time close friends, Mark & Kathy; the comic relief couple, Bob & Jeanne and Linda and me. We are headed to the ‘Intermountain West’ for some hiking and hijinks, not necessarily in that order.


‘The Harvard of the West’

Our plan is to fly into Salt Lake City (home to my son’s and my alma mater, Westminster College, or as we alums like to refer to it, the Harvard of the West), take the beautiful drive from Salt Lake to the Old West town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which sits in the shadow of the Grand Teton Mountains. We’ll spend a couple of days cavorting in the surrounding environs then head to Yellowstone Nat’l Park. Once we’ve seen ‘Old Faithful’ and Yogi Bear (or is that in Jellystone Nat’l Park?) we’ll continue north to join another couple from the ‘hood, Mike & Tanis, who have a second home on Flathead Lake in Polson, Montana. We figure to wear out our welcome there after a couple of days, so we’ll be heading further north to Lake McDonald, which is in scenic Glacier Nat’l Park, where we’ll do some hiking. Some will hike and some will take a tour bus on the picturesque road over the Continental Divide called, ‘Going To The Sun Road’ (sounds long . . . and hot!). We’ll then journey on to Many (pronounced Manny) Glacier for a night.

Jackson Hole

Exclusive Hotel in Jackson Hole

Our final stop will be so far north that it’s south . . . south Canada – a place called Prince of Wales in Alberta, where we’ll stay in a majestic old ‘railroad hotel’ in the Canadian Rockies. We will then drive back to Kalispell, Montana (assuming they will let us back into the country) and fly home.

That’s the plan, but anyone who’s been following our blog, knows that sometimes we deviate from the plan – and with this group of deviates, no plan is safe. Connectivity permitting, I’ll try to post what we actually do and maybe even include some videos, if my son shows me how to do that before we leave. Hope you tag along and enjoy the trip. As always you’re welcome to send me your comments while you’re sitting comfortably on your couch at home eating Bon Bons and I’m busting my ass on that Draconian-sounding road to the center of our solar system.

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