Brian Gushue wanted to write a grand book, but only after reaching half-a-grand.
Gushue has done both and we’re not quite sure how he did it either.
Not the scribbling part, as Gushue was a longtime and top-notch copyeditor at the North County Times. Heaven knows he crafted my stories into better reads, with his eye for detail, accuracy and fairness.
What’s amazing is that Gushue really did reach his goal, which is revealed in his first book, “The Grass Is Always Greener: One Football Fan’s Improbable Quest to Attend 500 NFL Games.”
That’s right, 500.
Gushue zigzagged across the nation for more than 40 years to hit his magical number. It was appropriate that Gushue notched No. 500 in Green Bay, as his smile from a photo at that game looked like someone had just said “cheese.”
This is a book with few holes in it, Swiss or otherwise. Instead it’s a journey that lets the reader ride shotgun along with Gushue, who never witnessed an NFL game that he didn’t like.
What doesn’t float Gushue’s boat is artificial turf. A game being contested on something other than grass ensures that Gushue’s, uhm, backside won’t be in a seat to watch it.
“I just like the game better on grass,” he said. “That was the way it was meant to be played.”
So Gushue gravitates to venues with playing surfaces that have to be watered. It’s the appearance, texture and smell of grass that triggers Gushue’s senses when he settles in.
When getting cozy with Gushue’s book, it’s clear he’s not new to the game. His recountings of various games arrive with keen stories about the players and the big picture of what is transpiring. That alone makes it an interesting read, but there’s also a caveat that makes his work inspirational as well.
The next time you are grousing about the inconveniences of travel, think about Gushue. He completed his goal despite being restricted in how long he can stand, and he mostly gets around via his wheelchair.
Cerebral palsy has been part of Gushue’s life since childhood. But if it has slowed him down, good luck trying to find where.
His determination to stiff-arm his disease only adds another layer to “Grass Is Always Greener.” And I’m green with envy in how Gushue not only brushes off his disability but does so with a grin and a manner that is nothing but gracious.
“I credit that to my parents,” Gushue said. “They made sure I was as independent as possible when I was raised. I tell people that was a decision in which I reap dividends from every day.”
After a series of operations, Gushue’s balance was good enough that he could walk well without crutches and play street football with his neighborhood buddies. While Gushue’s legs were compromised, it turned out he had a rocket for a right arm.
“I had a God-given ability to throw a spiral,” Gushue said, and here comes the smile again. “And I had a good, strong arm.”
And like any good son, he rooted for the opposite team as his parents. While they crossed their heart for the Dallas Cowboys, Gushue went hip, hip, hooray for the Miami Dolphins. And in particular, Bob Griese, their star quarterback.
Gushue could only briefly play football, and as he said, “I had five or six good years.” But Gushue never stopped rooting for Griese as he saw him play once and then attended his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 1990. An unlikely friendship was formed between them and it still flourishes today.
Which brings us to a ruse that I admit to orchestrating.
The Dolphins made a visit to San Diego just prior to the Chargers fleeing. Griese was part of Miami’s broadcasting crew and we got word to Griese that Gushue would be tailgating at his normal spot outside Gate H. So we doctored up an email with a dolphins.com address, saying a Miami media relations executive wanted to meet Gushue.
Imagine the surprise when Griese traipsed across the parking lot’s asphalt to surprise Gushue.
“They say you don’t want to meet your idols, but that was nothing but a memorable day for me,” Gushue said.
There’s another one on the horizon and you’re invited. Gushue is having a book signing at Warwick’s in La Jolla on March 22 and it promises to be an uplifting affair.
“Don’t let obstacles prevent you from pursuing your dreams,” Gushue said. “If they mean enough to you and your heart, you should pursue them as much as you can.”
How much? The number 500 comes to mind.
Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him at jparis_sports.