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Mr. Facer’s Opus

One of my dad’s favorite movies is Mr. Holland’s Opus, which starring Richard Dreyfuss, is the saga of a high school music teacher’s career as he experiences the highs and lows of molding young minds, passing along his love of music, and experiencing heartbreaks and heartaches of varying sizes.

The movie ends with Mr. Holland losing his long-held position at the school due to budget cuts and other unfair circumstances beyond his control. While for a moment, it seems that Mr. Holland will never truly receive the appreciation he deserves for his time and energy given in the fulfillment of his job, the movie ends with a reunion of his students playing a powerful and rousing symphony that Mr. Holland had been writing throughout the movie.

It’s a really great scene and probably one of the best endings of a movie that I have ever seen.

I used to watch that scene with my dad and acknowledge it was decent while keeping a more vigilant eye on my phone or something else that seemed more important at the time.

Lately, though, I’ve been watching that scene a lot on my own. And the thing is, I can’t hold back my tears while I do so.

I’m watching it right now on YouTube and sure enough, here come the waterworks.

As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, my dad was laid off from his sportswriting job this week after more than 26 years of service to his community and to his publication.

Not unlike Mr. Holland, he was let go due to budgetary and restructuring reasons. And it happened in the blink of an eye.

My dad called me at my little room in Kissimmee, Florida just a couple of minutes after his unceremonious release from his company.

I was stunned. I couldn’t speak. It was as bad of news as I could possibly imagine. I spent the next few hours lying in my bed feeling as though I had lost a close relative.

Perhaps sensing from nearly 2,000 miles away that I was hurting, my dad called again to tell me to cheer me up. While he was surprised at what had just transpired, he assured me that he was going to be okay and that all would be well in our world.

That’s just the kind of guy he is.

For my entire life, I had always been so proud of the fact that my dad had the coolest job in the world. I looked forward to Career Day in elementary school as one of the best days of the school year. I knew that my dad was going to be able to come and tell an enthralled group of grade-schoolers about how going to Utah Jazz games and interviewing legendary sports figures was part of his everyday routine. The envy of my classmates was absolutely delicious.

While the jealousy of my friends was cool, the best part of having a sportswriter dad was how much he included me in his work. Many of my dad’s colleagues came to find out that whenever he was on the job, there was a pretty good chance that I was right there with him, even when I was a little boy. I remember once, my dad pulled me out of school to accompany him to a practice session during the 1998 NBA Finals. For me, who was a 6-year old fanatic of the Space Jam movie and of Michael Jordan (sorry, Jazz fans), it was breathtaking and unforgettable to see MJ up close and in person.

That tradition continued throughout my teenage years. I don’t think I missed attending a single Utah football practice with my dad during the Urban Meyer era. I’m sure if you look through old clips and photographs of Meyer conducting a post-practice interview, you’ll see me in the background, probably misbehaving in some way.

But it wasn’t just at practices that I got to tag along with my dad. For Christmas in 2003, he bought me a plane ticket to go with him to Memphis to watch the Utes play in the Liberty Bowl. I don’t remember the game very well, I think Utah won 17-0, but I remember how well my dad and I ate that week as we tried nearly every legendary barbeque joint on Beale Street. My mom would lament that she spent years paying off all the ribs my dad and I threw down.

Other memorable trips with my dad include seeing the majesty of the University of Notre Dame, watching the Utes finish an undefeated season in the Fiesta Bowl, and many, many others.

When it was time for me to pick my own career path, it was clear what I wanted to do and be. I wanted to be just like my dad and work in sports media. Little did I know, he had already laid the groundwork for me to achieve many of my dreams.

My own sports media career started when I over-ambitiously applied to be a broadcasting assistant with the Utah Jazz under radio voice David Locke. Even though I had absolutely no broadcasting and very little sports media experience of my own, I somehow got an interview with Locke. When I got to the interview, Locke asked me why I wanted the job.

I had no sooner said “Well, my dad is a sportswriter and I really love the sports media industry,” when Locke cut me off and asked, “Your dad is Dirk, isn’t he?”

I was so proud to say yes and even prouder when Locke stated his admiration for my dad, calling him, “the nicest guy in the business.”

I got the job and had to work really hard to earn my keep and prove Locke right for taking a chance on me, but I don’t think I can give my dad’s reputation enough credit for helping me get a foot in the door.

I’ve continued to see how priceless it has been to be Dirk Facer’s son since then, and even before then as well. Everyone knows my dad and I have never ever heard a bad word about him. Most people in the Utah sports business say the same thing, that my dad is the nicest guy in the industry. It makes me so happy to hear that every time I come across another sports media member back home.

There are so many other things I can say about my dad. While working under the strain of being an everyday beat writer, he always put me, my mom, and my sister first. He was always there to drive us to school in the morning and pick us up in the afternoon. He was the coach of my baseball and basketball teams, was the trustee of my high school hockey team, also served as the president of Utah High School Hockey, and did so all while excelling at his profession.

Did I mention he won Utah Sportswriter of the Year five times?

He worked all but one Utah football game in the 17 years he spent as the beat writer – his one miss came when he was at a Runnin’ Utes men’s basketball game in New York City. But I’m almost positive he never missed a single one of my hockey games when I was growing up.

He is the best dad anyone could ask for and I’m sure there are few people in the sports media world like him.

I hope he knows how much his work has meant to a lot of people, but especially to me.

Since news got out about my dad, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of love that has come to me, my dad, and my family.

I asked my Twitter followers, including many people in the Utah sports media realm, to submit their stories and memories of my dad to me and my mom. The response was amazing. The tweet has been retweeted and liked several dozen times and has been seen by nearly 40,000 people. (By the way, if you would like to pass something along, please email me or my mom at kfacer68@gmail.com)

My dad didn’t write a musical symphony, but he orchestrated a journalism career defined by love, kindness, and building meaningful relationships. And that is something I’m pretty damn proud of.

It’s not much, but I hope he considers the appreciation that so many have shown to be his opus.

And I want to be the loudest member of his orchestra.

I love you, Dad. You’re my hero.

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