Deleted scenes from a day with Mike Madaras’s father

October 26, 2012

Dave Madaras, father of Maryland offensive lineman Mike Madaras. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

In today’s Post, a story about Maryland left tackle Mike Madaras and his father, Dave. Only so much could fit into the print edition, so here are the best outtakes from a three-hour conversation with Dave at an Olney restaurant.

>> Dave Madaras has three kids now, two boys and a girl. Sam plays varsity offensive line at Good Counsel. Olivia is a freshman basketball player. As a family they vacationed to the Outer Banks or Florida, VHS tapes of Mickey Mouse loaded into a nine-inch television hooked into the cigarette lighter. They hiked up Sugar Loaf Mountain, father and sons together, or rode bikes along the C&O Canal. The boys always wandered off, and always returned with some wild story. “Dad, I didn’t know geese hissed,” Sam once said.

>> Sometimes, youth football coach Barry Tolbert would invite the Urbana Hawks over for film study. One of the parents owned a pizza restaurant, and always brought over piping pies of distraction, so much so that Tolbert banished the pizza to the deck for a post-viewing snack. Once, when Tolbert walked outside, he saw Mike sitting on the ground, three pizzas in his lap, hell-bent on eating them all. “Dave, we only have so many pizzas,” Tolbert pleaded to the father. “You try taking them away,” Dave said.

>> When Mike and Sam were young and getting too hyper for their mother to handle, Dave would stick them in the car and drive them into the middle of nowhere. The Madaras boys would hop out, walk around in the woods, playing until they were exhausted and fell asleep for the ride home.

>> Speaking of Mike’s mother, here’s the story of how Dave and her met:

After the 1983 bombing in Beirut, Dave stuck around in Lebanon for another month, a quiet time he spent pulling guard duty on an outpost in the middle of a two-lane highway, bartering with a local 10-year-old Palestinian boy for bottles of Johnnie Walker Red. Once Dave and his unit left Beirut, they went for a “wash down” in Spain. There, they attended a party with Marines and sailors, where you take two sips of your beer and the mug gets refilled. “It was like, hello Mr. Gasoline, why don’t you meet Mr. Match,” Dave said. True to form, a fight broke out.

Dave returned home and spent the remainder of his active duty at Camp Lejeune, occasionally traveling around. He saw California and the Arctic Circle and the Northern Lights in Norway. He finally earned that two-year honors degree at Montgomery College, taking construction management classes at night and building houses during the day before moving to Massachusetts for a Bachelor’s degree at Wentworth College. Then one night back in Maryland, at a Poolesville field party with 10 kegs, two bands and one pig, Dave stood chewing some sort of animal part before finally mustering the courage to ask a blonde knockout named Kim Dickson to dance.

Kim majored in zoology at the University of Maryland and they fell hard, eloping a year and a half later to the Frederick County Courthouse, where Dave put 50 cents into the meter, issued his vows, kissed the bride and still had a quarter remaining when he returned to the car. Within the year, Dave was holding Michael Gabriel Madaras, staring at those big, blue eyes.

“You ask about a moment in time when everything changed and I became a different person? That happened the second Mike was born,” Dave said. “Married with a baby? That’s called responsibility, buddy.”

>> Mike weighed around eight pounds at birth. A friend at Dave’s work, when he was helping build the Reagan Building in Washington, started a rumor that Mike weighed 12 pounds.

>> The night Mike was born, Dave hated the hospital food so much that he went across the street and bought a Whopper at Burger King.

>> Dave’s first mission in Beirut was a real one, when insurgents fired upon the camp in August, killing a lieutenant and a staff sergeant in Alpha Company. Protocol was to return fire by popping illumination flares 100 feet over the target, a warning shot. But once the killed-in-action message came through, Dave’s section chief said damn the protocol, forget the 100-foot buffer. Point those barrels to the hills and end their lives.

>> Tolbert helped found the I-70 league because of how crowded the Carroll County Football League was, and because the CCFL had weight restrictions. So the I-70 league fielded rosters with equal parts tiny children and kids as big as Mike. It eventually grew to seven organizations and 15 teams. When Dave helped coach the Urbana Hawks, four of his five offensive linemen went to start on Urbana High School’s 2010 state championship team. The fifth was Mike.

The I-70 and the CCFL were supposed to work in conjunction, but things always seemed mean-spirited. CCFL players called the I-70 kids “donut boys” and other derisive nicknames. The I-70 administrators called the CCFL “The Little Johnny Superstar League.”

“The CCFL part of the organization always seemed to resent us,” Tolbert said. “I don’t know if it was because they had to share field space, or couldn’t find referees, but we always had this antagonistic relationship. The CCFL part started trying to undermine and destroy it, after year one or year two, which they ended up doing. The I-70 doesn’t exist anymore. “

They’d often scrimmage the CCFL teams during practice, and because of players like Mike, often held their own at the line of scrimmage. “If we were to play a real game,” Tolbert said, “they would have killed us.” But Mike and others gained respect from the CCFL players. They knew that, if Mike was ever allowed to play in the CCFL, he’d dominate.

>> When Good Counsel Coach Bob Milloy first recruited Mike, he watched the preteen boom the opening kickoff, sprint downfield and level the returner. “I’ve seen all I need to see,” said Milloy, who played against Dave Madaras in high school.

>> “So I have this gorilla suit,” Dave begins, as if ape costumes are a perfectly textbook method for raising children. He’s crammed into a booth as he tells this tale, gripping a burger stuffed with cheese in his massive hands like it’s a chicken nugget, laughing about the time he greeted the yellow school bus wearing a hairy gorilla suit with SpongeBob SquarePants boxers over the crotch. 

It’s a pattern of hilarious embarrassment. Once, the neighbors were hosting a camp-out. An adult was telling scary stories to the children. As the legend goes, they said, a giant scary beast lives in these woods. Meanwhile, Dave, dressed in the ape costume, crept along the fence by the horses and leapt out to scare the kids. “Dad,” an annoyed Sam said, while her friends ran off shrieking. “Quit it.”

When the family went to a spring reception for Maryland recruits, a formal affair where everyone else wore suits and ties, Dave showed up in Maryland Pride shorts and socks. “What are you doing, dad” Mike asked. “I’m embarrassing you,” Dave calmly replied. “What do you think I’m doing?” 

>> Dave showed up for boot camp at Parris Island, fresh off his first haircut in the past year. He arrived at the Charleston, S.C., airport hauling a brown bag with tennis shoes, a heavy winter coach under his arm. At the Marine reception, he placed his bags on the counter. The man behind the desk looked up, and said, “Get your [stupid stuff] off my counter.” Lighten up, buddy, Dave responded. “Take a step back,” the man barked.

Sitting Indian-style in the barracks shortly after, Dave listened as a lieutenant gave a welcome speech. Two instructors flanked him, perfectly creased clothes and shined shoes, at parade rest with eyes locked ahead. The lieutenant finished his speech and left the room. As soon as the door latch clicked, “It was like, whoa,” Dave said. “Those guys turned into psycho people.”

>> They arrived in Lebanon on an amphibious warship, with a hollow center stuffed with trucks and artillery. They relieved Marines who had been there for 3-4 months. The trip took 20 days with training on the way over, learning the culture, people and their mission. A commanding officer said he’d buy a steak dinner for anybody who shot their rifle, expecting nothing to happen.

>> Faith and devotion have played big role in the way Dave raised his children. When Mike was born two days after the anniversary of the bombings, Dave was freaking out. “Just the timing,” he said. “Wow. I don’t know. Not that I had any problems with it. I have a strong faith and, you know what, the man upstairs does what the wants to do when he wants to do it.”

Alex Prewitt covers the Washington Capitals. Follow him on Twitter @alex_prewitt or email him at alex.prewitt@washpost.com.
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Alex Prewitt · October 26, 2012