My childhood included two places of worship: Holy Family Catholic Church in Maryland and any arena that featured professional sports: in those days, the Capital Centre and RFK Stadium. I was 15 in 1978, when the Washington Bullets beat the Seattle Supersonics in a seven-game championship. “The opera isn’t over till the fat lady sings” was the mantra that season.
For my father, Dent Lynch, a lifelong Washingtonian (and still the high priest of sports fanaticism), that victory was more than a trophy; it was a jewel in the city’s crown. It was the first championship team in his lifetime, and he celebrated every second of it — eventually finding his way to the White House, where he would chat with first lady Rosalynn Carter and share hot dogs on the portico with players.
My sisters and I were used to Dad’s antics: the practical jokes on neighbors, Halloween terrors, the Budweiser beer motif of our float for a community parade. But his role in the Bullets’ victory parade, from the Capital Centre to the District Building to the White House to RFK, remains his piece de resistance.
The day of the parade, someone from the Bullets who knew that my father had a convertible called to see if he could drive in the parade that afternoon. He could, and he did. After a celebration at the District Building, the parade headed to the White House for a reception hosted by President Jimmy Carter.
Dad had not expected this. The day before, guests had sent their Social Security numbers to White House security. My dad took his chances and walked toward the gates. He ran into Prince George’s County Executive Win Kelly (D). My father practiced law in Upper Marlboro and served on the Landlord and Tenant Commission. “He’s with me,” Kelly shouted to the guard, who waved my father in.
My father wound up walking with Bullets owner Abe Pollin and his wife and Bullets president Jerry Sachs and his wife. The rest of the crowd went in through a side door, but my father stayed with the top brass, who entered through the main door. They joined a ceremony in the East Wing. Carter’s remarks included a mention that the District had not won a championship since Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency. After the remarks and photos, the group was served Coke and hot dogs.
My father and Mitch Kupchak, a power forward for the Bullets who is now general manager of the Los Angeles Lakers, sat on the steps of the White House portico, snacking and talking while tourists along the fence pointed at them.
From the White House, the parade continued to RFK Stadium. Fans lined the route. A neighbor, Bernie Allman, was standing on the curb when he spotted my father, and shouted, “What the hell are you doing there?” My dad waved as he drove past.
Photos of that day show a beautiful spring afternoon, with thousands of happy, joyful faces. Long, losing seasons had given way to a season of joy, and the thrill was everywhere. Even Nils Lofgren, then a rock star in the making, joined in, recording a single, “Bullets Fever,” which many of us can still sing. Nils tweeted to me that he actually penned the tune after an overtime win against the Philadelphia 76ers.
As I read about the security breaches that jeopardize the president’s safety, and his family’s, I think of that time my dad was spirited in for something happy. It was not really a simpler time, and the news was often grim. But that one afternoon was golden, and we knew it.