Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

December 28, 2013

Bob Giffin believed in the goodness of us all

The first time the Giffin family exploded onto my radar was at a Fort Hill basketball game years ago in the old Fort Hill gym. Believe it was a City game, which meant the place was packed, the walls were sweating and the smell of popcorn permeated the atmosphere. And through it all marched the family Giffin in perfect formation, tallest in the front, shortest in the back, led by father Lew, mother Donna, oldest son Bob, second son Tom, third son Donnie and fourth son Johnnie.

The Giffins usually sat in the front row of the old Fort Hill bleachers — again, in formation, Lew, Donna, Bob, Tom, Don and John — but formation went out the window once that ball went up in the air for the opening tip. For the Giffins, you see, particularly the boys, are rather excitable folks and, when it comes to their sports, very, very intense and very, very loyal folks. In fact, I would be willing to wager that somewhere on the Giffin family crest are the words, “Emotions on your sleeve, baby! Emotions on your sleeve.”

The Giffin boys also played sports in much the same manner that they watched sports — all or nothing and larger than life. So, so competitive were they, whether it was basketball or tiddlywinks, as through the years I have enjoyed saying that the Giffins were Parcells before being Parcells was cool.

I remember Bob and Tom playing church league basketball for, I want to say, Christ Lutheran, and I recall Bob, who was the center, having the sweetest little left-handed baby hook shot as he dominated games in the paint, while Tom backed him up as a forward. But then the greatest thing happened: the Giffins showed up one Sunday at our church, St. John’s Lutheran, and while Bob had other things on his plate, Tom joined the basketball team and helped the Johnnies to a run of two championships.

Bob went on to play basketball for Fort Hill, where he also played football and ran track. Bob was a good athlete and a great teammate. He wore No. 65 and was a tackle on two varsity football teams — one that went undefeated and one that played in the first Maryland state playoff game. In track he was a shot and discus man, and a damn fine one, using picture-perfect technique and form, just as he had on his baby-hook, to set various marks in both throws.

Along the way, Bob met Judy Kelly and the two fell madly in love and continued to grow more and more in love with each passing moment. They got married and had two sons, Bob and Branden, who would also immerse themselves in all things Giffin and play sports with the same passion and desire as all of the Giffins who preceeded them. And in their parents, they had the greatest support team in the world, as Bob and Judy were with them every step of the way, giving their love and encouragement the way nobody else could or can.

Anything is possible when you’re a Giffin because being a Giffin means having the most cheerful and positive outlook in the world. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, You see things; and you say, “Why?” But the Giffins dream things that never were; and they say, “Why not?”

When you’re with a person named Giffin you can be certain you are going to be surrounded by love and good cheer, and you can be certain you are going to have a smile on your face because they’re going to put it there.

When the news came on Christmas Eve that Bob had passed away, much laughter and cheer vacuumed from so many holiday gatherings here because Bob was a great provider of both. Like everyone else, he might have had some bad days or some difficult times, but you’d never know it when you saw him. He was always the first one to speak to you and speak to you cheerfully. He was always the first one to encourage you and to pick you up when he might have sensed you were having a difficult day.

As Mike Calhoun said, “Bob is one of two people in my life I never heard say a negative thing about anybody.”

Bob didn’t know any other way. It’s how he and his brothers were raised, and it’s how he and Judy raised their own. Bob Giffin always had everybody else’s best interests at heart. Which is why right now so many of our hearts have been broken.

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com.

1
Text Only
Mike Burke - Sports
  • Terps need to move and move quickly

    The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.
    Until we see you in court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

    I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having
    watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier
    in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

    April 11, 2014

  • At times we all should allow for a little flex

    Other than when I was a student in the Allegany County Public Schools System, I’ve always believed the most thankless job there is — or at least one of the most thankless jobs there is — belongs to the person who ultimately hits the switch on whether or not to call off school because of the weather. You’re slammed if you do, you’re slammed if you don’t. No matter what you decide it’s no win, but, like managing a baseball team or running a bar, everybody knows they could do it.

    January 11, 2014

  • A treasured member of the family of baseball

    When a former professional football player from our past dies, he is most often remembered as being one tough son of a gun, or a wonderful runner or pass catcher, or as a brilliant quarterback.

    January 10, 2014

  • Bob Giffin believed in the goodness of us all

    The first time the Giffin family exploded onto my radar was at a Fort Hill basketball game years ago in the old Fort Hill gym. Believe it was a City game, which meant the place was packed, the walls were sweating and the smell of popcorn permeated the atmosphere. And through it all marched the family Giffin in perfect formation, tallest in the front, shortest in the back, led by father Lew, mother Donna, oldest son Bob, second son Tom, third son Donnie and fourth son Johnnie.

    December 28, 2013

  • Redskins do that voodoo that they do so well

    This time last year the Washington Redskins were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak on their way to the NFC East title. Mike Shanahan was being hailed as the perfect football presence the franchise had sorely needed for so long. Quarterback Robert Griffin III in the sprint option was being hailed as the single greatest invention since the wheel, and beleaguered Daniel Snyder, the little owner who couldn’t, was being hailed for not even trying as he allowed his two-time Super Bowl winning coach and lord of all things football to pull the strings on all things football.

    December 13, 2013

  • Fort Hill’s approach is all-inclusive

    After Fort Hill opened everybody’s eyes last season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year (*1), it was a pretty sure bet that the Sentinels, given all of their returning resources, would be making a run for the state championship this year (*2).

    December 6, 2013

  • What resource will the O’s allocate next?

    In November 1993, Dan Duquette, then the general manager of the Montreal Expos, traded second baseman Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez. According to a story in last Sunday’s New York Times, upon completing the deal, Duquette, now general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, told Neal Huntington, then a member of the Expos front office and now the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, “This trade is going to be hated in Montreal.”

    December 4, 2013

  • No month of Sundays this Friday

    With Fort Hill comfortably in control Friday night in its eventual 46-7 1A West Region semifinal victory over Manchester Valley, and with score updates from the other semifinal pouring in from nearby Washington County, Greenway Avenue Stadium was abuzz, for the unthinkable was about to take place — Fort Hill was going to play Hancock.

    November 16, 2013

  • Mike Burke Ty Johnson works hard, and makes it look easy

    Any summer day you might go to Greenway Avenue Stadium to get a little exercise you are likely to see any number of high school athletes there working out — football players, soccer players, basketball players, any kind of player you might want to think of.

    November 9, 2013 1 Photo