The Commerce Journal

June 23, 2012

Predicting the future, one football game at a time

By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and when I began to brainstorm column ideas for this week, one quickly rose to the top of the list.

That’s because it includes two important fathers in my life- my dad, Gary Slinkard, and his dad, Jim Slinkard, who my brothers and I affectionately referred to as Papa. Papa passed away in 2001 in San Antonio, where he had a successful career building houses.

There is a tradition that Papa started that continues to this day we call Prophet Pete.

Prophet Pete began in the mid 1960s thanks to a competition of the same name in the San Antonio Light. My grandfather and his sons picked for years, even after they went to college (Ohio State, Texas and Texas A&M). Papa would cut out copies of Prophet Pete (and eventually create his own after the newspaper went under) and mail them to my dad and uncles.

The tradition continues to this day. Every week we pick between 20 college football games, usually the biggest schools and most interesting matchups. When I was a child, my dad would call me over Friday night before bedtime to make my picks, and I would sit in a chair next to his desk and watch as he wrote a capital “C” next to the teams I chose.

Of course, back then, the Internet was a distant concept and most of my picks consisted of either the last team my dad read or the team with the most interesting name (i.e. Notre Dame, Mississippi State).

Everyone had different symbols — my twin brother had a capital J, Papa had an X, Uncle Bill had an O, Uncle Dale used a check mark, and my dad used a triangle instead of a “G,” and my cousin Max had an x through a circle. We would keep a master sheet on the coffee table in the living room and circle winners as games were decided Saturday afternoon.

In close to 20 years of playing Prophet Pete, I have never won it.

My twin brother won it in 2000, setting the record as the youngest winner of all time. My dad has won it a record nine times in what is known as the “plaque” era. Since 1987, the winner’s name and record has been engraved on a plaque. My uncles Bill and Dale have both won it five times. My dad tells me that Papa won many of the early years, before recorded Prophet Pete History.

I’d love to make it on the plaque one year and engrave my name in Slinkard history. But, in the end, I’m happy to be part of a tradition that honors the memory of my grandfather.