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Ep. 4: Humility

The following is a transcript for Episode 4 of Season 3. Click on the embed above to listen to, or you can subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app.

Season 3 of Razed Sports is brought to you in partnership with the Dominic Fouts Memorial Cancer Fund, which helps patients and family members pay for cancer treatments. For information on how to help, go to


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[Paul Harkins: “He’d go ‘Paul, I want you to ask yourself one question, ‘who’s the best player out here, and why am I?’”] 


In April of 2020, my father, Tim Harkins, died of cancer. This is a tribute to him.


Episode 4: Humility

[CECILIA SHUMATE: So Tim, do you have any words of wisdom?] 

When Dad came home for hospice care, that one last week with all of us, we made sure he got a chance to have video calls with each of his seven siblings. And I wanted to share this clip in particular. It’s with his sister, my Aunt Cecilia. Her husband, my Uncle Gary, is also on the call, and my brother Paul and sister Allison are in the room. And in this one moment, Cecilia asks him if he’d like to share any wise words or life lessons with her.

At first he doesn’t hear her, so Allison helps out.

[ALLISON LAURITSON: Do you have words of wisdom for Cecilia?]

[DAD: Oh. For Cecilia? Words of wisdom? Oh man. I don’t have any words of wisdom.]

Then you can hear the deep voice of my Uncle Gary.

[GARY SHUMATE: Don’t mess up.]

[DAD: Don’t mess up. There you go.]

And my brother Paul, drops a line, a saying, that Dad had often said.

[PAUL HARKINS: Quicksand sucks?]

[DAD: Yeah. Oh boy. Boy. Quicksand sucks. Yeah.]

[MUSIC TRANSITION: Emmit Fenn, Alone, reprise]

Dad taught us a lot of lessons over the years. Sometimes they were perfectly sensible words of wisdom, other times it took some work to figure out what in the world he was talking about. And sometimes they were both silly and made sense. Like quicksand sucks. He was kind of like our own personal Yogi Berra.

[YOGI BERRA AUDIO: It ain’t over til it’s over … When you come to the fork in the road, take it.]

That’s Berra, the former Hall of Fame catcher, discussing a couple of his famous sayings, or Yogi-isms as they were called, with MLB Network. One of my favorite was the one where he said: “Baseball is 90 percent mental, the other half is physical.”

Berra was known for using the English language in a way that was curious, puzzling and genius all at once. Dad could do this, too.

[BRIDGET PORTER: And he had so many good phrases. He would say to me “don’t put your feet up, you’re not in a health spa.” (laughs). “Life’s not a bowl of enjoyment.” “Heat-related fire.” I mean, (laughs) there’s so many.]

This is my sister Bridget.

[BRIDGET: There was one time. Where I was, we were doing lines, of course — I feel like that’s all we did in basketball practice (laughs), was run lines — but one time I think, I don’t know if it was just me or the whole team, but we were moving slow. And he said something like “what are you doing out there, growing corn?” Like, he just had (laughs) so many weird phrases like that. And I remember looking at him across the court, like “what? God that’s so embarrassing. What are you talking about?”]

One time, some of us were in the yard, playing a game of whiffle ball, and Bridget, the youngest, had wanted to play. So we basically threw her a bone, gave her a couple at-bats, and I think we let her be the catcher. She was unsatisfied with that and complained to Dad, and he told us to let her actually play in the game. Except he couldn’t just say it in a normal way. He had to say: “let Bridget be a part of the scoring apparatus.”

We’d often poke fun at Dad for these sayings of his. But it never bothered him. He knew it was silly. He’d just smile, a twinkle in his eye and say … “Words are my game.”

And this was true. Dad’s sayings could be nonsensical, but they were also instructive, they were encouraging, they were motivational. And there was one in particular that we all heard some version of at one point or another, a saying that he borrowed from his dad. Paul remembers hearing it whenever Dad would drive him to one of his basketball games.

[PAUL: But we’d pull in and then he’d turn off the car and he’d go ‘Paul, I want you to ask yourself one question, ‘who’s the best player out here, and why am I?’ And he, he just wanted me to be more confident you know and think of myself as the best player, or I have the ability to play with the best players.]

Paul, who is the men’s cross country coach and distance track coach at Yale, says he sometimes uses that line with his athletes … “who’s the best runner out here, and why am I?”

Words were indeed Dad’s game.

S3E4 art.pngS3E4 art.png

[MUSIC TRANSITION: Chris Haugen, Easy Seas]

There is an implication to the word humility that implies meekness or subservience. But those things don’t necessarily have to go together. Humility is about having a modest view of your own importance, but it doesn’t have to mean lacking confidence. That was certainly the case with Dad. He was comfortable talking to anyone at a party, but didn’t need to be the center of attention. He was excellent at espousing wisdom, but never sought credit for it or took himself too seriously.

You could see it and hear it during the final week Dad was at home with all of us, especially during these video calls. He would joke with people, he would needle them – you heard some of this in previous episodes. But when the focus turned squarely on him, when people started asking for wisdom, or telling him how much he meant to them, or thanking him for things he had done for them, he would often turn the tables. He’d reply with “Geez” or “oh man”, or “that’s wonderful”, and in the more emotional moments, he’d tear up and ask “How’d I get so lucky?”

That was Dad’s brand of humility. And it’s a part of him that goes way back.

[MUSIC TRANSITION: Chris Haugen, Easy Seas, reprise]

Mom met Dad in the fall of 1965. They were freshmen at Gonzaga and both of them worked at the campus dining hall — “The Cog.” Dad worked in the dish room, Mom held down the dessert line. She remembers the pranks kids would pull that she would have to deal with, like unscrewing the tops off the salt shakers and putting them upside-down, with the lid on top, so when she went to pick it up, the salt would spill all over. One time someone removed all the tops from the tables. Another time, all of the silverware disappeared.

She also remembers what Dad was like in those days … and her first impression was not the best. She was quiet, and he was … different. She uses words like “annoying” and “odd” to describe what she thought of him in those days. And she says he was goofy. A little too goofy.

Mom remembers Dad wearing a hat that had a monkey on top, which bobbed up and down when he walked. He also had clown shoes, which he gave as a gift to a foreign exchange student when he left school. Dad was a big beer drinker, too, and one time he chased after a flatbed truck because it had a keg perched on the back.

But the more she got to know him, the more his goofy brand of humor grew on her. One time, they were in history class together and it was a beautiful day outside, and Dad decided to leave. So he waited, and when the professor’s back was turned, he climbed out the window. She thought that was hilarious, and she was starting to think he was probably one of the funniest people she’d ever met.

It was kind of fitting, then, that their first date was a Bill Cosby concert, though Dad’s method of asking her out was … unconventional. He told her that he had two tickets, and if she bought one of them, she could sit next to him. He revealed that he was joking after she said no.

There were some ups and downs in the following years. Mom said Dad would typically dump her right around Christmas break, which was also around her birthday. That hurt, but she says that in retrospect they were just young, and scared. Neither one of them had previously had a serious boyfriend or girlfriend.

Regardless, they kept coming back to each other. They were engaged on October 20 of 1968 – Dad’s 21st birthday – and were married in the spring of ’69, just a few days after graduating from Gonzaga.

[MUSIC TRANSITION: Letter Box, Scissor Vision]

After getting married, they moved to Western Washington and Dad got a job in management at K-Mart. I was born the following year. That commitment to Mom, and to starting a family, led to a change in Dad, to a shifting of priorities. Dad never lost that sense of humor, that goofiness, but he definitely buckled down. Here’s childhood friend Joe Staeheli:

[JOE STAEHELI: He wasn’t a great student in high school, he probably told you that. Average. Right. He did enough to get by. He was not an intense student. But a change came over him, you know. I think after he had kids and he realized, cuz he started off at K-Mart, you know those stories.]

It wasn’t long before Dad decided that K-Mart wasn’t for him. He and Mom moved back to Spokane and Dad returned to school to pursue an MBA. Then he applied to law school. Mom wasn’t sure he’d get in since his college grades were mediocre. But she says he got straight A’s in the MBA program, and that probably led to his acceptance into Gonzaga Law School.

Meanwhile, while Dad was in school, the family continued to grow. Allison was born in 1974, when I was 3½, then Katie came the year after. It was a juggling act in those days. Mom would work a swing shift at Sacred Heart Hospital. Dad would go to night school, then work the graveyard shift at a warehouse. He’d hustle through his duties as quickly as he could so that he could use the extra time to study. Then he’d come home and go to bed around 7 a.m. and sleep until he had to do it all over again. When Mom would get off work at the hospital, she’d wake us up so that we could drive the babysitter home. They did this for about a year and a half.

Once Dad earned that law degree, it was time to take the bar exam. He was intent on passing on his first attempt, so he left us for seven weeks to live with my Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Dave, to study in peace and quiet under his sister’s watchful eye.

[KATHLEEN KEENEY: We had a split level house and he had the lower level. We gave him that even though it wasn’t totally finished off. He had a table set up where he was studying. Had a bed down there for him. … And he’d come upstairs to eat, you know lunchtime or something. He’d come up and have lunch with me and we’d kind of sit and we’d be chatting and all of a sudden I’d go ‘Tim, you need to get back downstairs to study!’ The poor guy. I was so hard on him (laughs). Every once in awhile Dave would tell me to lighten up. ‘He’s gotta be studying!’ Why I was like that I don’t know, except that I do remember I kept thinking about your Mom was at home and all that she was sacrificing so that he could be over there in a quiet place studying to take the bar exam. … But really I remember the time fondly because sometimes in the evenings after he had been studying all day or had been to whatever class he had to go to. That we’d sit and talk and just chat about whatever. Just hang out. And I enjoyed the chance to do that as an adult. Because all my childhood was spent hanging out with him so, it was nice as an adult it was nice to be able to spend some time with him.]

Dad passed the bar and would embark on a long career as a lawyer. And that goofball who climbed out the window of his classroom in college had forever set an example for all of us about the value of sacrifice and hard work. Here’s my sister Allison, who followed Dad’s footsteps in becoming a lawyer.

[ALLISON: And I thought you know I have to work full time and go to school at night, and I always thought ‘this is so hard.’ But then I thought Dad worked full-time, went to law school and had three kids. So if he could do that, I can do this. I don’t have a family to worry about. I don’t have kids to worry about. So he was kind of my inspiration to get through kind of the stressful times of law school.]

Dad had transitioned from college goofball to responsible family man. But he never lost that silly sense of humor, and he never took himself too seriously. He remained confident in his own skin, yet humble. And I can think of two stories in particular that illustrate that.

The young family with Bob (on floor), Allison (on Dad’s lap) and Katie.The young family with Bob (on floor), Allison (on Dad’s lap) and Katie.

The young family with Bob (on floor), Allison (on Dad’s lap) and Katie.

[MUSIC TRANSITION: The 126ers, Windows Rolled Down]

One came when my brother Paul was in high school. Now, before Paul devoted himself to running fulltime, he also played basketball. And one summer, he tried out for the AAU team that was made up of the two big schools on the South Hill – Ferris and Lewis and Clark. Ferris was always good under their legendary coach Wayne Gilman, and at that time, in the mid-90s, LC was also good. They had a kid named Mike Homer, a guard who would end up playing college basketball at Lafayette. Paul got cut from that team – it didn’t help that he had missed the first couple days of tryouts — but he managed to get onto another team that was made up of, basically the castoffs, the guys who’d been cut. Predictably, this team was not good. And Paul says his coach was a nice guy, but didn’t really have a strong hold on basketball strategy.

[PAUL: … we were two or three games into the season and I asked our coach, ‘hey coach when are we gonna learn your offense?’ And he goes ‘offense?’ He goes ‘you’re the point guard, you bring the ball down and you either pass or shoot.’ (laughs), I was like ‘alright.’ (laughs).]

So that was the atmosphere he was in. And Dad would drive Paul and some of his teammates to all of his practices and games. He’d sit and quietly watch all of it from the bleachers. And then one game …

[PAUL: And there was one game where … we were getting destroyed by this one team, I think they beat us like 99-33 or something like that. And our coach got pretty upset so he got like three technicals somehow and got tossed out of the game, and suspended for the next one.]

The team did not have an assistant, so the coach asked Dad to fill in for the next game, which just so happened to be against the team that had cut Paul. The team that had Mike Homer.

Dad accepted the challenge. And because he had been to all the practices, he knew the players, he knew their strengths and weaknesses. And because he had gone to a lot of Ferris games and LC games, he knew the other team pretty well, too.

And so he devised a plan, and asked the team to play a box-and-1 zone defense on Homer. What that means is four players play a zone defense, and one player plays man-to-man on the other team’s star, just follows him everywhere. And Dad had it working.

[PAUL: And we got to halftime against this team that we were all cut from, and we were beating them at halftime. And they didn’t know what the hell was going on. (laughs). And then they ended up coming back and beating us, but it was you know, we lost the week before 99-33 and then Dad had us up on the team we all got cut from at halftime. Just because he knows what he’s doing and he’s crafty and smart and all that.]

Later, Paul told Dad he could probably be a pretty good junior varsity coach.

[PAUL: And he was like ‘a really good JV coach huh Paul?’ And I was like ‘well you know, I don’t know if you’re Gilman. (laughs) but yeah you were good.’ In reality if he had spent the time that Wayne Gilman did, he probably could. He was a student of the game and he knew what he was doing. He was smart. He knew how to put it together. … But he also had enough respect of my friends and my teammates, just because he’d drive us to practice every week and stuff like that, that he got us to do what he wanted us to do, and we gave him a good run for that one game. I was kind of disappointed that he wasn’t at least an assistant coach after that. He just went back to the bleachers essentially.]

[MUSIC TRANSITION: Emmit Fenn, Alone, reprise]

I don’t recall Dad ever talking about that game. He didn’t make a big deal of it. He didn’t complain about not getting another chance to coach. I probably never would have known about that story if Paul hadn’t shared it.

There’s something else I never knew about, and it involved why Dad wanted to become a lawyer. I knew that he wanted to provide for his family, but recently Mom told me something else, she said he did it because he wanted to help people. He never voiced how he planned to do that, but he told her: “That’s all I really want to do. That’s why I want to go into law.”

And looking back, you can see it in practice. He helped out plenty of relatives with legal issues, from divorces to custody cases, to wills, whatever it might be. One long-time friend, Dave Hughes, shares a story:

[DAVE HUGHES: I called him for some legal advice. I was going through a divorce and I called him just for some advice. And he gave me really good advice. He said ‘make it about the importance of your family.’ So that advice was something that he would typically say and I certainly would have expected him to say. And so it, the advice that he gave me worked out great and I’m glad that I took it.]

And if clients couldn’t pay Dad, he rarely sent collectors after them. He’d let it go, or work things out. He’d often barter, or exchange services. That’s how we might have ended up with a new set of tires for the car. Or a side of beef in the freezer. Or one time, an old camper in the driveway.

Dad never really talked about any of this. He never asked us what we were doing to help people or preached that we should do so. He just did it. He led by example and he passed it on to us. Here’s Bridget, talking about doing just that with her daughter Lucy:

[BRIDGET: I told Lucy, I said I just want you, every day, to be a good person. I want you to be nice. I want you to work hard. And I want you to be friendly to other people. And after Dad died, I remember talking to her and saying we need to live more like Papa. We need to be, we need to not judge other people. We need to not worry about stupid little things that don’t matter. You know. He spent his whole life being nice and helpful and working hard. And he helped anybody out.]

This brings us back to April, and Dad with us in the room, talking to my Aunt Cecilia and Uncle Gary, giving words of wisdom …

[PAUL: Quicksand sucks?]

[DAD: Yeah. Oh boy. Boy. Quicksand sucks. Yeah.]

[DAD: Well, just do your best, don’t mess up. Do your best.]

[GARY: I’ll try.]

[DAD: Do your best. Try hard.]

Life is not a bowl of enjoyment. Quicksand sucks. But do your best and try hard.

Who’s the best, and why am I? That was Dad. Words were his game.

Words of wisdom, brilliant in their simplicity, delivered with humor and always, with humility.


This episode was written and produced by me, Bob Harkins. Special thanks to Paul Harkins, Allison Lauritson, Cecilia and Gary Shumate, Bridget Porter, Joe Staeheli, Kathleen Keeney and Dave Hughes for taking part in this episode … and also to my Mom, for everything. The theme song comes from Corbyn Kites, other music by Emmit Fenn, Chris Haugen, Letter Box and The 126ers. This season of Razed Sports comes to you in partnership with the Dominic Fouts Cancer Fund. For more information, go to Razed Sports is a proud member of the Story Hangar podcast network.

*** *** ***


Written and produced by Bob Harkins.


Theme song: “Orbit” — Corbyn Kites

Emmitt Fenn — “Alone

Chris Haugen — “Easy Seas

Letter Box — “Scissor Vision

The 126ers — “Windows Rolled Down

(All music edited for time purposes)


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