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Football Fan Makes The Sidelines Home

Mustang Vision

Football Fan Makes The Sidelines Home

Oakdale High School Mustang fan Steve Gokey has become a regular along the sidelines of Oakdale football. The visually impaired fan shared that the energy of the team and the fans make the game just as exciting for him as it is for those with sight.


POSTED September 13, 2017 9:28 a.m.

Steve Gokey has always had a love of sports. That’s a fact which may come as a shock to some, as Gokey has spent his entire life without sight – or so it would seem – to those not in the know.

Sight in the traditional sense of the five senses is something Gokey was born without. Vision, however, and the ability to visualize, that’s something completely different.

“I liked all sports,” Gokey recalled from his childhood, noting that at the age of seven he told his mother he wanted to play baseball.

“I like the camaraderie that it brings,” he said.

If there is one place camaraderie may be found for a sports enthusiast in Oakdale, it is undoubtedly along the sidelines of the Oakdale Mustang football team. A place Gokey has been standing tall since 2008.

“He was a big fan,” friend and fellow Mustang fan Steve Cooper said of his friend of over 45 years.

The two first met on the field of Modesto Junior College where Cooper himself was playing football and Gokey was on the field. Cooper shared he was always impressed by his friend’s knowledge of the game, way back to their first meeting in the early ‘70s.

“He said I’d just like to get back on the field,” Cooper said of Gokey’s desire. “I coached (Oakdale head coach Trent) Merzon when he was in high school, so I approached him with the idea. Trent agreed, as long as he (Gokey) had a guide. From then on, he’s been down there.”

“I love Gokey,” Merzon said. “My family loves Gokey. He is a tremendous man, as well as an inspiration to many.”

Cooper and Gokey shared, however, that it didn’t start on the sidelines, but rather in the Press Box, where Cooper was working on team films. It was an environment that was a bit too constricting for Gokey, who tends to get a bit excited and animated during game play.

“I didn’t sit in the Press Box well,” Gokey admitted. “I have a tendency to get a bit emotional.”

So the move from the Press Box to the sideline was made, allowing Gokey to get even closer to the action.

“A lot of it is audible,” he said of following a game he’s unable to see. “You know, you can tell what’s going on, on the field by player reaction. I’m very keenly aware of what’s going on.”

While it is the player reaction and crowd response which aids Gokey in following the game, it is the player interaction which touches his heart.

In June 2016, Gokey’s wife passed away unexpectedly. They were living in Washington at the time. Gokey’s first call was to his buddy Cooper, and before concluding the conversation he had one request of his friend: “Tell Coach.”

Shortly thereafter Gokey returned to the Central Valley and by August he was back on the sideline with the boys. It would be a season for the record books, as the Oakdale Mustangs secured the State Championship that season.

“It was great,” Gokey said of the 2016 football season. “Last year was tremendous. I could not give to them last year, as much as they gave to me. Just the whole being there.”

Gokey not only attended the State Championship game, he rode down and stayed with the team in the San Diego area.

“It’s a class organization,” Cooper said of Coach Merzon and his team of coaches as well as players.

“I’m a very little fish in a very big pond,” Gokey added. “They gave so much to me last year.”

As the Mustang fan speaks of the team, their play and games to come, it’s as if one is speaking to a member of the coaching staff. He reflects on plays, turnovers, not getting too far ahead and seeing what the season holds – coach talk, to be sure.

 

“He has a great attitude every time I see him,” Merzon explained. “I know he loves Oakdale football like I do and he is a great example of how we want our kids to live their lives.”

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