This is what love looks like, Whitefish Bay football style.
It's Jenny Tietjen racing up and down from the press box at Lubar Stadium collecting checks and adding one column of numbers up with another. She was doing it on a warm and brilliantly sunny day at the TietjStrong Touch Football Fundraiser on May 21 that honored her late father, former Bay football coach Jim Tietjen.
After all, there was a goal to reach.
There was her brother, Joey, taking part in the tournament himself, on a team of over-30-year-old Bay coaches. Although they have all seen better days physically, they still managed to outmaneuver the younger Bay football alumni to win the title in what is hoped will become an annual event.
It didn't hurt that in the last of the losers' bracket games, another team of over-30-year-olds edged a team of eager 18- to 20-year-olds.
There should have been a playoff between that other older team and the coaches who claimed the winners' bracket, but Joey Tietjen had struck a wink-and-a-nod agreement with the captains of the 30-year-olds that if they won, everyone would just call it a day and repair to an area establishment for some adult 'refreshments' afterward.
He had a big smile on his face when he said that.
Much to Joey and his teammates' relief, the older team edged the younger players five touchdowns to four, and so while everybody was wiping their collective brow and checking themselves for sunburn, the most important matter of the day could finally be addressed.
Big check, big donation
That included Jenny and the rest of the family bringing out one of those giant checks. The goal of the day, which included raffles and silent auctions, was to raise $10,000 for the Medical College of Wisconsin's brain cancer research department (the affliction that took Tietjen late last fall).
Numbers were added and re-added, and there was muttering and erasing and rewriting.
Finally, they turned around the check for the cameras. It wasn't quite $10,000, but the goal would eventually be reached after The Brick, an area pub and restaurant, donated 10 percent of its proceeds from 3 to 10 p.m. that day.
The number on the check was $9,915.90, and it was presented to Medical College of Wisconsin doctors who were on hand for the event.
The smiles on everyone's faces were ones of relief; it has been a hard 10 months for the Tietjen family — ever since Jim's diagnosis in late July and his death in November. The idea for the fundraiser began essentially the day after the funeral, said Jenny.
'It feels like we've been going 500 miles an hour since last August until now,' she said, 'and this turned out so wonderfully. Everyone was so supportive, working to help us out here.'
At its height, an estimated 400 people were watching or playing in the tournament. The alumni players were joined by current players on 12 teams with such names as Silly Unicorns, Spitfires, Legion of Boom and Old School.
Everyone in the area, it seemed, wanted to support the family because Jim Tietjen had done so much to support the football program and the school in his successful time as coach here. He led Bay to conference titles, state playoff berths and helped instill the concept of the now ubiquitous school cheer 'Duke Pride.'
'Everyone was jumping on board,' said son and football assistant coach Joey. 'We're really happy with the turnout. Jenny (Tietjen) has done just so much to get it going.'
Publicity was spread through the media but mostly by word-of-mouth. Current players such as Matt Bernstein and Van Bassindale helped out by spreading fliers throughout the school and helping to pull in recent alumni such as Adam Strehlow, Jaren Walker, Steve Mayer and Adam Fuda
Former Tietjen players in their 30s stretched their aging muscles and played or supported the event simply by being there. They included members of the great 2012 state semifinalist team, such as gritty quarterback Grant Menard and running back Rashadeem Gray.
'Almost all the guys knew each other, so there were no issues, just good competition,' said Joey. Games were played with a 30-minute time limit; the first team to five TDs won.
The old man wouldn't have recognized this version of his beloved game, but he would have loved the intensity.
Bernstein, for one, was happy to take part.
'This was fun,' said Bernstein, the starting safety for the 2014 and 2015 Bay teams, who caught a couple of TD passes himself. 'There were guys from eight, 10 years back coming. We even beat Grant and Ra-Ra (Gray). We got a lot of help (in getting the word out), and the turnout was just great.'
Jenny Tietjen said that Bernstein was an immense help inside the school.
Also helpful were the innumerable businesses, large and small, that put up sponsorship money or that donated silent auction items (many of them football related, including Packers tickets).
It was all heartening to everyone who sweated, literally and figuratively, to make the event the success it was.
'We were just so glad to do something positive,' said Jenny. 'Just glad to honor him in such a lovely way.'