One of my favorite postgame quotes of all time was served up by a local racer in victory lane.

“I can’t forget to thank my father and my mother,” he said, “because without them I wouldn’t be here.”

From your lips to God’s ears, buddy. The funny part is that I don’t think he was trying to be funny.

The dry driver’s unintentional one-liner keeps coming back to me as I contemplate this day devoted to the ladies who brought us into this world and attempt to weigh it in a sports context.

Nowhere is that expression of our relative powerlessness as a species more accurate than in the athletic realm.

For 24 years I’ve taken somebody else’s money to drive and fly to sporting events from Millinocket to Baton Rouge and all haunts in between. It’s like stealing, really. And not a droplet of ink would have fallen on a dead tree without mothers.

First and foremost were the contributions of my own late, great mom. She was one of the most unselfish, patient people on this planet long before I arrived to test that long-suffering nature.

Not once did I hear a grumble when I asked for a ride to Augusta Civic Center, Fenway Park or some remote high school to watch a game she couldn’t have cared less about.

Or when I begged for a $10 advance on my allowance so I could afford the new Strat-O-Matic game or the Topps Update set with the Steve Sax rookie card. Or when the teacher sent home a progress report saying, “Dear Mrs. Oakes, Your son is gifted, but I wish he would write about something other than sports.”

My mom wasn’t unique in that regard. Every day in this economically parched tri-county region, moms die to self, go into debt or go without so thousands of kids can continue playing the games they love.

They are single moms, married moms, adoptive moms and grand-moms. Their contributions, whether enormous or intangible, keep the ball bouncing, flying and rolling.

Who usually steers the car on those endless, between-seasons shopping trips to the sporting goods store? Mom, of course.

Wherever there is a booster club, who can be found wearing the hats of president, vice president, secretary, cook and bottle washer? Somebody’s mom, times five.

If you’re out of Gatorade, gum, sunflower seeds or any other staple of the competitive sports experience that can’t be spared for two hours, who makes the trip to the store? Mom, who receives the plea as more of an order than a request, yet never seems to mind.

When an ankle gets twisted or a knee sprained at practice and an emergency room visit is deemed necessary, who gets the call? Mom, whose internal radar let her know something was wrong long before the ringtone did.

Under every roof that shelters multiple athletes, what brave soul drafts the schedule underneath the refrigerator magnet to ensure that nobody is late for a practice or a bus ride? Mom, and she understands the peculiar, highlighter-pen color code so you don’t have to.

After the local newspaper screws up the unusual spelling of the child’s name a second, third or fourth time, who places the call or fires off the email that will prevent it from happening again? Mom, and she does it with that gift for motherly discipline that somehow leaves the transgressor feeling both chastened and cheerful.

What soul is brave or foolish enough to volunteer enough spaghetti and sauce to feed 14 basketball players, four coaches and three managers? Mom, silly. Dad would order pizza and be done with it.

Given the news that Junior’s world history grade is borderline, who spends a half-hour on the phone with the teacher figuring out what it will take to keep the boy eligible to play? Mom, and may God help you if you don’t put in the same effort when it comes to studying and getting on the plus side of the ledger, you knucklehead.

Where can you turn if neither the newspaper nor the yearbook advisor has an action photo of your child? Hey, so-and-so’s mom was on the sidelines with a camera at every game, including the night that the game was 120 miles away in the driving rain. Bet you could snag one from her.

This little guilt trip could go on all day, the word count reaching voluminous proportions. Who gets the extra, seasonal job so all her children can afford to go to camp? Who forgoes updating her own wardrobe or hair style so you’re outfitted with new basketball sneakers? Who accepts your ridiculous schedule of working nights and weekends for two decades so you can chase the only job you ever really wanted?

That would be Mom, Mom, and my son’s Mom.

Without you, well, not only wouldn’t we be here, but the games we enjoy wouldn’t exist once we arrived.

We don’t say it often enough or loudly enough, but thank you. Thank you all. Happy Mother’s Day.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.

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