My dad and I did the old “play catch” routine from time to time, though I am ashamed to admit that as I got older, I often spurned the traditional father-son baseball toss for other, ultimately less rewarding pursuits.
Most of our major-league sports moments were experienced watching television. We didn’t really have the disposable income necessary to head down to Arrowhead stadium and watch my beloved #58 go get the quarterback, but dad, bro, and I watched plenty of Chiefs, Broncos (dad grew up in Denver), Jayhawks, and Royals together. When we were college-aged, my brother Marc and I decided to go in on tickets to an actual game for Dad’s birthday, and we took in a night game at Arrowhead. By that time, Derrick Thomas was nearing the end of his career, but he managed one of his patented tomahawk-chops to strip the ball from the Seahawks QB, and Marcus Allen ran in a TD in our end of the field, and the home team won, so we saw all we needed to see. And we were together.
Since then, I have moved far away, so my dad and I only see each other a couple of times a year. We swap emails constantly during college basketball season, and he’s usually one of the first people to call me after a big win by either Chiefs or Jayhawks. It’s not quite the same, but it’s still a huge part of our bond.
Not only did my dad teach me to be a fan, but he taught me to be a discerning fan. The desire to understand why a coach used this player at that time, and why he ran the plays in the sequence he did – all of those things contributed to my desire to write about sports, and to find out what they really mean, aside from just easy entertainment. He taught me that playing the right way and serving your role on the team were more important than winning every time out. My dad also instilled a love for music and an intellectual curiosity that makes me find the answers instead of just living with an unfulfilled question. How do you put all of that into words? You can’t. This effort seems paltry in its attempt to capture what a father means.
Perhaps the best thing any son or daughter can do is pass their parents’ love on to their own children. I think of my mother, my father, and my grandparents often while I’m raising my own son, and without their examples, I’d probably be flailing about much more than I already am as a father. But knowing that they had the same doubts and fears when I was a child gives me that sense that we’ll all come out OK on the other side.
My son doesn’t really get sports yet, but we still go all the time. Above is a classic video taken at a Norfolk Tides AAA game (I think it was Lastings Milledge he was accusing of being “shy”). I can only hope that sports is something we bond over, even as I hope it is only a small part of what makes us a great family. But there is no doubt in my mind that I have many fathers to thank for the lessons I’ve learned, from the direct influence of my own father, stepfather and grandfathers, to other people’s fathers I’ve met who took the time to share a little life wisdom, or just bail me out of trouble, because they could see I needed it.
To my dad, and all the current dads, and all the dads to be – HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!