Tuesday, June 20, 2006

FATHER'S DAY... A THANK-YOU!

How many of you became sports fans because of your fathers?

I know that my love of sport had it's genesis in watching my dad cheer for the Yankees, Rangers, Knicks, and Giants. My love of playing sports began with simple games of catch, shooting Hoops at the local park, and, later, my father taught me how to play the mystical game of Stickball. Man, I love Stick' ... and I play it to this day.

But, getting back to Father's Day, I grew up in Brooklyn and was regaled with stories of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Better still, I sat and listened in rapt attention as my dad told me of his try-outs with the Yankees and Mets! Although he was a fantastic athlete, he never did make it onto even a minor league roster. But, my dad told me about his day at Met camp. He needed to borrow a uniform. The Uni' was too big, my dad didn't have the money, at the time ayway, to purchase a belt... and while shagging flies in the Outfield, his pants fell to his ankles and he tripped. I would imagine that, irregardless of how the rest of his try-out went, the whole "pants around the ankles" thing doomed him to be cut. But do you know... that story illustrates the quality that I cherish and admire most in my dad, and indeed it's a quality inherent to sports in general; honesty. Playing the game to the best of your ability... and telling the story, the whole story. My dad is the most principled man I know; honest almost to a fault.
So with my father on the couch and I on the barrel-chair, we watched Joel Youngblood patrol the Met Outfield, were awed by Yankee hurlers Whitey Ford and Ron Guidry as they threw to a surly but beloved Thurman Munson, sat and admired the inner fortitude of Willis Reed as he hobbled onto the court, and became jointly nauseated when Larry Csonka fumbled the ball away to Eagle Herm Edwards in "The Miracle at the Meadowlands."
I recall watching Superbowl X. My father tried to give me the strategy behind the game... but I was like... 8 or so. At that time I was more interested in seeing big tackles and going to the bathroom to pee during commerical breaks. But, when I was 11, we watched 'Bowl XIII and I possessed a better understanding of why the Steelers beat the 'Boys by a score of 35-31 then my Gym coach!

If watching events with my dad was special... nothing was better than having him sit in the bleachers and watch me play! As a Little-Leaguer, I mimicked Mickey Rivers' distinctive batting stance. I would slap the ball between the 3rd basemen and Shortstop and listen to my dad cheer as if I had hit a round-tripper'.

My dad taught me how to derive motivation from disappointment and to be courteous in defeat. Perhaps more importantly, he taught me to be a gracious winner. These are lessons that resonate to this day. Indeed, he very wisely instructed me that sports are a metaphor for life and business. Hard work, respect, education (I.E, learning the game), and a bit of dare will take you almost anywhere you wish to go, capitalizing upon a little luck will take you the rest of the way.

Now, I am an adult. I am 38, married, and... well, quite honestly, my father has always been my role model. The lessons he taught me; to pursue education, to be honest and forthright... to treat people as you would wish to be treated, to be a good husband, to fight for your rights, and to try and help those who are weaker than you... those in need of assistance, these are all manifestations of some lesson(s) that can be learned on the ball field.

In conclusion... happy Father's Day! Anyone can father a child, but not everyone can be a real father!

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