In what I take as a sure sign I’ve long been spoiled by my father, my grandfathers and sports, I didn’t even give a second thought to it being Father’s Day week until I was watching Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals the other night.
I started thinking about all the games my dad took me to through the years when I was young — and how leaving early to beat the traffic became his signature move. We never went to a hockey game, but as the Bruins and Blackhawks started that third overtime I started doing a little math. With a little luck, we probably would have been home to catch the game-winner on TV.
Yes, from Chicago back to Akron. That’s how we rolled.
That’s not really how we rolled. We never (grossly) broke the speed limit, and we probably never would have gone that far on a school night.
Unless I really, really whined and threw a tantrum about it. I was pretty spoiled. My dad hated crowds, and traffic, and loud noises and the way I wanted to go from everything from the the USA Basketball team’s pre-Olympic tour to the St. Ignatius-St. Xavier state championship game, but he always took me. I always loved every second of it. And we always left early.
It’s probably not a coincidence that I hate crowds, traffic and loud noises these days. I don’t get to leave early. But I have a damn good gig, so that’s OK.
This borderline-unhealthy sports obsession I’ve had since I was old enough to read was fostered not just by my dad but by mom, too. And all four of my grandparents. And by my friend’s dads who coached us, and by the other kids and dads in the neighborhood, and the list goes on.
Going all the way back even past when I can really remember, my grandparents never missed a game. My dad was almost always my coach. And my mom never really discouraged me from thinking every one of those silly games was the most important thing on Earth that day.
If nothing else, Father’s Day is probably a good time to thank all involved for everything. Thirty-some years into this adulthood experiment, I’m still in need of all the help I can get.
One of the coolest places sports has ever taken me is the College World Series last June to cover Kent State’s improbable run. Father’s Day was a practice day for Kent State, which took a bus about 25 minutes out of Omaha to a place called Bellevue East High School for batting practice and a light workout. Among the onlookers and recipients of the home run balls were several young kids from the neighborhood who had come over to watch practice with their dads.
Down on the field, then-Kent State coach Scott Stricklin had his father in the dugout and got to throw a little batting practice to his young son. I talked to Stricklin this week and brought that up.
He told me he was going to get choked up thinking about.
I remembered sneaking away from the field and calling my dad and both grandfathers, thanking them for everything. As I wrote at the time, there’s a reason a career .117 hitter in the Manchester t-shirt league found himself at the College World Series.
Because I’d been caught up in my last-minute Omaha travel plans, it was really only then that I realized it was Father’s Day and that I was missing our annual friends/family golf Father’s Day golf outing. For probably eight or nine years now we’ve played in a mini-outing with friends and their fathers/grandfathers/uncles, a four-man scramble with some of the worst golfers around.
In some years, I’ve played with both of my grandfathers. What a thrill — and we all learned a lot, of that I am sure.
In other years the roster has varied. My brother was out of state for a while. Divorce court knocked a cousin’s husband off the roster. My grandfathers still love to golf, but it’s a big commitment for them to say they can stick out 18 holes of the Father’s Day Open.
Eighteen holes of golf is a lot. Eighteen holes of me whining and checking Twitter and driving the ball 150 yards while my brother hits towering drives that land 450 yards right of the intended fairway makes 18 holes seem like 80.
It’s raining this morning, but sign us up for all 80.
If you’re going to be spoiled, you might as well be all the way spoiled. You might as well be grateful, too, and I certainly am that.
Thanks, Dad — and all dads — for everything.