Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sports Is My Father

People ask me all the time why I take sports so seriously. I never really thought about it before really, I usually just responded with a sarcastic remark and moved on. In my old age I guess I have been thinking a little more about why I am the way I am, that being awesome and loving sports. The reason I love sports so much, and have a deep passion for all things athletic I guess would have to be my dad. If you think this is one of those sentimental posts where a writer waxes poetic about days gone by of tossing a baseball in the backyard with his dad or shooting hoops in the driveway you’re about to be mistaken. You see I am one of the 38% of children who grew up without a father.

Now allow me to be the first to say that this following statement is not an indictment on my mother or any other single mother in the world. The simple statement is that it is almost impossible for a woman to raise a man. It doesn’t mean the mother is not competent, it just means that she doesn’t understand what it’s like to be a young man growing up. The same is true for my mom. I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have without her, but without sports I may not have made it this far either.

I grew up in a house with three sisters and for the first eight and a half years of my life my grandmother lived with us as well. That’s five strong willed women and one awkward little boy. They did all they could to make me feel included and for the most part I was, but at times I felt alone. Until one day when I was a little younger than five years old and saw my first basketball game, like actually WATCHED a game. I saw these strong guys impose their will and I wanted to be them.

I spent my childhood emulating guys like Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird, and athletes from other sports like Don Mattingly, Muhammad Ali and of course Sweetness himself Walter Payton. As I got older I learned to break down tapes of these athletes and what I began to do as a very insecure child was to use their confidence and bravado to help me through those awkward years. Jordan’s ability to have unflappable confidence, the bravado of Muhammad Ali, the swagger and the walk of these athletes helped me get through a fatherless childhood. Instead of learning to fix cars from dad I shot jumpers to win games in the NBA Finals, a day of having a father teach me how to talk to girls turned into teaching myself how to field ground balls with pizzazz like Ozzie Smith, suddenly the lack of a dad didn’t hurt anymore. It made me who I was, who I am, and who I will continue to be.

I’ll end this by saying something I never thought I would say. Thank you dad, your absence shaped me for the better. It taught me everything I need to know if I ever have children, it gave me an excuse to sit down that day and watch basketball and change my life and gave me a passion and love that many people can’t say they have, not many people can say they are that lucky.

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