Six years gone
I believe that kids and parents should build a solid sports foundation early in life.
My relationship with my father was strained at best during most of my life. My parents divorced when I was around seven years old and I rarely saw him after that, mostly when it was my birthday and Christmas.
I know he loved me, but I feel that I was not what he wanted in a son, especially during my long-haired, heavy metal days when I was playing in bands. He was never shy about voicing his displeasure with what I was doing.
But we could always talk about sports, be it the Reds or what the Marshall Thundering Herd was up to.
My earliest memories of me and my dad were when he was a referee at the local Golden Gloves matches in Huntington, W. Va. My dad was in law enforcement, so when the local F.O.P. sponsored the boxing matches, he got in on it.
Occasionally, he brought me along, and my job was to sit ringside and keep track of who won the bouts. There I was, barely in elementary school, and I had a ringside seat. I guess you could say that was the first time I ever covered a sporting event.
Even after my parents divorced, for the first couple of years, my dad still involved me every year with the Golden Gloves. One of my fondest memories is when the matches ran long one night and he had to sneak me in after midnight without my mom finding out.
Eventually, my dad refereed on the national level. I have a worn VHS tape of my dad on ESPN refereeing the national finals in 1986. It’s the only footage I have of my dad. I think that’s one of the things I would save in case of a fire.
He served as president of the National Golden Gloves Referees Association, and upon his retirement from the organization, was inducted into the Golden Gloves Officials Hall of Fame.
Another great memory with my dad was when he would take me out to what they called the “police farm.” From what I remember, the Huntington Police Farm had a baseball field, a fishing lake, a playground and other things where a young boy can find some trouble. I loved going out there, but it’s been almost 40 years, so the old memory isn’t what it used to be.
I also remember my dad umpiring some American Legion baseball games, although as I stated earlier, my memory is a bit fuzzy on that subject as well.
While these are good memories, I’m still somewhat puzzled why my dad never offered to take me to a Cincinnati Reds game. I didn’t see my first MLB game until I moved to St. Louis. I wanted to wait to see my first game with my dad, but it never came to pass, and then finally I gave up on the idea.
Those memories from my early years still leave an impression on me, and I know more kids will benefit if their parents take the time and do things with them.
People harp on and on about spending quality time with children, and it’s become a bloated cliché by now. But I am proof positive that early impressions last a lifetime and bring a smile to my face decades later. I didn’t spend a lot of time with my dad, but the time we did share helped me build an appreciation for sports. Some of the best memories in life revolve around sports, and I’m glad sports could play a part keeping the memory of my dad alive.
This Sunday will mark six years since my dad passed away. Sadly, he never got to see me graduate from college and go on to become a sports writer. I’d like to think that he would be proud of what I have become today, although I took a rocky route to get there.
There are a few loose ends that will never be fixed and a lot of questions I wish could be answered.
I wonder if he would approve of my new profession and if the lines of communication would be opened to rebuild that relationship.
I’d like to think that he would smile as he opened The Sun’s sports section, believing in some way that his boy made good. I’d like to believe that he is looking over my shoulder as I type this. In a way, I feel he is. If I could only have one game of catch with him.
I love you dad.