Thursday, April 26, 2007

Dad, thanks for a love of games

Sports to me mean much more than who wins and who loses. Sports are my connection to my roots, to my family – and, most of all, to my father, a man who bestowed on me a love for games. Unfortunately, I can no longer speak with him. He died two years ago today. I can no longer call him when the Yankees play poorly, as they have the past five days, and discuss which bums need to be traded away. And I can no longer ask him for advice about coaching.

Sports are a natural connection between fathers and sons – and, more and more, they are an important connection between dads, moms and daughters. That’s true for me and my girls. My father taught me many lessons about life – and a few more important ones like how to lay down a great drag bunt or how to roll my wrists when I made contact. Those days spent playing with my father were some of the finest in my life. So let’s not forget why we love sports – for the enjoyment of the game and for the time spent with those we care about.

I recently completed an essay about my father and sports, a piece that explains why I have always been so fascinated with the games we play. I offer a brief excerpt below in honor of my father, a man whom I miss dearly, and in honor of the sports that gave him so much pleasure.

Frozen Rain
“You might also want to freeze a repeated moment, like when you played catch with your father on Sunday mornings, holding the rough rawhide ball in your hand and wondering whether the world produced anything more beautiful and perfect as a baseball – and a father. (And not understanding that these thoughts were merely senses and impressions at age six, but that they would grow into the thoughts of a man many years later.) You feel the cool Jersey breeze blowing in from the woods as you hit ball after ball after church, pounding knuckleballs and curves and fastballs and off-speed pitches. You could handle anything. Even at age six, you knew this was the place where you would pray to go someday after death, not some stuffy place filled with harps and clouds and classical music and angels. Hell, you preferred Yankees anyway. This was your church, where pitches from your father were served like Eucharist and where the bases were rosaries that you rubbed against with your feet. Each time, you took off, you eventually returned home. You did not care if you are a poor banished child of Eve. There are no sighs or tears weeping for the Holy Mother on this day. Instead, there is only the sacrament of the game, the rite of the pitched ball, and the divinity of the moment spent with someone you adore. I’ve never been sure whether I was worthy of forgiveness, mercy or salvation, but I always knew I had the love of the man who adopted me as a child and played ball with me, on and off the field, for more than forty years.”


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