I'm bad at giving gifts. Don't get me wrong, I'll always give gifts to my immediate family but I'll do it in the worst possible fashion. For Christmas, I'll usually give my sisters money out of my wallet the morning of, while giving my parents a gift card of their choice. With this being said, the most economically efficient gift I could give to my dad this Father's Day is through my column.
To: Dad, the greatest role model a son could ask for
Sports of all kinds have formed a special bond between a father and his son(s) for centuries and, as time progresses into the future, that special bond is one that will never be broken. Sons learn how to throw a baseball from their dad, shoot their first basket, throw a spiral, and the list goes on and on. Since it is of course Father's Day weekend, I thought it would be fitting to honor this unique relationship as I have come to the conclusion my dad instilled in me at a young age my passion for sports, both as a participant and observer.
This father-son bond stretches further than teaching the basics, particularly in professional sports. Felipe Alou, 17-year MLB veteran and father of fellow 17-year MLB veteran outfielder Moises Alou, had the luxury of coaching his son twice, both with the Montreal Expos and San Francisco Giants. Bobby Bonds, who played 14 years in the MLB, was the first player in league history to hit 300 home runs and steal 400 bases; and who was the only other player in the history of the league to accomplish that impressive feat? His son, Barry.
Ken and Ken Griffey Jr. were the only father-son duo to play in the MLB at the same time, which occurred when Ken Jr. was a rookie in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners while his father was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. The Earnhardts—Ralph, Dale and Dale Jr.—are the first family of NASCAR. Between them there’s nearly a century of auto-racing experience.
The list of father-son relationships in sports continues on and on and will continue to stretch for decades to come. However, one father-son relationship that has particularly stood out to me does not involve playing sports, but rather covering them: A father-son bond between the co-hosts of ESPN2?s "Highly Questionable," starring Miami Herald columnist Dan Le Batard and his 68-year-old father, Gonzalo, known as “Papi” on the show.
“Working with my son five days a week in the TV business is like a dream. That is something that every father and son would like to do, and I am blessed to be able to do it,” Gonzalo said in a interview with ESPN Front Row in June 2012. “The show gives me an opportunity to spend more time with him.”
I grew up watching my dad play pick-up basketball at local facilities and took what I watched to the gym to try to hone my skills to be just like him. I looked up to him with an absolute childhood admiration as I searched through old newspaper clips of him winning a state championship for Madison La Follette and playing for the University of Wisconsin. While my passion for basketball dwindled and switched to tennis, he didn’t stop with his endless support and motivation. Our special bond through sports doesn’t stop there, though. We were able to witness history together Nov. 13, 1999, when Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne became the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher. We were at the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, where Wisconsin beat Michigan State, 42-39. This past year, we had the distinct privilege of going to Cameron Indoor Stadium. Whether it was the countless number of Badger football and basketball games or going around the country to different MLB stadiums, those were the moments that will forever be cherished. Yet, the most cherishing thing my dad ever gave me was the presence of a great role model, and I continue to realize this the older I get.
Sports integrated my dad and I just like they integrated the Le Batards, the Griffeys, the Alous, the Earnhardts, the Bondses and so many more. Mothers, please don’t grow jealous by this relationship, just remember: It’s a Father-Son Thing.