When I was about seven, my father took me to my first ball game.
It was a World Series game, but this didn't keep my brother and I from getting into frequent bouts of siblingesque trouble. Further compounding the problem was the fact that our father wasn’t a huge sports fan, he just liked going to games. So we probably didn't feel the full sense of wonder that we might have otherwise.
My father and brother favored the Yankees, so for reasons of family harassment rather than any knowledge of either team, I rooted for whoever was playing against them. This in turn, naturally led to my brother and I haranguing one another even further.
The game was, for the most part, as eventful as watching paint cure, with a pitchers’ duel shutting down the hitters until the bottom of the ninth. Just when my father was considering a decision between corporal and capital punishment, Mickey Mantle drilled a solo home run into the left field bleachers. That crack of the bat was so loud, so pure, and it was a shot of such remarkable intensity, that we forgot to bicker, swept along with the crowd’s reaction like flotsam at high tide. Even throughout the drive home, we eagerly replayed the at-bat - inaccurately, I’ve no doubt, but no less exuberantly for it.
We moved back to Chicago when I was 10 and began to trek to Wrigley Field for Cubs and Bears games. I got to see Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Leo Durocher, Ryne Sandberg, Dick Butkus, Brian Piccolo, Gayle Sayers--basically history playing across the field in front of me. As I got older the Bears fled to Soldier Field, which didn’t have a decent line of sight in the house, but that didn’t keep my friends and I from blowing the rent money on bad seats and Old Style beer. Every now and then, my father would come along with us. He rarely said much, other than the occasional obscenity aimed at a referee, but the sun was as beautiful, the autumn leaves as fragrant, and the snowstorms as challenging as ever.
Fathers raising our children to appreciate the drama, pathos, insanity, and beauty of sports is an American tradition that goes back to the founding of the country. I have no doubt that Doug will be fully educating his son Jasper in the pleasures of the diamond and the gridiron; keeping him from the ways of evil and the Yankees; and explaining to him why the Raiders should never be your friends.
Finally, he'll explain to his son why the Broncos are the best franchise in all of sports. Even when Jasper reaches adulthood, John Elway will probably still be running the team and filling its coffers with the best players out there.
Happy first Father’s Day, Doug. May all the years between now and then be filled with all the joy and love that exists among you Jasper.