On fathers and sports and the things that matter more

Associate head men's basketball coach Tony Jones and GVX sports writer Mike Strange, who both lost their fathers this year (Jones's father was murdered), have some advice for the rest of us.

Jones:

"But I look at it that my life has taken on an extra value, because now I'm more of an extension of my father's legacy,'' Jones said. "I want all the values and morals he lived by and taught me to factor into me becoming the best person I can.''

. . . .

"The message I want to convey is that life is short, and if you are fortunate enough to have a parental figure, tell them each and every day you love them,'' Jones said. "Tell them you appreciate all of the things they have done for you.

"I was fortunate enough to have my father 48 years of my life, and I'll continue to think about him every day.''

Strange:

Most dads are every-day guys. They don't have heroic stories, per se.

And yet they are no less our heroes.

The words you are reading appear on a sports page. As such, I feel obligated to frame my hero worship in something of a sporting light.

My dad somehow produced World Series tickets. There I am at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, ogling Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest of the New York Yankees.

Do you believe in miracles? I sure did.

My dad somehow got his hands on Final Four tickets. There I am in Freedom Hall, watching Cincinnati upset Ohio State and Jerry Lucas. Another miracle, it seemed at the time.

. . . .

All that said, though, our fathers' most important gifts to us likely did not involve a ball or bat.

. . . .

It was helpful he showed me how to hold a golf club.

It was more helpful he showed me how to hold a job.

I'm glad he showed me how to treat a baseball glove.

That glove has been stored in the closet for years now, however. I'm more glad he showed me how to treat other people.

If your dad is still around today, give him a hug and a big smile along with those golf balls.

If he's not, reflect on the ways he helped make you who you are.

They're right. Life is short, largely because we're so intent on making it a race. So timeout, already. Take the day off.

It's funny how sports figures in to so many father-son relationships. My own relationship with my dad turned the corner when he and I started playing racquetball together when I was in my early twenties. Something about sweating and stinking together just works.

As does freezing and baking. Dad's living in Little Rock now, but he's made a point of going to a few UT football games with me. We've shivered together in wintry, windy wins against Kentucky in Nashville's LP Field, and we've been cooked together at the same stadium in the September sun against some patsy.

Like Mike Strange said, though, it's the little things that really stick with you as a kid. I remember Dad, who was a CPA for an unfathomable three decades, once railing about a client who was hell-bent on doing some forgotten Unethical Thing. I don't remember exactly what it was, and it really doesn't matter. Shoot, Dad wasn't even talking to me; he was venting to Mom, a coping strategy with which I am becoming all too familiar. I understand much better now the frustration felt when a strong and sincere desire to please clients collides head on with a duty to disappoint them.

He may not have been talking to me, but I was listening. And somehow that one thing worked its way into some deep part of me, made a home for itself, and became an integral component of the compass that has guided me through life, so far without major catastrophe.

That and many other things I've picked up from my parents, sometimes through conversation but most often through observation, have served me quite well, and I am beyond appreciative. Love ya, Dad. Thanks.

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