A couple of weeks ago I went to the All-Star Game with my Dad, who grew up in Pittsburgh, and my two sons, Benji and Bobby. We had a great time going to the Fan Fest, the Home Run Derby and the Game. PNC Park is one of the best new parks and we all had a great few days of baseball and camaraderie across three generations. During the course of the game, and watching some of
the events during the past few weeks, it's become apparent just how lucky we are.
Sitting in front of me during the game was a guy claiming to have come from Alaska just for the all-star spectacle. He'd certainly had a few beers before the game, kept drinking throughout, and was something of a spectacle himself. He had a sign berating Manny Ramirez for not making an appearance in spite getting the most votes of any AL player. He was emotionally moved during the ceremony celebrating Roberto Clemente's life. Through the drinking, sign waving and stammering, he happened to get in a very poignant remark: "You're sooooo lucky! I'm here alone and you got your two boys and your dad too; three generations sitting here! I got no kids of my own, wow, lucky guy!"
He was absolutely right because all the events in our life, big and small, are about sharing with those that we care about. We've talked about how sports help create a bond through generations (SportsKids.com Archive Link) and it is evident everywhere.
Tiger Woods' recent victory at the British Open should be a stark reminder to all of us of how precious and fleeting our special moments are. Most people are familiar with the relationship between Tiger and his dad, Earl. Not only did Earl teach Tiger every aspect of the game, he was also Tiger's role model and best friend. They had the type of relationship that most of us want with our children and parents. After winning the British Open, the first major he won after Earl died of cancer, Tiger couldn't control his emotions: the feelings of happiness and sorrow came pouring out as he hugged his caddy with tears streaming. It was one of the most honest moments we'll ever share.
Many people who don't have kids can't understand the relationship and bond that parents and their children share. I never realized how much my parents cared until I had the perspective of loving my own children. Without this viewpoint, people could misinterpret time spent playing and watching sports with kids as a misguided attempt to live vicariously through them. Whether its ballet, the arts, sports, a spelling bee or an academic decathlon, most parents view these shared interests as time well spent bonding with their kids. While TV shows may try to put a negative spin on a parental involvement, most of us have it well under control and realize that we're having fun and building long lasting memories with our kids. We understand that the odds of winning thelottery are better than our kids becoming professional athletes but it doesn't diminish our enjoyment of being with them.
While there are lots of success stories like Tiger Woods, Mickey Mantle and Bob Feller who had great relationships with their fathers who were influential in teaching them the game, many portray father-son relationship building through sports as being more akin to the fabled story of Todd Marinovich whose father plotted his NFL career from birth. Todd's father Marv, an ex-USC star athlete, NFL lineman and coach, began programming his son and never let him have a Big Mac or watch cartoons. Many may feel that those are good things, but while Marinovich ended up as a first round draft pick of the Raiders, he also became a drug addict and spent time in jail for possession of marijuana. Enjoying being with your children and sharing common interests and experiences should be considered very positive. My friend, Steve, who I coach basketball with, and I often comment how we prefer watching our sons play to attending a Lakers game. It's done for creating a bond - not creating a professional athlete.
Adam Sandler's movie "Click" also talks about the idea that time goes fast and it's important to enjoy the small moments in life with your family; if you go through on "autopilot" then you end up missing the best parts of your life. While it's crucial to maintain a balance and not be either "all work" or "all play", the realization that time doesn't stop should allow us to focus on our family. Shared interests, common goals and playing together, in sports, school, drama or any other endeavor is an important element of building long lasting multi-generational bonds.
Sometimes the events you share with your kids or parents are special, like going to an all-star game in your parent's hometown. Sometimes the events you share are much more trivial, like just playing catch in the park or getting to watch your child doing something that they love. What we need to realize though is that sharing these times, whether special or even trivial, is what brings us all together and makes us lucky. It was truly great to go to Pittsburgh for the all-star game, but that's not what makes us lucky. It's watching a game together, coaching a team, going to a movie or having dinner together that builds the relationships that last a lifetime. We get to do these things nearly everyday and it's important to appreciate those small things because not everybody is so lucky.