By Ken Reed
The Huffington Post
January 5, 2016
I was driving home last night from my two daughters’ high school basketball game when I started reflecting on their team’s thrilling quadruple overtime win over a highly-ranked opponent.
However, my thoughts soon turned to my dad. I started wishing he were here to see his granddaughters play his favorite game.
Then it hit me. 2016. My dad’s been gone 20 years now. Wow. He never even got the chance to hold either of my kids in his arms as babies, let alone watch them participate in high school sports.
Relationships are precious. And so is time, especially time spent with the important people in our lives.
Although my dad passed away way too soon, he left me with a powerful threefold legacy: 1) Family comes first; 2) The importance of education; and 3) A passion for sports.
As I continued driving home from the high school gym, I began to appreciate the many ways sports have enhanced my life. And I realized I owe that to my dad.
One of the things my dad did — of which I’m eternally grateful — was to implant the sports virus into my soul when I was 7 years old. The world of sports has given me lifelong friends, endless entertainment, a great way to exercise, many valuable lessons and a big chunk of my career. But most importantly, a cherished bond with my dad.
I remember Dad driving me to my first Little League baseball tryout when I was nine years old. Back then you could sit in the front passenger seat no matter what your height or weight. I sat there, a scrawny kid staring at the glove compartment and not saying much. My sweaty left hand was stuck inside my cherished Mickey Mantle baseball glove (one of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts from my Mom and Dad). Dad kept saying, “You’ll do fine,” but I wasn’t feeling all that convinced. He was right.
A couple years later, I can still see my father on the sideline as I competed in the old Punt, Pass & Kick competition. We had been practicing together for a couple weeks. I nailed my punt and pass. I can still see my dad’s face beaming with pride. But the placekick was a different story. I shanked it. His look of disappointment after my wayward kick ended my chance of going to the Punt, Pass & Kick regionals is etched even deeper in my mind.
But I was one of the fortunate kids. I had a youth sports dad who kept things in perspective and believed more in a pat on the back than a kick in the rear. His encouraging words as I walked, head down, to our car helped ease the pain. And the ice cream cone he bought me when we went to lunch all but erased it.
I have great memories of going to high school, college and pro games with Dad. It wasn’t until years later that I realized he’d chosen to take his naive little kid to the games with him instead of going with one of his sports buddies.
Once, on a family vacation, Dad and I sat in the family car, parked outside a dinky motel room late one August night, and listened to the long-distance scratchy radio broadcast of an exhibition — yes exhibition — game featuring his favorite sports team, the Denver Broncos.
There are many more pleasant memories: a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden on my 31st birthday; a father/son road trip to Kansas City to watch the Royals play the California Angels.
Ahh, it was a wonderful mental stroll last night ….
Dad passed away too young. I miss him but I feel blessed by our relationship and the time we had together. I only have one regret: that I never sat down with him and had a true heart-to-heart talk.
A couple years before he died, I drafted a column with a working title of “Talkin’ With Dad.” The column was about how I hoped to be more open with my father, sharing more than my thoughts on current sports topics. I wrote about how I was working on building up the courage to share my hopes, dreams and fears with him — and then asking him to share his. My gut was telling me that the strong bond between the two of us would become even stronger if we talked more about the serious stuff in life and not just the fun stuff.
I never finished that column, never turned it in to my editor, and worst of all, never had that heart-to-heart with my father. He died before I built up the courage to do it.
I’m a lucky man. I had a lot of good years with my dad and very few guys have the father-son relationship I had with Pops. I KNOW he loved me and I KNOW he knew I loved him.
But I still wish I would’ve had that talk.
And so I’m encouraging you all — sports-loving sons and daughters — to call a parent (or maybe a brother, sister, or good friend) and in-between chatting about the fun stuff have that serious talk. I can’t prod you enough. I’m betting the bond that started when you had your first catch in the backyard, or shot hoops together in the driveway, or hit the tennis ball back and forth over the net will be strengthened in ways you can’t even imagine.
Sport provides a great vehicle for bonding with the important people in your life. But the bond can be a lot deeper if you talk about more than whether or not the local basketball team’s head coach should be fired.
Today, I’ve added another New Year’s resolution to my 2016 list. The goal is to develop the courage to have “the talk” with all the important people in my life — family members and friends. I want to open my heart and share the important stuff.
Wish me better luck this time.
Ken Reed is Sports Policy Director for League of Fans.
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #22 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Rethinking Sports Fandom with Author Craig Calcaterra – We discuss Calcaterra’s new book “Rethinking Fandom: How to Beat the Sports-Industrial Complex at Its Own Game” and explore new ways to be a fan in the year 2022.
Follow on Facebook: @SportsForumPodcast
Episode #21 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Chatting About a Broken Game With Baseball Writer Pedro Moura – Moura is a national baseball writer for Fox Sports. We discuss how and why the game of baseball is broken, what factors caused it, and offer a few thoughts on how to “fix” a great game.
Episode #20 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Coaching Youth and High School Sports Based On What’s Best for the Athlete’s Holistic Development – We chat with long-time youth, high school and college basketball coach Jim Huber.
Episode #19 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Capturing the Spirit of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League with Anika Orrock – We discuss the hoops AAGPFL women had to jump through to play the game they loved as well as the long-term impact and legacy they have in advancing sports opportunities for girls and women.
Episode #18 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking about the 50th Anniversary of Title IX and the Lia Thomas Controversy with Nancy Hogshead-Makar – Hogshead-Makar is a triple gold medalist in swimming, a civil rights attorney and CEO of Champion Women.
Episode #17 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports With Legendary New York Times Sports Columnist Robert Lipsyte – We chat about Lipsyte’s amazing career and some of the athletes he covered.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- League of Fans Sports Policy Director Ken Reed quoted in Washington Post column titled "What happened to P.E.? It’s losing ground in our push for academic improvement," by Jay Mathews
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Order from Amazon
Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon