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Dads: More Waltons, less Simpsons

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POSTED June 13, 2014 12:38 a.m.

Some years ago, I wrote a column on Father’s Day that was well received by quite a few fathers I know. Following is a rewrite with a few changes for this year.


Father’s Day is nearly upon us.  Since motherhood is right up there with apple pie and the flag, the importance of fatherhood is often overlooked.  With so many more single-parent (typically maternal) families today, and with some women preferring to “go it alone” rather than put up with the “hassles” (their words, not mine) of a man in the home, the void created by the absence of a father is much greater than feminists would like to admit.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing motherhood. What I am bashing is the thought that fathers do not matter very much.

   My own father was very special to me. In eight years of football, from Eureka to Susanville to Yreka to Oroville, he only missed two games. (My mom did not miss any!) He coached some of my earlier football teams, taught me how to run track, gave me an appreciation of nature and was always there for transportation assistance when needed. Conversely, I did feel a bit guilty at times when I attempted to shirk some of my paternal duties. 

 I used to get mad at my dad when he would give me hell for screwing up just a little bit, while not giving me a pat on the back when I did as I should. He would tell me that is how life is, that one could go their whole life on the straight and narrow and then step out of line just a little bit and all is lost. He has been gone nearly 30 years, and I wish he were here today to thank for preparing me for how cold life could be. I have gone to his grave many times to let him know just how right he was. 

Between the youth baseball and the football teams I helped coach, you wouldn’t need two hands to count the total number of wins we tallied in some seasons. It was seasons like those that gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “character building”. Back in my playing days, I could not tolerate the acceptance of losing. I have heard of the theory about winning and losing not mattering, but that was not as far as I was concerned.

 As a coach of youth sports, I had to learn to put that attitude on the shelf. As a young man of 18, I was suspended from my coaching job of an eighth-grade basketball team because of my intolerant attitude of losing. I’ve learned a lot since then.  A must view movie for all wanna-be youth coaches should be,  “The Mighty Ducks.” It really puts a lot in perspective.

I believe youth sports – and lower-level high-school sports, for that matter – are about preparing kids for the next level. So often today so much emphasis is placed on the here and now – keeping kids down a level so they can excel rather than go up a level and gain experience, having kids compete year-round in one sport rather than to compete in multiple sports and give muscle groups a chance to recuperate – that by the time those next levels come around, kids are too burned out or used up to compete. I hope those participation trophies earned as a 13-year-old were worth it. 

 I still believe in discipline. One year, I had a kid on my team who was a spoiled little rich brat.  While I may not have cared for him personally, I was a fair but stern coach and treated him as I did the rest of the team. If he disrupted the team or popped off, he was dealt with then and there. My punishment of choice was laps or pushups. (That could not happen today –we would not want to hurt anyone’s self esteem by singling them out). How did his parents react to the attempted disciplining of their little brat? They attempted to have me disciplined! And the first year this column ran in the paper, the father called my house. I do not think it was to congratulate me on my prose – I never did call him back. 

It is families like the one in the above paragraph –  bratty kids with parents too stuck up to realize a problem exists – that make George H.W. Bush’s quote “Today we need more families like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons” ring so true. So to all the dads out there who are trying to do right by their families — Happy Father’s day, you have earned it. To all the male parents out there who just do not give a damn, remember one thing: your apathy affects not just you but your next generation. 

 I do not know where I saw these words of wisdom, but truer words were never spoken: About the time a man realizes his father was right, he has a son that thinks he is wrong.

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