Sports and fathers often go together.
It’s fathers who provide the athletic nurturing for youngsters, and my dad is no exception. He helped provide the sports foundation that ultimately led to my profession and it all began with his love for Kentucky basketball, the Cincinnati Reds and the Dallas Cowboys, which basically covers the top three major sports — basketball, baseball and football.
Dad, who turns 65 in eight days, wasn’t the star athlete in high school and didn’t receive a college scholarship. I’m not even sure he played on any kind of team at Madison High School in Richmond. Instead, he went to the Marine Corps and served in the Vietnam War. Based on the letters he sent home to my grandmother and my aunt late Ruth that he passed on to me, it was an eye-opening experience for an 18-year-old young man.
I did, however, find out later in my adulthood that he was indeed an athlete. We played on the same church league softball team for several years in the early 1990s in¿Richmond. He was a pitcher — a pretty good one — who threw right and batted left-handed. I also coached my mom and sister on the church softball team, well before co-ed leagues became popular, resulting in some of the most memorable moments in my life.
Like dad, mom loves the Kentucky men’s basketball team and of course the sport or teams her son and daughter once played for, but that is the extent of her athletic background. Dad was always busy juggling his full-time job and pastoring a church, but also found time to educate his son about the Wildcats,¿Reds and Cowboys. Most of the time the conversations about sports came around the television screen or on family vacations.
It was my dad’s grandfather who loved sports, especially the Wildcats and the Reds. Grandpaw Noland passed on that appreciation for sports from one generation to another. From what I was told, he would listen to games on the radio and kept his own statistics. He also attended games at Crosley Field and had a passion for baseball. Based on family history, he also liked to read and keep notes about sports, a trait that found its way to a great grandson he never knew.
I can remember my father talking about how good the Big Red Machine was in the mid-1970s and the Kentucky Wildcats winning the national title in 1978. Thanks to video technology, I’ve watched those games and enjoyed putting faces with the memories.
He and I also ran a baseball card shop adjacent to a barber shop in Richmond, which provided some spending money while I played basketball in high school. That’s when the business was booming.
Dad’s sports experiences have played a role in my career choice. We’ve spent many times talking about sports, and to this day, I’m still trying to convince him that college football is better than the National Football League and that soccer isn’t just a sport played on international soil.
My taste and passion for sports in general goes deeper than dad’s, but he laid the foundation and put up the frame. I simply moved in, decorated the interior and call it my career home.