Monday, June 2, 2008


Late May serves as the unofficial start to the summer, but it also starts an unpleasant season. Anniversaries have a heavier tone than they used to. Birthdays are followed by passings. The daily motions become a bit more daunting as June 2 approaches. Yet, somehow, we all manage to smile and laugh to do more than get by. Instead of mourning, we celebrate.

I rarely asked about his playing days. Rarely is more like never. Never had the gumption to ask him about anything of his past except about the days before the Twin Towers were erected and the hospitals he built were hemorraging space for patients. Deathly afraid of inquiring about if he could have made it beyond the dirt and torn grasses into the stadia of legends. Never swallowed the lump of fear in my throat that held me back from inquiring about his younger days when his knees allowed him to be on of Philadelphia's best athletes, at least in his mind. In fact, he told me more about Jim Brown and Johnny Unitas than himself.

Mommy says that he was light in the ass and got thrown around all of the time. Sure, he played against guys in the semi-pros and high school that eventually played at the college and professional levels, but she never hinted that he was capable of running with the big boys. Maybe she didn't want to make him into our Al Bundy, the man who won the city championship for Polk High School back in '66 ;). Nonethless, his love for athletics, his calloused hands from twenty-five years of construction and his daunting intellect proved to be ingredients for someone else to live his dream.

My brother used to flaunt his "Number One Son" shirt in front of me. Well, not so much flaunt as he did remind me that he was older, bigger, stronger, quicker and tougher than me. Yes, even back then, I was about the size of an equpiment manager, but I possessed an athletic ability that wasn't cultivated the way his was. Basically, one son was given the physical tools while the other was given that nasty temper that ticked off coaches, despite inspiring teammates. No worries, though because he had my back. Every game I would watch with him became a history lesson, but not in the "back in my day" fashion.

Many of the Baby Boomer generation would tell you that the current athletes didn't play for the love of the game; rather the love of the money, the gluttony of fame and the allure of media attention. Yet, having six children of various ages told him that no matter how much things change, things stay the same. Along with my mother, he was able to give every game and participant the proper perspective, regardless of era. He strayed from the typical media reports and told us why this person made an impact. He was able to appreciate the evolution of the athletes and leagues from their grainy black-and-white beginnings (and segregations) to their Technicolor presentation. He didn't need Tom Rinaldi's voice for a SportsCenter segment to understand the human element of sports.

Most important of all, he said if you wanted to change the game - let alone be a part of it - you have to know how to play it first.

I'm not sure how he would have initially received my involvement with sports media. Yet, in the years since, I can only assume that he would have attached himself to every story I come up with for the Beacon or recorded every radio show I did in college or recently for WHCR. I assume that he would have extolled the virtues of this blog to every person he would have met in his travels. I'd like to believe this and there's a good chance that I'm right. However, more than anything else, I wonder if one day, he would have let me tell his story to the world.

Until the day comes that I can, I'll just say that my father would have probably told Mets and Yankees fans to calm the hell down. He would have loved Antonio Pierce as a player and even more after I told him that he was the first Giants player to give me a quote. He would have called for most of the old IDB shows at Babson or have given me some anecdotes when I was about to speak with Willie O'Ree last August. He would have said that slowly, but surely I was going to change the world forever.

I'm trying to, I would have told him.

Thank you, Bobby. I'll see you soon.

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