Two things I could have done to make my dad really happy with me would have been to become religious and to care about baseball. I failed him in both.
Let's not talk about the religion thing and say we did. But professional sports: I can't even tell you why I never developed an interest. I should have. I grew up worshiping college football stars. I played hockey every day I could. I played baseball all summer. I even had a baseball nickname: E.J., short for Error Jimmy.
Maybe it was a '60s thing. Professional sports always seemed corporate, hollowed out of soul. The players were all mercenaries, like the Hessians who fought with the British in the Revolution.
My wife comes from the opposing school of thought. Oh my God. You'd think Tyson Chandler was our son. In fact I know more about Dirk Nowitzki's life in the last six months, from her, than I know about our son's life.
So during this whole playoffs thing, in the interest of domestic solidarity I sat next to her with my fingers jammed in my ears while she screamed, moaned and, frankly, don't tell other people this, but sometimes used quite bad language when things didn't go her way. I was shocked. I said nothing, but I'm so glad the young man was no longer at home to be exposed.
Here is the other problem. Because I'm in the news business, I have a keen sense of the difference between sports and real life. On the news side at the daily papers I worked for, we called sports "the toy department." I don't know what they called us, but I did have a conversation once with a very smart sports reporter who explained to me why I was so stupid.
He said people don't come to sports looking for reality. They come to sports to get away from it. The larger-than-life sagas of sports, he said, are to died-in-the-wool sports fans what the legends of the gods on Olympus were to ancient man.
Dirk, once weak, now strong. Jason Kidd, the mask of vengeance. Jason Terry, the quick and the dead. J.J., the wasp who fells giants. Tyson, sweet though cruel.
Shit. Somehow she got me into it. Pretty much. I rebelled against some of it. I thought, "Now wait, I'm supposed to hate Dwyane Wade because he trash-talked somebody in a corridor? I do that every day. In fact, I think I do it for a living."
We went to dinner with a guy who told us a very nice little story about an encounter his daughter and some friends had with LeBron James at a bar in New York, where James came across as a true gentleman. And I'm required to think LeBron is the devil because he's in the other uniform? What is this, professional wrestling? (Did you notice, though, I called him by his first name?)
This morning at 7 o'clock as I headed out to a non-sports related assignment, I saw an entire family towing blue and white wheeled coolers down the sidewalk on their way to the parade. Judging by where they were coming from, it's possible they did not have a car.
They were two miles from the parade route and three hours ahead of start time. And the temperature was already on its way to sidewalk-egg-frying hotter than hell.
I get it. I do. We won. I'm really happy for us. It is truly sweet and wonderful. Now will someone please tell me why the announcers are always saying the players are trying to pick a roll?