My dad has always been a huge boxing fan. Through the heavyweight greats of the 1970’s, as well as the legendary middleweights of the late 70’s and early 80’s, he watched them all. His favorite was Muhammad Ali. He would often tell me stories of Ali’s epic bouts with Frazier, Norton, and George Foreman. He explained to me in detail how Ali’s losses late in his career were to inferior opponents, how they never would have beaten an Ali in his prime.
As Mike Tyson came on the scene in the mid to late eighties we watched his often quick and explosive fights when we could catch them on HBO. In the days before pay per view, we once drove over an hour to watch a closed circuit fight against Michael Spinks. We arrived at the packed civic center to watch the preliminary bouts before settling in for the main event. 93 seconds after the opening bell it was all over, my popcorn was still warm as Tyson knocked out his foe with lighting precision. Everyone in attendance was disappointed. But not me, I was having the time of my life with my dad.
I had a young dad; he was only 20 when I was born. Full of life and working in the public eye, he was always entertaining. As a DJ in the 1980’s he would take me with him to do remote broadcasts at car dealerships, shopping malls, colleges, movie theaters and sporting events. With our matching mullets (it was the eighties) we had some amazing adventures. Hot air balloon rides, donkey basketball, movie premeres, and a spot in the Christmas parade were just a few of the perks I enjoyed. I always felt like a celebrity when I came along, watching my dad around a crowd is a sight, he's fearless.
There were other less spectacular gigs, but I enjoyed these just the same. I would help my dad set up equipment for these events, tagging along on the way to weddings, anniversary parties, school dances, and any other festivity that required my father’s services. During these trips, I would proudly ride along in the van as my dad’s trusty sidekick.
When he wasn't working, it was time for football. Dad would join me in the backyard as my neighbor and I would go heads-to- head against him in our weekly showdown. After practicing all week, we would line up to face the fiercest one man pass rush known to man.
Assuming character, he would come out pointing at us, not unlike Ali, You’re going down! We would giggle excitedly as Dad, as animated as ever, became the perfect heel. The score wasn't important, but we would always claim victory. Dad would grant us a post-game interview, telling us how he underestimated the two football greats he had just seen.
On Saturday mornings, I was often up at sunrise ready to start the day. Every weekend my dad and I would head to the flea market. I would search for deals on football cards, used toys, sporting gear, fire crackers, and whatever else caught my eye. At ten years old, I didn't realize just how lucky I was. As we spent our Saturday mornings wading through junk and used toys, we talked about whatever was on my mind. I could come to my dad for anything, and I always felt better afterwards.
Family vacations were usually a trip to the beach. My two sisters and I would hop into the van and annoy the living daylights out of my parents until we arrived at our destination. Hopped up on soda, saltwater taffy, and pure adrenaline, I became a ball of sunburned energy that must have tested the limits of human patience.
Christmas was always a magical time, with each year being better than the next. There were always tricks; one year there was a small box with a note in it. The note had a string attached that I followed -- in my socks-- down the stairs, outside to the backyard, around the side of the house out to the street where there was a basketball goal set up and ready to go. (It must have been 20 degrees.)
Our family was always visited by an elf, who oddly enough spoke only to my dad. The elf became a yearly ritual, each year leaving gifts, a cordless phone one year, a video camera the next. The elf always came through and became a tradition we still talk about today. (I’ve since learned that the video camera was purchased to document the kids’ antics and would later be used as payback.)
We were always able to laugh, and I think this got us through some rough times. My Dad has a perfect mix of humor and sincerity. Lessons were taught and I learned from his example. Now that I'm older I can't imagine dealing with some of the responsibilities he faced at such a young age.
I was always able to come to my dad for anything, as I still can today. We live in different states and may only see each other a couple of times a year but nothing’s changed, I can pick up the phone and tell him anything, and I often do as I still need his advice today as much as ever. I know that without him I wouldn’t be the same person as I am today. I’m often aware of his influence and I beam with pride when someone mentions our similarities. I am very fortunate to have such a great dad, and if I ever do have children I will try my best to be anything close to the parent he has been and still is to me. Thanks Dad.