Strange: Average dads are what make life special

Mike Strange
News Sentinel sportswriter Mike Strange, from left, his father Bernard
and his mother Alice.

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS SENTINEL

News Sentinel sportswriter Mike Strange, from left, his father Bernard and his mother Alice.

By now I hope you have solved the dilemma: What to get dad for Father's Day?

Maybe a sporty shirt. Perhaps a Civil War book. Golf balls usually work.

As the years add up, it gets harder. By a certain point, he's got a drawer full of shirts, a bucket of Titleists in the basement and he knows everything there is to know about Pickett's Charge.

I know. I've been there.

And then it gets really hard when he grows too creaky to play golf and his vision fades to where he can't read without a magnifying glass and has no relish to tackle a book.

I know. I've been there, too.

For the first time in my life this year I didn't have to fret over a Father's Day gift for the father who already has everything he wants or needs.

It's been almost three months since his funeral.

But this is no sob story. Far from it. My dad would have been the first to tell you he had a great run for 83 years.

Another thing, this isn't a story with a zinger. There is no unusual hook.

My dad never built a basketball court in the barn (although he knew how).

He didn't immigrate from the old country and work three jobs to pay my Little League dues so I could earn a college scholarship. (I couldn't hit a curveball, anyway.)

Since he never played in the NFL, it goes without saying he never used to sneak me in the locker room after games.

Chances are your dad didn't do any of those things either. Most dads are every-day guys. They don't have heroic stories, per se.

And yet they are no less our heroes.

The words you are reading appear on a sports page. As such, I feel obligated to frame my hero worship in something of a sporting light.

My dad somehow produced World Series tickets. There I am at old Crosley Field in Cincinnati, ogling Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and the rest of the New York Yankees.

Do you believe in miracles? I sure did.

My dad somehow got his hands on Final Four tickets. There I am in Freedom Hall, watching Cincinnati upset Ohio State and Jerry Lucas. Another miracle, it seemed at the time.

Perhaps Kentucky football tickets rated short of the miraculous, but watching Tennessee, LSU or Ole Miss on a Saturday afternoon certainly felt larger than life.

All that said, though, our fathers' most important gifts to us likely did not involve a ball or bat.

I am forever appreciative for those Saturday mornings when my dad drove around town collecting our fifth-grade basketball team for games at the Y.

But I'm just as appreciative for hauling the gang for an afternoon at the swimming pool when he came home for lunch. That's where the girls were.

I was thankful he was in the gym to celebrate when I hit a game-winning basket for the Franklin County Flyers.

I was more thankful he didn't fly off the handle after I forgot to set the gear and the Oldsmobile rolled down the driveway into the neighbors' swing set.

It was helpful he showed me how to hold a golf club.

It was more helpful he showed me how to hold a job.

I'm glad he showed me how to treat a baseball glove.

That glove has been stored in the closet for years now, however. I'm more glad he showed me how to treat other people.

If your dad is still around today, give him a hug and a big smile along with those golf balls.

If he's not, reflect on the ways he helped make you who you are.

Mike Strange may be reached at strangem@knoxnews.com or 865-342-6276.

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Comments » 17

Georgia_Dave writes:

First. Great father's Day article.

hubbabubba writes:

Mike your dad was a great guy, I do miss our conversations. Great article as always.

TommyJack writes:

Good'un.

UTGAMER writes:

Nice article !! HAPPY FATHERS DAY YALL

volsoutwest writes:

That's what I'm talking about!!!

chiliwillie writes:

Ahhhhhhhhhh, I guess it is great to have a father who cares. Mine cared less about us kids. He cared so much that he willed us kids $1.00 a piece. His step family and wife got all the property. Great dad huh. My wishes for my dad is I hope he burns in hell.

AtLeastMyTeamHasPerfectSeasons writes:

Comments like cornbreads make me appreciate my father who never cussed or abused any of us, who sacrificed everything so we wouldn't go without, and possibly the best thing I can say about him is everytime I run into someone who knows him, NO ONE HAS EVER SAID A BAD THING ABOUT HIM.

love you dad

fanofmw writes:

I miss my dad every day. This year on the 4th of June he had been gone 36 yrs. But every day I think about him. Like Mike wrote about his dad, my dad wasnt famous or anything like that but he was special to our family. No one I have meet that knew him never said a bad thing about him. But I still miss him every day. How I wish I could hug him today the day that honors fathers.

tnhiker (Inactive) writes:

in response to chiliwillie:

Ahhhhhhhhhh, I guess it is great to have a father who cares. Mine cared less about us kids. He cared so much that he willed us kids $1.00 a piece. His step family and wife got all the property. Great dad huh. My wishes for my dad is I hope he burns in hell.

Complaining about your (lack of) inheritance from your father pretty much says a lot about how you valued your father. Too many children see inherited wealth as their god-given right instead of a parent's gift. Perhaps the problem really is that you failed all those years to give back anything of value to your father. Now you've got nothing left to reap except your bitter attitude. Happy fathers' day to you, chump.

chiliwillie writes:

TNHiker. wealth had nothing to do with it. He never was a father to his real kids. The dollar was the kicker. If you have a dad that is like the guy in theis article, then be happy you got or had him. Not all fathers are like the beavers (TV show).

chiliwillie writes:

tkid. thanks for reading the post, tnhiker missed the point.

WhiteHotBleedOrange writes:

Great article. My dad has been gone 12 years now and I miss him and his advice everyday. Especially, "Son, have character, don't be one."

crimsonviper writes:

Some great posts on this thread.
My dad has been gone 5 years,I was feeling sad earlier.
Then I read this page,now it is all good...Thanks everybody..

idahovolfan#230277 writes:

I lost my dad about 4 months ago after a long and painful fight with cancer. Even though I moved away in '81, Volunteer football kept us close no matter how many miles were between us. We talked on the phone during or after nearly every game. ( I bet we only missed 4-5 games in 30 years.) I flew in from Idaho for my daughters first Neyland experience last fall. Dad wasn't able to go, so he watched at home and we kept in touch by phone. The last time I talked to him, the day before he passed away, he gave me the latest recruiting news. A vol fan to the end.
This season will be bitter/sweet for me. I am not looking forward to it the way I always have before. Who will I talk to after the game??? It is Fathers Day. Please, if you are lucky enough to still have him, hug your Dad and tell him how much he means to you. At least give him a call. I know I wish I could do that one more time.

Thanks for a great article Mr. Strange. I can tell it was written with tears in your eyes.

rk40977#297843 writes:

The idea that an average Father is highly valuable is right on the money. Unfortunately, when it comes to money that appears to be the only part the State of Tennessee appreciates. The people involved in this grand enterprise oddly called "child support" have no regard for anything else. And to the extent they can get away with it, make it a gender-biased system. When it comes time to let Dad have some token basis in his child's life, some judges start talking about "perfect parents". Never saw any of those - or perfect judges for that matter.

As this article illustrates quite well, average ain't so bad. Any bureaucrat listening out there?

Lizardgrad89 writes:

What a great article. Evocative.

Makes me miss your dad, and I never met him.

WhiteHotBleedOrange writes:

My dad took me to my first Tennessee game on September 28, 1968...my 11th birthday. I have been hooked since and even went to UT. We went to many other games together and watched even more on television. We called each other during and after countless other games. It was our bond.
My dad died Dec. 1, 1998 one month before the Fiesta Bowl. When John Ward counted it down and said "The National Champion is clad in Big Orange" I fell to my knees and cried in joy and pain.

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