Opinion

Sorry dad, but a big behind does not a baseball player make. Let me explain.

My father, like most fathers, is chock full of theories on life, music, art, politics. You name it and he has a hypothesis. (In fact, readers of this weekly newspaper have been lucky enough to enjoy many of his finest observations and ideas for more than a decade now.)

As a young boy, he imparted to me many of his theories, and, knowing no better, I accepted them as facts. How could I refute the wisdom he had gained over a lifetime of experience?

As I grew older, and even became a father myself, I was able to form my own opinions of course, accepting some of my dad's ideas and denying others. His views on sports stuck with me the longest, however, and for good reason. We spent so much time on fields, courts and playgrounds together during my formative years that those lessons were implanted in me the deepest. I guess it's like he says, "Sports is one of the few topics that people of different generations can speak about without killing each other."

You gotta admit, he has a point.

I also concur with another one of his maxims that no matter a man's age, his oldest friends will continue to judge him by his athletic prowess as a child. A middle-aged lawyer may enjoy a thriving practice, but his childhood pals will still remember him by the game-tying lay-up he missed or the curveball he could not hit. Or, how about the emergency room doctor who was remembered at his high school reunion, not for his ability to save lives, but for not being able to hit a foul shot in junior high to save his life?

Yes, it's a shallow way of thinking (and incomprehensible to women I have found). But it's true. We even witnessed it this past election when in interviews President Obama's Hawaiian high school classmates remembered him more for his jump shot than any other quality. And he certainly had a lot of admirable and unique qualities even then.

A few other important athletic ideas he conveyed to me: go to the basket hard or not at all, don't embarrass defenders on the soccer field or you'll pay the price and "the only two words you are allowed to say on a tennis court are 'Nice shot.'"

On those scores, you see, I agree with dear old Dad. Not that I followed them to the letter, but to this day I won't argue with his logic.

On others, though, my own experience has led me to doubt his wisdom.

Do baseball players with big rear-ends, like Kirby Puckett and Hank Greenberg, make better hitters? My father continues to think so. As additional evidence, he even points to Hank Aaron's growing lower half as he chased the home run record set by Babe Ruth (another guy with a "huge tuches"). He says it has something to do with a low center of gravity.

If my father were Sir Isaac Newton talking about gravity, then maybe I would consider it. But I can't accept his correlation in this case. Slugging and steroids, assuredly. Big bats and big butts? I don't think so.

Age and experience have also led me to differ with him on his assertion that "golf is a hobby, not a sport." I tell him to look at Tiger Woods, a consummate athlete and true competitor in my opinion. And he can hit a ball a mile (and without a big rear-end, mind you). He won't budge, however. And he also won't relinquish his longheld view that skiing is, in his words, "not a real sport." Even during the Olympic games. "Skiing is how people in Oslo go to work," he says.

Like I said. My father has a lot of theories.


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