Several years ago, I was listening to sports talk radio on Fathers' Day and this topic came up: What is your favorite sports related memory of your father? Mine was not any specific memory, simply that Dad, a non-athlete, supported Dave-Scott-me in our sports pursuits and was the perfect non-pressuring dad. The following is about a young man and his dad and sports which I originally printed on May 1, 2006. I hope you like it. Happy Fathers' Day to all you dads out there!
Steve Howe died last week. Only forty-eight years old, Howe was killed when his pickup truck crashed in California. Considered one of the great talents in baseball in the 1980's, Howe struggled with alcohol and drug addictions, leading to his demise as a professional athlete. Blessed with a tremendous left arm, Howe pitched in All-Star games and in the World Series. The New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, and Texas Rangers all employed his services over a career spanning seventeen seasons. Despite seven suspensions and a lifetime ban, later overturned on appeal, Howe managed to find teams willing to pay him. Talent tends to be given more chances than mediocrity. By all accounts of former teammates and managers, Howe was loved by those he shared a locker room with. They acknowledged the demons that chased him for years, never seeming to quite let go. At this time, there is no indication that drugs or alcohol played any contributing role in his death. Howe joins the host of other potential greats whose careers, and sometimes lives, were cut short by an opponent that never wore an opposing team's colors.
There was a high school baseball game the same day of Steve Howe's accident. In California, Valencia and Burbank met that afternoon. Valencia's right fielder is Brian Howe, an eighteen year old senior and son of Steve Howe and his wife, Cindy. Howe was coming to see his son play when the wreck occurred near Coachella, California, shortly before six AM. Brian, after learning of his father's early morning death, went to school and went to his game. Valencia coach Jared Snyder left the decision to play up to Brian. The young man who less than twelve hours earlier had lost his father, and I would guess his inspiration for playing, chose to lace up the spikes. Not only did he play, he played well, even pitching the last inning of a 12-2 blowout win. Can you imagine what a heavy heart that teenager must have carried with him onto the diamond last Friday? Apparently, he felt his dad would have wanted him to do what he loved, even under the most heartbreaking circumstances. To perform at a high level with those conditions is almost unbelievable.
I can't conceive of the pain Brian Howe endured on that field the day his father left this earth. Maybe it was therapeutic to stay in his normal routine, spending time with his teammates. Maybe it was simply his way of honoring his dad. What an impact fathers have on their sons and daughters! Brian Howe will have to face many of the same battles as his father, assuming that there is a genetic tendency for drug and alcohol dependency. His name will cause him to be evaluated with a higher degree of scrutiny than a player with Smith or Jones stitched onto the back of their jersey. At this point in his life, I doubt he minds and perhaps considers it a matter of pride. In spite of his father's well-documented shortcomings, I would guess Brian loved him with all his heart, the way most of us love our fathers. Our earthly fathers are flawed; our Heavenly Father is perfection. One might be hard for some to love. One should be impossible NOT to love. There is a young man in California tonight grieving the death of the most important man in his life. Say a prayer for Brian Howe and for all the youngsters forced to grow up too quickly with the premature loss of a parent. And hug your dad if you still can.
Applicable quote of the day:
"My dad was a shortstop when he was in college, and you know, when you're a kid, you want to be just like your dad."
Derek Jeter/ New York Yankees shortstop
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