This past Saturday, Julie and I traveled over to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to join our son Riley and his wife Natalie for the UNC-Miami overtime thriller.
Being there as father & son got me remembering some of unique places my dad took me when I was growing up. This list will not include all the tennis tournaments he took me to and gently coached me, tournaments that often ended in tears or in euphoria. But here are five others:
- When I was about ten, he took me to a Muhammad Ali Boxing Exhibition. This was after he lost to Joe Frazier in 1971 and went on a tour wearing a robe that proclaimed himself The Greatest. In those days, I followed boxing and admired Ali’s speed and skill, and my dad knew I’d love the show at SMU’s Moody Coliseum, which I did.
- When I was eleven, he took me to a Harlem Globetrotters Game. Also at Moody Coliseum. And guess what? They won! Whoda thunk it. In those days, I was trying to decide if I had a better chance to go pro in basketball or tennis, and so soaked up all the basketball I could. I also thought the Globetrotters were hilarious. Another win, Dad.
- When I was ten and we were at a tennis tournament in Abilene Texas, he took me to see the movie “Bonnie & Clyde.” I’m not sure you can understand how weird this is. As products of the depression, neither of my parents were ever movie goers. They especially didn’t like violent movie. Well, Bonnie & Clyde was both a “go to the theater” movie and to no one’s surprise was both gruesome and bloody.
- Another memory from that same season of life — in 1972, he and mom took me to the old WCT Championships in Dallas and we saw “live” one of the first GOAT tennis matches ever: Ken Rosewall over Rod Laver 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6. Yes, I still remember the score precisely. Yes, I was for Laver and was devastated when Rosewall hit those slice backhand passing shots to take the final tie-breaker. And yes, everyone in Moody Coliseum that day knew we were watching history in the making.
- During middle school, he’d pick me up at the end of class, having put both my tennis clothes and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the backseat, so that I could change, energize, and go practice at T Bar M Racket Club. He was 62-64 years old and those small acts of tenderness from a not-always-tender guy have stuck with me ever since. The best trip of all, for sure.