Bearing the Burdens of My Buckeye Dad

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Bearing the Burdens of My Buckeye Dad

As most of you reading this article, I got my first glimpse into the wide world of sports largely because of my dad.

It's what fathers do.

Aside from teaching us wrong from right, how to hammer a nail or use a gun or keep the car between the lines, they teach us about sports.

My earliest memories involve my dad taking me and my brother into the backyard and just throwing the baseball with us.

It's amazing the impact he had on me just by taking the time to play pitch and catch.

I remember him instructing me to always aim for the chest.

When I'd get it right he yelled, "Nice throw!"

When I got it wrong, he'd say, "Come on Michael, try it again. You can do it."

My proudest moment as a kid was hearing my dad shout after my attempts to throw a "curve" finally ended in result.

"Did you see it! It broke three feet," he exclaimed, although I'm sure it was only a couple of inches.

And baseball was just the beginning.

As the years went by my interest in other sports grew, and my father was there to help me in every one that demanded my attention.

When I told him I wanted to play basketball, he took me to the store and bought a goal.

And not just any goal, one with the adjustable frame that would allow the rim to be lowered and get me started.

I thought it was the greatest thing ever invented.

Me and my brother would take turns shooting and dunking the basketball as my dad laughed and took pictures of the memories unfolding before his eyes.

Then came the greatest day ever (for me at least)—the day I beat my dad in a game of one-on-one.

Although the moments playing baseball and basketball were tremendously fond, the fondest memories with my dad involve my beloved Buckeyes.

Growing up in central Ohio, Buckeye blood is bred into your veins, and families everywhere spent Saturdays during football season together going to games or watching them from home on the TV set.

My family was no different.

My dad taught me about the Buckeyes—the team, the traditions, the history, and even the band, and I was enthralled with the enormity of it all.

During the games he'd give me the play by play, explain the rules, and exactly what the referees meant by a word like "encroachment".

After the games, I'd go to the yard and run around like a lunatic on early release from the mental ward, singing the fight song and throwing the ball in the air just to see how far it'd go.

I'm sure my dad was proud to see my interest in the Buckeyes growing.

The days of learning are gone and to this day he and I still watch the games together on Saturday afternoons as if I were still nine years old and he 38.

The memories of childhood are always the best to recall, but recently they flooded my mind after my dad underwent minor surgery.

I say minor surgery, as if any surgery is really minor. He had a simple procedure done to correct the acid reflux he's been suffering from for years.

After the surgery, I met him back in the recovery room.

I saw my dad laying on a gurney, tubes everywhere, his eyes barely opened.

Immediately, my heart dropped into my stomach.

The strongest man in my life looked entirely too weak.

After about an hour of sitting there with him, feeding him ice at his request, and watching ESPN, the nurse finally came in and gave him the OK to return home.

She gave him his street clothes and helped him up out of the bed. I just stood back and watched, my heart still taking residence in my abdomen, as my dad shuffled to the restroom to change.

When he came out, I helped him sit down and he struggled to put on his socks. I saw him fighting, wanting to do it himself until he realized that it was just too much.

Finally, he looked up at me, "Son, can you help me put on my shoes?"

I wanted to cry.

But as he was always strong for me, I would be strong for him.

I got down on my knees, and helped put his feet in the shoes. I made a joke about his feet not being able to fit and it broke the awkwardness of the moment.

I began to tie his laces and for some reason the thought came to my mind that this is what he use to do for me. Now, I'm returning the favor.

Life takes on different meaning in times like that.

I'm sure that a lot of you have had similar situations and have felt the same feelings that I felt that day.

It made me appreciate my dad and everything that he has given me in life. I am the person I am today largely because of him.

The time he spent with me, teaching me all the "guy stuff" and the time he spent teaching me about sport, allowing that passion to grow and accumulating into a new passion to write about it.

It inspired me to be that kind of father when eventually I have kids of my own.

To be the dad who will take the time to throw the ball even when I've been at work all day.

To spend the money on a new basketball goal even if it means making monetary sacrifices for a couple of weeks.

To be that dad who just enjoys spending time with his kids.

Thank you dad for being that for me.

Even though at times you may feel weak, in my eyes you are still the world's strongest man.

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