The most enduring memory I have of time with my father is from a Monday night in March 1976. Both my father and I grew up in Indiana so we naturally were crazy for basketball, and Indiana University cream and crimson ran through our veins.
Throughout the 1975-76 college basketball season, we sat in the basement together and watched snowy televised images of coach Bob Knight leading the Hoosiers through an undefeated season. Before games, we would shoot hoops in the driveway as I tried to perfect center Kent Benson’s hook shot.
On March 29, 1976, Indiana faced Big Ten rival Michigan for the NCAA championship. Pops and I were glued to the TV as the Hoosiers dominated throughout the game and took the title. As the Indiana players were shown cutting down the nets, my dad let me have my first beer — an 8-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon “shortie” — so we could share a celebratory toast. I was only 12 at the time, and Mom was none too pleased. But that dad-and-son moment capped off a memorable season.
My dad, who died in April, hated my music (Ted Nugent, Parliament, Talking Heads — yes, rather the eclectic mix). It was all “garbage” to Pops, who preferred old Jim Reeves LPs and John Denver 8-tracks. When it came to TV, he couldn’t get enough of the country music variety show “Hee Haw,” while I opted for “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” Sunday nights on PBS.
As our interests grew further apart, we maintained a bond — the Hoosiers. No matter what, we could always talk about what was going on with the Indiana basketball team.
I have my own son now, Chaz, and he and I share similar bonds through our fanaticism for the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bears.
The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, and my enduring memory is not of critical moments such as the home runs that won two of the games or the final out that brought the Sox their first championship in 88 years. As clear as day I can still see Chaz leaping from the couch and shouting, “World champions, baby!” and my daughter, Hannah, coming over to hug me and saying, “I know how much this means to you.”
As time passes, the interests of fathers and sons tend to drift apart. I don’t want to get all Harry Chapin”Cat’s in the Cradle” sappy, but maturity and its corresponding responsibilities do encroach on the time parents and their grown children have for one another. Fathers know this, and I believe that is why we teach our sons to embrace “our” teams, so that through it all we will always have something beyond bloodline in common.
Today, Chaz and I will get decked out in our Bears gear, toss the football around for a little while as we wait for the kickoff of Super Bowl XLI, and hope that our team delivers a memory, a bond, that will last a lifetime. But this time, win or lose, no beer for the boy.