John F. Russell: Memories make the best gifts for fathers

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I got my Father's Day present a little early this week.

It wasn't a necktie, new floor mats for my car or the newest high-tech household gadget.

It was a soccer game.

Not just any soccer game, but one involving three dads, a mom, a coach and a few 6-year-olds, including my son.

I'm not sure who won, and to tell the truth, I don't really care. The goal of this game wasn't winning; it simply was playing.

Rain and lightning threw a crimp in the Thursday night youth soccer schedule. By the time my son's game was scheduled to begin, the nasty weather had passed through, leaving a wet, sloppy field in its wake and prompting many players to stay at home.

When the other team didn't show, the only thing heavier than the clouds moving out were the hearts of the kids who had waited a week to play this game and showed up ready to go.

Instead of giving in, the parents decided to join in -- join in the game, that is.

For more than a half hour, the field was filled with children, some decades older than others, playing a game simply for the joy of playing.

No one was keeping score -- they are not supposed to at their age -- or keeping track of who was scoring the goals.

It was one of those moments that I hope will last a lifetime in my son's memory.

Isn't it funny what things we remember from our childhood?

I can recall playing catch with my dad in our back yard more clearly than any details of the baseball games I actually played.

I can remember going fishing with my dad when I was growing up, but I couldn't tell you how many fish we caught.

So often in sports, parents and players are so consumed with who is scoring and which team is winning, that we lose sight of the most important things.

Unfortunately, there is no statistics column that records time spent with your family, and no points won for simply having fun.

But those are the things the children playing sports today are going to remember 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.

I can only hope that some day, when my son is raising his own family, he will remember a rainy night of soccer where nobody won or lost and nobody cared who scored the goals.

It was a game played simply for the joy of playing a game, and his dad wasn't just his dad, but his teammate.

Then I hope he takes the time from his busy schedule, grabs a ball and goes out to play a game with his own children.

Personally, I can't think of a better Father's Day present.

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