Catbird Seat...My father's sonI never got many spankings as a boy, but I remember the first one I got and I’ll never forget it.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
I never got many spankings as a boy, but I remember the first one I got and I’ll never forget it.
At the age of 6, I became a Vikings fan – nowadays that’s a spanking offense in itself – but when I was 6 years old my Viking heroes got their heads handed to them in a December contest. As in, December of 1971.
And, as many 6-year olds do, I didn’t handle it well.
As a result, my dad gave me a spanking.
After he was done, he said his action had hurt him more than it had hurt me. I never believed that, but what he said next was something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“You will lose in life much more often than you’ll win,” he told me. “How you handle it determines what kind of person you will become.”
I checked that game out on a football historical site. I remember the day in my mind because of the spanking as much as anything else, but the game was Dec. 5, 1971, at San Diego. The loss dropped the Vikings to 9-3 overall. Nowadays, we’d kill for that.
But more importantly, I never forgot my dad’s words. While I still have never liked to lose, and I don’t think anyone should as long as we play games where a score is kept, how you handle defeat is indeed a measure of the person you are.
My dad passed away June 25 at the age of 73. While my family grieves his loss, I, as his only son, am now left with the words he gave me.
When I was a boy, my dad was a big football fan. He told me stories about going to the old Met Stadium with his friends, sneaking in a flask of “survival medicine” for December Viking games.
But as he got older, Dad became more and more of a casual fan. He grew disillusioned with what big time sports had become – he always said there was no loyalty any more – and by the end of his life, he’d spend his Sundays building model airplanes and conversing with his many friends instead of living and dying with the Purple.
In retrospect, thinking about what my dad meant to me, I realize that I am my father’s son in more ways than one.
I wonder about the same things he wondered about, and as I enter my own middle age years, I realize how wise he really was.
Dad knew there were things in life more important than sports. He realized that winning and losing in the game of life was far more important.
Don’t get me wrong. Sports are a part of me, especially Cloquet’s and UMD’s. They always will be. But there are things in life more important than Zach Parise’s contract and how much public money goes into buying the Vikings a new stadium.
There’s playing the game the right way, for the right reasons, and transferring those lessons into life.
Dad is gone. The family he leaves behind will miss him more than words can say. But his only son will remember how a brief moment of correction 40 years ago made a lasting impression.
My dad taught me more than simply how to lose.
He taught me how to live.