The Never-Ending Bond Between A Son And His Father

Et cetera, Trible To Your Bass — By on February 26, 2013 at 9:28 am

ken griffey sr and ken griffey jr

On the second floor of an old white barn on the property where I grew up and still live today, there’s a basketball court.

It’s half of a court, with a wooden floor that was pieced together by my father’s hands. He wanted my brother and me to have a place to practice and play. We could play at night there, and there was a space heater for the winter. If we wanted to shoot hoops, there was always a place to do it.

He wanted us to enjoy the sport whenever we felt the urge.

Like many other kids, my father was my biggest fan on the court. However, he didn’t discriminate with sports. When the leaves came back on the trees, he hit groundballs and helped manage my baseball teams. He gave me a pitch-back net for a birthday so I could practice fielding in the afternoon while he worked.

When his business required a road trip, he brought back gifts. A trip to Atlanta brought me a Braves hat and trading cards. I remember Mark Lemke’s card specifically. It’s a curious thing to remember anything about Mark Lemke specifically.

From Charlotte in 1994, there was a basketball commemorating the city’s hosting of the NCAA Final Four. A child’s ball, it bounced in the kitchen, although it was better suited for the barn.

The sports influence wasn’t because my father was an athlete. Growing up on a dairy farm kept that experience from him. He simply wanted me to enjoy myself, if for no other reason than his inability to do so.

For 11 years, I learned and played and he taught and coached. His pride was in seeing me succeed in something I enjoyed. My pride was in making him proud. There was no greater time spent than that with him in his truck on the way home from a diamond. I was covered in dirt as we talked about the game.

We listened to Virginia Tech football games on the radio in the fall. We went to high school basketball games in the winter. We watched college basketball in the spring. We saw Cal Ripken Jr. play in the summer.

There are times I remember vividly, such as the night he let me stay up to watch Cal break the streak because it was important. On the Monday after the NCAA field was announced, he’d bring home two Washington Post newspapers. We filled out our brackets. It was one of my favorite days of the year.

When Princeton beat UCLA on a backdoor cut, he laughed and cheered at the Tigers’ ability to beat the defending champs playing old-man basketball. He was an old man, and it thrilled him. When Old Dominion and Villanova played their classic overtime game, I rooted for the Wildcats. He insisted I root for the Virginia school, not the school with cooler uniforms. My mother – who is from southeast Pennsylvania – snickered in the kitchen.

He spoke about a young prospect named Michael Vick in his last visit to his alma mater in Blacksburg. We watched Aaron Brooks lead an unbelievable comeback win for the hated in-state rival Cavaliers. My sister, brother-in-law and I were disappointed, but he kept remarking about Vick. Apparently, he said, the kid will be something special. We rolled our eyes.

I know he rooted for the Redskins and called my team the Filthydelphia Eagles. I know he would root for teams from below the Mason-Dixon Line 11 times out of 10 when they played opponents from up north. I know he met Joe Paterno in a restaurant and asked him about football. I know he loved the Hokies and remembered when their biggest rival was Virginia Military Institute.  I know he remembered the games in Roanoke’s Victory Stadium, which is now as extinct as the dinosaurs.

I know he hated the Yankees because he grew up listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers. I know he cried when Bobby Thompson did what he did. I know he loved Duke Snider, but his favorite player was Jackie Robinson. I know he grew up in a segregated state surrounded by segregated attitudes and if there is one thing sports-related I could ask him, it would be how that all came to be.

M. Trible

Sports are all I know. Writing came naturally. Sports writer by night & sports writer by night. Philosophy major who thinks the unexamined sport is not worth watching. Always for hire, never for sale. I believe that silence is the virtue of fools and I can't hear you.

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    8 Comments

  • Man, sorry to hear about the passing of your father so many years ago, but it’s great to see the effect he had on your life. I’m sure just about everyone who had a father figure in his or her life can relate. I know I certainly can.

    I’ll never forget calling my dad on the steps of the Art Museum the night the Phillies won the World Series. The only thing that would have made that night better would have been if he was with me.

    This is a tremendous, tremendous post. Great read.

  • J. Tinsley says:

    Jesus, this was amazing. I’m not even really sure what to say or how to express my appreciation for it. I never knew my pops, but my uncle filled the void and then some. Like your pops, he, too, died in 1999. But like your pops, too, he was basically my mentor into sports and what it has come to represent in my life (music as well).

    This was amazing Trible. Sheer excellence. My only complaint is that you didn’t release this on Fathers’ Day. But with it being your dad’s birthday, that complaint is now irrelevant.

    Amazing, amazing stuff. Wow.

  • Fred Stine says:

    A very poignant tribute from son to father. Think always of the importance of that father to son relationship. The remembrance never dies.

  • Darrk Gable says:

    Dynamically written piece. I feel for your loss, but the legacy and memories your father evidently left you with are fresh and vivid. This piece is exactly what sports are really about.

  • EMT says:

    Awesome article, Mark. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you to write. I could feel the emotion you put into it as I read each word. I only wish I could have been blessed enough to know your Dad. I am sure that he is proud of the person that you are.

  • Jock Owens says:

    Great article, Mark. I to can honestly say your dad really impacted my life as well as a father figure to me.I to cherish all the great times and moments having spent with your dad and family AND YOU in all the sporting events we watched and attended over the years and still do to this day, the moments are PRICELESS.Your dad was a great man and it shows in you.I know he is somewhere up in the clouds proud and pumping his fist saying (that’s my boy)!!! Great job..You da man!!!!

    Go Heels!!!

  • Tom Dulaney says:

    I am one of the fortunate ones. I knew Mark’s father, and he was every bit the wonderful guy that his son remembers. I also remember Mark having sports conversations with me when he was just a kid of, I don’t know, seems like 6 or 7 years of age. I was a TV sportscaster with 25 years experience, and even then I thought “this kid should be doing my job now!” He knows more than most adults. Knowledge may be important, but Mark has that other special gift that is even more important; love and appreciation of life’s most precious gifts. Those are the details of life he never forgets, win or lose. Thanks, Mark, for that wonderful remembrance.

  • Esther Trible says:

    Thank you, nephew, for such a marvelously written tribute to my brother Paul. His spirit shines brightly as the stars at night; he deserves every word, and you, dear man, deserve many accolades for what he taught and what you learned.

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