An open letter to my father, Stanley Howard Snyder: Hi. Another Father's Day has come and gone, yet another that I spent wondering how it would've been having you in my life.
Ma says that you liked sports, especially the New York Giants. I wonder what you would've thought of my childhood allegiance to the Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. It caused a terrible conflict whenever they played, but their disparate reputations back then helped ease the discomfort. The Cowboys always were good while the Giants always stunk, so rooting for the hometown underdogs was easy to do, with little reason to believe they'd actually win.
I guess my true loyalty showed when the Giants finally started winning in the '80s. They hadn't reached the playoffs since the early '60s, so I was pulling hard for them against Dallas.
Your love for sports must've been passed to me genetically. You certainly weren't there to nurture it or direct it. Poor Ma, bless her heart, was too scared to let me play football, my first love.
So I was left to become an all-star in the neighborhood street games, routinely a first- or second-round pick. It's just as well, though, seeing how I was stuck on 150 pounds forever (or at least until the mid-life spread added another 25 not long ago).
Now I love to play basketball. When I left USA Today in 2000 to write a sports column in Florida, I scratched my hoops itch at the YMCA, three times per week for nine years. But I haven't found a regular run since moving back to Washington in 2009. Sigh.
I wonder if you would've pushed me further ... had you been around. There are so many overzealous and overbearing fathers out there, so many obnoxious obsessive-compulsives who view their children as potential gold mines. It's sickening.
Tiger Woods and the Williams sisters turned out to be all-time greats at their sports, but the single-mindedness of their fathers isn't beyond question. There have are annual instances of violence between parents and coaches/parents. And let's not even mention lunatics such as Thomas Junta, the hockey dad who beat his son's coach to death a decade ago.
You never know how much damage is done by those maniacal fathers: Junta's 21-year-old son, Quinlan, an eyewitness who testified in his dad's defense in 2002, was charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon earlier this year.
There's no danger of me pushing your granddaughters into sports, despite them both possessing tremendous athleticism. Although neither Vanessa nor I were encouraged to explore our athletic abilities to the fullest, we're making our girls have the opportunity ... if they so desire.
Thanks to yours truly, they've grown accustomed to watching sports in person and on TV. I would've loved doing that with you.
All those Mets and Knicks games I attended with my buddies in the '80s? That could've been us rooting for ol' New York. All those Final Fours, championship fights, Super Bowls, NBA Finals and so on that I watched? That's our quality time on the couch, lost before we ever found it.
I'm not complaining, though. I'm not the only person raised by a single parent and Ma did a great job with me and Bari. We never wanted for anything, and I somehow managed to watch enough sports in an apartment where I was outnumbered, 3-1 (Nana moved in after you left). Funny how I'm still outnumbered, 3-1, with the resultant plusses and minuses.
But I have one of the best jobs in the world — covering sports in a big city with franchises in the four major team sports, as well as big-time college basketball and football. I bet you'd be proud.
Sports provide a glue for so many families. There's really nothing else like it, especially when the passion for a team is passed down from generation to generation to generation. I'm just sorry we never bonded like so many fathers and sons who use sports as a vehicle to grow closer. I'm just sorry I have no memories of us watching and attending and playing games together.
Most of all, Dad, I'm just sorry you died when I was four weeks old.
Happy Father's Day.
I love you.
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