No Question About It

No Question About It

Today was the final airing of the ESPN show Highly Questionable with Dan Le Batard. For those who are unaware, HQ is a sports-talk show launched in 2011 featuring former Miami Herald columnist and ESPN personality Dan Le Batard and his father Gonzalez.

The show was rooted in irreverence and was born from a bit Dan would do on his radio show where he would call his father, affectionately known as Papi, surreptitiously record the conversations, and then play them on air. There was never a more honest sports take than the ones that came from Papi, especially when he would talk about the Marlins or the Dolphins.

In the nearly ten years the show was on the air, it was a staple of my daily sports diet. I was sure to set my DVR to record the show, and it always served as comfort food for my soul. Not because of the sports topics. As I said earlier, the show made it a point to never take itself too seriously. What drew me in day after day was the evident joy Dan had in doing that show with his father.

Dan Le Batard and I share similar backgrounds in that we’re both products of parents fleeing communist Cuba and we were both raised in South Florida. I’ve never had the privilege of meeting Dan, but the fact I’ve always been a fan of his writing, I’d listen to his radio show daily, and the geographical kinship of growing up in the 3-0-5 makes it feels like I’ve known him my whole life.

As I started writing in 2004, I found myself trying to model my work after Dan’s. His sentence structures, the way he’d formulate an argument, his professional approach, even when injected with personal vulnerability; they all contributed to my personal writing style. For so many years he’s been my mentor and he doesn’t even know it.

Yet it’s not the technical aspects of his writing I admire most. As his popularity, and subsequently his influence, has increased. Dan has consistently used that leverage to help those around him. With his show, he made room on the marquee for Bomani Jones. He didn’t have to share the spotlight of his television series, but doing so undoubtedly improved the product and kept quality talent at the network (Jones was being courted by Fox at the time). In his contracts with ESPN, Le Batard negotiated creative control over money because not only did he want to do the show his way, he wanted to do it with his people. In fact, part of the reason Le Batard left ESPN is because they included one of his producers in their most recent round of layoffs, a move that caught Dan by surprise.

To paraphrase Dan, it’s not about reaching the mountaintop. It’s about sharing the view with the people you love.

As I watched his show daily, I’d watch with admiration a man who never made it about “look at me,” but rather always made it about “look at us.” I’d watch a man who made it a point to use his talents and opportunities as a means to constantly thank his parents for the sacrifices they made. I’d watch with vicarious envy as he got to share those special moments on-air with his dad, me having lost my father in 2004. As he gave his tear-filled goodbye on his final show, I watched, misty-eyed myself, with heartfelt appreciation at the impact Dan has made in my life.

I look forward to what the future has in store for him, and I know the next decade of his career will be equally entertaining, informative, and inspiring.

Thank you, Dan.

Having “The (Other) Talk” With My Daughter

So I was sitting around listening to the podcast of a sports radio show out of Miami, and the conversation turned to how the Miami Heat fans cheered Chris Brown when his image was displayed on the jumbo-tron. The show’s host, Dan Le Batard, mentioned how he recoiled in disgust at the crowd’s reaction given the details of the police report filed following Brown’s physical abuse of Rihanna.

The conversation then went into the direction of, “If Rihanna can forgive Chris Brown, then who are we to judge?”

And that’s where my head exploded.

There are two components to domestic abuse; those who abuse and those who enable the abuse. Rihanna’s decision to forgive Chris Brown is her prerogative, and when looked at with greater and deeper perspective, it’s also the Christian thing to do. What I find appalling, however, and – well, unforgivable – is that she’s not using this experience, and the media frenzy surrounding it, to speak out visibly and publicly about domestic violence. Rather, when looked at through the prism of Rihanna as a public figure, her inaction serves, in my opinion, as implied tolerance for men who beat their girlfriends or wives.

I was driving my daughter to soccer practice recently, and a popular song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. I inquired out loud who sings the song (because the voice sounded familiar).

“That’s Pitbull with Chris Brown.”

“Chris Brown?”

“Yeah.”

“You know he beat up Rihanna, right?”

“Yeah, but they’re back together now. They’re doing a song together.”

I gave my daughter ‘the dad look’ as I asked her, “And what does that say about Rihanna?”

I don’t know if there’s a right way to approach your pre-teen daughter about the subject of domestic abuse, but I felt that was the moment for me. We talked about how serious an issue it is, and how there’s never an excuse for a man to put his hands on a woman.

I went on to tell her there are only three acceptable outcomes to a scenario – God forbid – where she’s the victim of domestic violence.

“You either A) pack your bags and get out, B) you throw his ass out (and subsequently throw out his stuff, change the locks, the whole nine yards), or C) make sure he ends up in the hospital.”

That’s it. No excuses. No trying to understand or justify why it happened. None of that garbage. The imperative I gave my daughter that afternoon is that the first time a guy puts his hands on her, it will be the absolute last time he ever puts his hands on her.

Maybe I’m being a stereotypical, over-protective dad. Maybe I could have couched the conversation a little better. Maybe I should have consulted with her mom (and step-mom) first. Still, I’ve seen firsthand the affects domestic violence, when left unchecked, can have on a family. My wife’s cousin Dee is no longer with us because of it. She was only twenty. I believe her tragic death, like most suffered at the hand of domestic abuse, could have been avoided.

So, no, I don’t think it’s too soon to talk to my daughter about this topic. The sooner I can get her to understand these types of realities, the more prepared she’ll be to face them should it ever come to that. My daughter will be going to college in five and half years, and it’s stories like those of Dee Curry, Yeardley Love, and this one that scare me to death.

I don’t think there’s one right answer or a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing these topics with our kids. I guess the important thing is that we make an attempt to address them.

After all, I’d much rather deal with my daughter being uncomfortable with me for several minutes than with my daughter being a statistic.

024/365 Bed Geek

Headed to bed early (by my standards) in order to watch the US Women’s National Team take on Mexico in soccer. I thought the game would be on TV, but it wasn’t. So I had to bust out the laptop in order to watch the game on CONCACAF.com. Of course, I double dipped into my sports geek and turned on today’s episode of Dan Le Batard is Highly Questionable.

I.AM.A.GEEK