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.

Twitter Geek

Twitter Geek

As far as social media platforms go, I love Twitter the most. Granted, I probably use Facebook more often, but the ability to customize feeds and easily interact with others via Twitter is what makes it, to me, the best platform out there.

I also love soccer. It was one of the first sports I learned, and it was an early bond my father and I shared. His passion for the game was passed down to me, and I as I started playing American football, he used the analogies and differences between the two sports to make me a better player.

I am glad to say the soccer bug was also picked up by my daughter. In 2015, we had the opportunity to travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to cheer on the United States Women’s National Team as they competed in the FIFA World Cup. My daughter played recreation and competitive soccer for over a decade, and to see her watch her heroes on the pitch was an extraordinary sight.

Natalie at BC Place in Vancouver (2015).

Because of her, I am an avid fan of the USWNT. I’d much rather watch the women play than the men, in part because I believe the play is more pure, but also because of the emotional bond I have from watching my daughter play all those years.

A third reason I prefer to watch the women play is that I still recall their amazing run in the 1999 World Cup. Three months before my daughter was born, the US women defeated China via penalty kicks in the championship game of that tournament. The game was amazing. The atmosphere, as seen on TV, was electrifying. I can only imagine what it felt like in the Rose Bowl on that afternoon in July. I still get goosebumps watching the replays, and I became a fan, following the USWNT roster and results ever since.

So you can only imagine my excitement when two of my geek worlds collided. I made a playful remark to a tweet from Julie Foudy, a member of that 1999 World Cup team, as she was commenting on last night’s loss by the US Men’s hockey team in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Her tweet read:

Heartbreak for Team USA. @usahockey knocked out in Qtrfinal shoot out loss against the Czech Republic. I officially do not like Shoot Outs. There, I said it. #PyeongChang2018

I casually reminded Ms. Foudy of the shootout in 1999, and she promptly shared my tweet with a reply of her own.

I know it may seem silly, but it’s a complete geek-out moment for me. Julie Foudy had a stellar career as a member of the USWNT, is an ambassador of the game, and does exceptional work for ESPN. To be RT’d by her – a world champion – is way, way cool!

I’ve written before (Part I and Part II) about some of the things I’ll miss when my wife and I move later this Spring to the D.R. to pursue our mission work. Living in Florida, we’ve had several opportunities to see in person the USWNT compete. Perhaps I should publish a Part III discussing how much I will miss being in the stands, watching those talented women play, watching them represent our country on the pitch, and watching so many girls and young women dream big.

Forgiving Ray Rice

I am a Christ follower. I believe in His Word, and I strive – poorly at times – to be a reflection of God’s love and mercy. I am a father to a daughter, in love with the one woman who owns my heart, fiercely loyal to and protective of my little girl. I am a sports fan, often times consumed by the games grown men play, and the peripheral happenings that surround them.

I find these three aspects of my life coming together with regards to the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal. If you’re not familiar with the incident, I will not regurgitate the specifics. Rather, please feel free to link out to ESPN.com for the full story. I am also not here to join in the cacophony of outrage and opinions that has inundated not just the sports media, but mainstream news outlets as well.

Rather, I want to explore the space of what happens next. Not for Ray Rice or his wife Janay, the victim of Rice’s physical assault, but for us instead .

There is a rush to create distance from Ray Rice the man. First, the Baltimore Ravens, Rice’s former employer, terminated his contract. The NFL promptly followed suit and suspended him indefinitely, thus impacting his ability to be signed by another NFL team. Ravens fans sought to return the jersey of a man once considered a beloved member of their franchise, and commercial sponsors severed ties with the former running back. Ray Rice is left a modern day leper, shunned and discarded by society.

Still, in the immediate aftermath of the February incident, and now in the current and upsetting media storm, the victim of Ray Rice’s rage and stupidity, the only person whose opinion really matters, has chosen to display forgiveness. Janay proceeded to wed Ray in March, a mere six weeks following the violent incident. In a press conference in May, Janay stated she, “deeply regret(ed) the role that (she) played in the incident that night,” a comment that left many nervous and confused. Just today, Janay repeated her position of support saying, “I love my husband. I support him. I want people to respect our privacy in this family matter.”

My position on domestic violence is quite steadfast. In discussing the issue with my daughter, I’ve been quite imperative; “He hits you, you leave him. It’s not up for discussion. It’s over.” I am not sure how I would react as a dad at the knowledge that a man struck my daughter. I pray I never have to find out … and that I have sufficient money in the bank to make bail.

I also understand that both positions are not mutually exclusive. You can forgive a person who has wronged you and still choose to no longer associate with that individual. Forgiveness does not mean having to accept or tolerate the status quo, and growth and forgiveness almost always go hand in hand.

Yet through it all, we can look at this scandal through a worldly prism of outrage and contempt, or we can look at it through the prism of instruction we find in the Bible. “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” – Luke 17.4

Through it all, it’s been Janay Rice who has acted Christ-like, proverbially turning the other cheek, and choosing love over spite or revenge. The outcast leper is hers to heal and His to redeem.

Janay and Ray Rice
Photo by Patrick Semansky/AP, via abcnews.go.com

My Struggle (W@HBC Day 2)

Some of my notes and thoughts from attending Wild at Heart Boot Camp – August 16

There is a lot of struggle at the core of the Wild at Heart Boot Camp. Much of that struggle deals with the issue of masculine abandonment from father to son. John Eldredge makes the following statement: Only masculinity can bestow masculinity. Even Jesus received this validation from his Father when he was baptized in the Jordan River.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

The struggle I face is somewhat the opposite. One of the many blessings I’ve always maintained in my heart is that my father, as flawed as he was, always gave me love and validation. My dad was a short-tempered alcoholic, and even when he got sober – sober because his doctor told him, “You can keep drinking and die in six months, or you can stop drinking right now and watch your kids grow up” – my father always set the bar very high for my brother and me.

My dad pushed me to excel, but he never hesitated to tell me he loved me. I’ve sat and pondered, and I cannot recall a moment when my dad ever told me he was disappointed with me. Coming from a man who was abandoned by his own father at the age of fourteen, the fact my dad’s heart overflowed with love towards me is nothing short of a miracle.

As I wrote in the eulogy for my father, I can only hope to be half the dad to my kids as my father was to me. I look at the relationship I share with my son, and I pray that I am bestowing on my son the same love and validation my father gave to me. I like to think I am doing a good job, but I am also terrified that I will somehow mess up along the way. My journey with Christ is as much about setting true both my children’s hearts as it is about setting true my own.

ESPN personality Colin Cowherd says that once your kids get to the age of about thirteen or fourteen, you pretty much stop being a parent and you’re basically a consultant. Teens and pre-teens are going to do what they want, and I pray the foundation my ex-wife and I have laid out, along with the amazing job my wife has done in her role as step-mom, will allow my children to make good and sound decisions in their lives.

Going forward, I hope I can ‘consult’ for my children by living a life they wish to model. I hope to live a life centered in God’s love, rooted in His truth, and reflective of His amazing grace towards everyone. By being the best Christ follower I can be, I know I am doing what I can to be the best father I can be.

 

Dan & Me