It was announced this week that AJ Guyton would be elected to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (check his Wiki page for a list of his accomplishments. Dude could ball). It is really quite the honor, considering the basketball talent, both players and coaches, that have gotten their start or made their careers in the state I call home. Guyton was the first player I remember calling “my favorite.” Walking from the parking lot into Assembly Hall, I would wonder only about how he would play. He helped shape my love for the game of basketball, and I relished watching him play for my favorite team.
I have been to many IU basketball games since my family moved to Bloomington many many moons ago with a lot of great friends and have seen a lot of great players, but I will never see a better game, win or lose, than one that I’ve watched with my dad. My parents like to say my bed time was extended as a child so that I could stay up and watch “Home Improvement” with them, but in reality my bed time had been pushed back for years so that Dad and I could go IU games on the weeknights, starting when I was in pre-school.
When we go to games together now, we do as we always have: park the car, and trek into the stadium, sometimes talking about the upcoming game or the current season, sometimes in silence, just happy to again share something we love so much. We get waters for the first half, settle in to watch warm-ups, say hi to people around us, and maybe spot some local celebrities. Repeat for the second half, but add popcorn or a hotdog. We never leave games early, ever.
It is in those moments, those 40 minutes of basketball, with my dad in the seat next to me, that I am at my happiest. It has never been about basketball, at least not to me. No, for me, it was always about sharing with him something we both loved. We can sit through entire games in complete silence, sharing nothing but looks of amazement or bewilderment (which we have done before), and have the best time together, because we ARE together.
My dad has taught me many things in life: you always finish what you start, there’s always room for laughter, there’s always time to stop and think, take in as much art, literature, and culture as you can, and coming home to a warm home cooked meal is a feeling not easily replicated. He has taught me that you make sacrifices for the ones you love, and when you make your choices you stand by them, unwavering in the face of whoever may question you, even if internally you’re struggling with what has come to pass. Because of him, I live and love fully, not just when things are tough, but ESPECIALLY when things are tough.
He is always the first person to wish me a happy birthday on December 15th, with his customary text message that always seems to come right at midnight. He always cooks the right meals for my homecomings, and always keeps the liquor cabinet stocked so I don’t go thirsty. There’s always a bag of cool ranch Doritos waiting for me in the cabinet, because he knows I like to stay up and munch on them while watching Parks & Recreation reruns. He’s always anxious to share some new trick or technique he’s learned, always passing his knowledge down to me, and always asking later if I’ve tried it yet.
He’s always quick to hug and in offering a pat on the back. He doesn’t just ask how I am doing – he REALLY wants to know how I am doing. He deeply cares about everything his family is involved in, and takes the time to learn about your interests so he can engage you in deeper conversation. He’s the best friend I could ever ask for, and the best dad I could have ever been fortunate enough to be given.
I know there are young men and women out there who have lost their fathers, or don’t have a good relationship with their fathers, or don’t even know their fathers. I apologize to them, but offer this: my dad has enough love in his heart for you all, and I don’t mind sharing.