He recalls what he learned from his father while, as a young boy, he tagged along to games on Saturday afternoons. He loved every minute of it -- except for hearing the folks in the stands curse at his dad whenever they didn't like a call. Wherein comes the lesson that applies to life in general -- and journalism in particular.
From the column:
At some point, Dad must have worried about what I was experiencing in the stands because one night over a truck-stop burger, he told me:
"Look, when people are calling me a so-and-so, it isn't because they actually think I'm a so-and-so. They don't know me at all as a person. What they are really saying to me is, 'That foul call you just whistled makes me believe you are a so-and-so.' Don't worry about it. You should only get concerned if a good friend or a neighbor tells you that you're a so-and-so."
I nodded, but I didn't think too deeply about it — until many years later. After I landed my dream gig of writing a sports column, I discovered that some people responded to my opinions with vile phone calls or letters or (eventually) e-mails. It was then that I flashed back to that discussion. I realized that Dad had prepared me not just to view a game with as objective an eye as possible, but also how to deal with people who are obscenely personal in their criticism.
Do the job with integrity. That's what matters. bk