I grew up as the youngest of four boys. So, as I’m sure you can imagine, in our house everything was a competition. All we really needed was a ball and a little bit of space and it wasn’t long before we came up with a game. This thirst for competition was something that must have been fueled by our dad who taught us how to throw and catch and but also never missed an opportunity to get in the mix of whatever it was we were playing that day. They say you learn more from losing than you do from winning. Well, my brothers and I sure learned a lot growing up because any time we competed against Dad – we lost.
One of the first games we learned was King of the Couch. Which was basically just King of the Hill but…on the couch. A game that we all loved, my Dad dominated, but my Mom understandably hated.The way she explains it, King of the Couch was a game…that only ended with somebody hurt or crying. Later came Wiffle ball in the front yard, where Dad would mercilessly strike us out. When we’d do free throw contests on the basketball hoop out back, Dad was money from the line. As we got older, it became things like push-up challenges. If the winning number amongst the boys was 70 pushups, you can bet Dad knocked out 71. Any time we thought we had him, we quickly learned we were mistaken. Against Dad, we always had to earn it. One time we went to the local little league fields to play home run derby. Dad was a college baseball player, so this one wasn’t going to be much of a contest despite how badly we wanted it to be. My older brothers, who were about 25 or 26 at the time were naively confident. But that didn’t last long. When it was Dad’s turn to hit, he hit twice the home runs as any of us. After about, I don’t know, 20 dingers, Dad switched over to the other side of the plate - just to let us know, Hey boys, stay in your lane – and he began hammering homers lefty…he never missed an opportunity to showboat a little either. He was like a freakin’ superhero. I started to think to myself, Is there anything my Dad can’t do?
My Dad Can Do Anything
I remember the day I stopped wondering if there was anything my Dad couldn’t do. It was during a Thursday night soccer practice almost 20 years ago.My dad, who was just an assistant coach for my brother’s youth travel team, happened to be filling in for the head coach who couldn’t make it that day. As the youngest, I was forced to tag along. My dad wasn’t really much of a soccer guy, so it was a pretty lax practice, and he couldn’t help but throw in some competition. So, in typical fashion, Dad decided to come up with a little game to end the practice. The game was called Roll, Bounce, Head. It’s a simple concept. Dad plays goalie. Everyone gets in line just outside of the 18 and each person goes one at a time. In the first round, Dad rolls the ball out to the first person in line. The player needs to kick the ball as it’s rolling and score a goal. If the player misses or his shot is saved – he’s out. If the player scores, he moves onto the next round. In the next round, Dad bounces the ball to each player. This time, the player must kick the ball as it’s bouncing and score. If he does, he moves on. In the third round, Dad tosses the ball in the air and the player must head it into the goal. Once again, if he scores, he advances. This time, to the fourth and final round. The final round is just a penalty kick. Score and you win. Or, as Dad called it, a Schnitz. To this day, we still have no clue where the hell the word Schnitz came from and despite it being something that he clearly just made up, it’s his claim that he’s the only person on earth to NEVER be Schnitzed.
On this day though, Dad’s competition wasn’t just me, my brother, and his fellow 14-year-old teammates. My cousin Jim happened to be in town this week. Jim was about 29 years old at the time, a former college soccer player and arguably in the peak of his athletic prime. My dad thought it might be a good idea to bring him along to help with practice.After all the kids got a turn in Roll, Bounce, Head, and no one came close to Schnitzing my Dad, it was now Jim’s turn. If anyone could do it, we thought it would be him. In the first round, my dad rolled the ball out swiftly and Jim banged it home with ease. My dad hardly had any time to react before the ball exploded into the back of the net. In the second round, same thing. Dad bounced it, Jim connected, and buried the ball into the net again. Dad didn’t even move. When it was time for the header, my dad tossed the ball high in the air to try to throw him off. It wasn’t high enough. With a sharp flick of his head, Jim placed the ball gingerly into the upper right-hand corner of the goal, and over Dad’s outstretched fingers. Now it was time for the penalty kick. The first three rounds weren’t even close. Now a penalty kick? C’mon this thing was over. We all stood around the box shouting and jeering - eagerly anticipating the moment we’d finally see my Dad Schnitzed for the first time.
It was a save that, I swear, I don’t think Tim Howard could’ve made. After all, my dad isn’t a small guy. He’s hardly known for his quickness and agility. You know those stories of mother’s who miraculously lift cars to save their child stuck underneath? This was sort of like that. There was truly no explaining what any of us just witnessed. I only wish we had a video of it because in today’s world, it would’ve become a viral sensation.I’ll run into friends in my hometown who I haven’t seen in years and they’ll say things to me like, Dude, do you remember that time your dad made that ridiculous save at soccer practice? That was crazy, man.
He Always Saves The Day
I’ve got all kinds of stories like this about my Dad. How he seems to win every 50/50 raffle he participates in, or his certain knack for knowing just when a kicker in a football game is about to miss a big field goal. But the real reason I call my Dad Superman is because of the way he always seems to save the day.When all hope is lost, in comes Superman to swoop in and bring balance back to the world. When I look back on my life, I can’t count the times Dads done that for me and my brothers. To this day, we all know, that if we ever have a problem, we can count on him. Usually, we don’t even have to ask. My dad, like most dads, isn’t the type of guy to ever ask for, need, or even really want anything…unless it’s a popsicle from the freezer. But he’s always there to help. When my car got towed and I was stranded in the city, Dad was there immediately. If I need a ride home from the airport? Dad is waiting in the terminal. Stranded on the highway out of gas thousands of miles away. Dad will find a way there. Then, on the way home, he’ll treat me to a sandwich from his favorite deli in Northeast Philadelphia. No matter where he is, no matter what he’s doing, it’s never more important than one of us. And just like Superman he’s ready and willing to swoop in and save the day. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.