Gorch on the Porch: Sometimes sports dads can be crazy

AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker, FileIn this Nov. 20, 2016, file photo, UCLA's Lonzo Ball, left, walks by his father LaVar Ball, right, to greet family members after UCLA defeated Long Beach State in an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles. Former UCLA star Lonzo Ball pokes fun at his dad's outspoken nature in a commercial released in advance of Father's Day and this week's NBA Draft.

A busy Saturday for me was on the horizon when I got home from a long night working my second job. And as I put my wallet and rosary (yes, this old school Catholic always carries a rosary — it came in handy a couple weeks ago when anxiously flying in an airplane for the first time in 18 years) on my desk, I saw a blue envelope with the name “Dodson” on it.

What’s that, you ask? Well, on our first day at Disney World my son, Johnny, and I realized we forgot to bring hats and we didn’t want our heads uncovered in the Florida heat. So he got a cap, while I got a straw hat that reminded my wife and son of the character early in “Jurassic Park” named Dodson.

(“Dodson, we have Dodson here. No one cares.”)

I opened the card and it was Yoda and the words, “Try to have a great Father’s Day.” Inside, it followed up with Yoda’s famous saying, “Do or do not … there is no try.”

It’s one of the best Father’s Day cards I’ve ever received from my son, who graduated from college last month (with me handing him his diploma on stage since I taught a class at his college … and yes, I was a blubbering mass of tears!). So following his advice, and after just three hours sleep on Saturday morning, I will not try to write a Father’s Day column … I will do it using my Jedi mind tricks.

Besides that emotional commencement having this fluffy (sounds better than fat) sports writer hugging my son in front of more than a thousand people, I also remember his high school graduation at Chesterton. Those are things parents aren’t supposed to miss, so Phil Mickelson should be everyone’s hero on this Father’s Day.

You see, the U.S. Open going on in Wisconsin this weekend is the first since 1993 without Mickelson in it because he put his daughter, Amanda, ahead of a golf tournament. Thursday, the first round of the tourney, was also her graduation from Pacific Ridge High School in Carlsbad, California, and he attended that instead of playing in the U.S. Open.

That’s what a father should do. It doesn’t matter that Amanda Mickelson is the senior class president and valedictorian, resulting in her making a commencement speech. Phil should be there even if she was just a normal kid with a 2.5 grade-point-average.

That makes Phil a better dad than golfer, though he’s pretty good at hitting the little white ball, and it reminded me of how former Major League Baseball star Kirk Gibson is not a good dad.

Gibson, who is best known for his pinch-hit, game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers while having injuries to both legs, was the manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2012 when his son, Cam, was graduating from high school back in Michigan.

Instead of returning to see the graduation, Gibson remained with the team as manager, defending himself with: “You’re supposed to graduate. His mom and the rest of the family will be there.”

Speaking of less-than-stellar dads … LaVar Ball.

If you pay attention to the sports world regularly, then you know who that is. He’s the crazy father of NBA Draft prospect Lonzo Ball, who will likely be picked in the top five after a short career at UCLA.

Lonzo isn’t well-liked because of LaVar’s big mouth and meddling. But Lonzo is part of a Foot Locker commercial leading up to the draft and Father’s Day in which multiple prospects talk about memories of their dads. Besides Lonzo, other players in the commercial are De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky), Jayson Tatum (Duke) and Jonathan Isaac (Florida State).

The other players talk about legitimately fond memories, like dad driving them to far away AAU tournaments or fishing. But Lonzo trolled his dad big time.

“Of course there’s that big day where your dad berates your high school coach — in front of an entire crowd, for not getting you enough touches,” Lonzo says in the spot. “Or that special moment where your dad sits you down and tells you where you’re going to college — copyrights your name to make it part of a family lifestyle brand. Went on First Take and shouted back and forth with Stephen A. Smith about how you’re already better than the reigning league MVP. All those interviews from the stands during college games. The public spats with all-time greats. Sound byte after sound byte to the national media — and then tells 29 out of 30 teams to not bother drafting you.”

It’s hilarious and shows that Lonzo just wants to play Ball (pun intended) and not worry about his wacky dad. He is also part of another shorter Foot Locker ad showing him writing a Father’s Day card to LaVar.

“Happy Father's Day. A relationship between a father and son is priceless,” Ball writes, “but if you had to put a number on it, it'd be something like $3 billion.”

That’s referring to the amount of money LaVar has said he will ask shoe companies to pay to be part of the Big Baller Brand he started before his son has even made it to the draft.

Needless to say, I have a different mindset when it comes to Lonzo, but nothing has changed when it comes to LaVar, who reminds me so much of those interfering parents on school boards who selfishly want great coaches removed because of their own self interests.

Oops, did I go there again? Anyway, Happy Father’s Day to all of the crazy dads out there.

Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at sgorches@thenewsdispatch.com or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.

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