Chuck McGill: Life lessons from father to son for 2014 and beyond
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On a brisk, sunny December afternoon, my 22-month-old son, Gunnar, had his short legs moving quickly around a neighborhood basketball court while I sat on the concrete - the faded 3-point line underneath me - and observed.
He didn't have a ball in hand; he was just burning energy, as kids are wont to do. When he grew tired, he made his way over to me and put his hands on the knees of my jeans. If I sit Indian style, he'll turn around and back onto my lap and use me as a heated seat.
This parent always obliges, so he wiggled his 23-pound body onto my crossed calves and leaned the back of his head into my chest. The wind blew. The leaves rustled. Conversation ensued.
In this moment, we created our chat for three.
It might seem hard to fathom, but I'm a Mountain State native who doesn't hunt or fish. My automotive knowledge is limited. Basketball is the McGill family father-son pastime, and someday, if he embraces the sport, Gunnar and I may have our share of 1-on-1 battles.
Shoot, my love of the 3-pointer helped inspire my son's given name.
Competition, however, is only a small part of what transpires on the court.
As Gunnar nears his second birthday and enters his third calendar year, his vocabulary seems to expand as quickly as he scurries from room to room.
Our talks can be one-sided, but he is starting to carve out more space in the conversation for his own words. This delights me. He uttered "Da-da" long before "Ma," and he has a knack for classifying small vehicles as a car and anything large as a bus. The FedEx truck that rolled by the park that afternoon elicited shouts of "Bus! Bus!" The planes that soared overhead to and from Yeager Airport drew "oohs" and "ahhs."
In his moments of silence in between, he listened to my stories about basketball. He'll not recall that day, but hopefully he'll remember what is written here.
As Gunnar grows - from the 4-pound, 5-ounce premature baby to the man he'll become - there are lessons his proud father hopes his son takes from the court ... and not ones that involve going left or using one's feet on defense.
In life, there will be more misses than makes. There'll be times when it feels like the world is merciless -- like those repeated falls to the unforgiving asphalt.
Sharing is imperative. The whole tends to be greater than the sum of its parts. Pass the glory and assist in the achievement. The wake of your efforts will be far more gratifying.
Coaches -- whether teachers or parents or silver-haired strangers -- are vital. Remember: They've been in those sneakers before you. They know the fundamentals and they know all the tricks.
Teammates -- your support system -- are invaluable. Take care of all of them. You'll need them to extend a hand when you're knocked down.
The late, great Bill Stewart knew best when he said to never leave your wingman.
Life, like sports, is supposed to be fun. Flash those pearly whites. Keep giving out those adorable fist bumps. Hug everyone, even if his or her surly heart tries to resist it. Attitude and personality are infectious. Cynicism and pessimism will succumb to it.
But what I'd most like my only child to know as we navigate life is this: Dad will always listen. Like even the best of coaches, a parent will not always draw up the perfect play. Like it is for the most decorated players, there will be struggles and slumps, frustrations and aggravations.
There will be losses and failures. There will be good years and bad years. There will be adversity and it will serve to reveal character. Fret not. You'll refine that every day of your life.
Through it all, however, there will always be a person willing to lend an ear.
A chat for three: Father, son and a hoop.
Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-7949. Follow him on Twitter @chuckmcgill.