Laura Teel watched her first football game at the tender age of 17 hours. Her nursery contains basketball, baseball and softball memorabilia, not to mention a tennis racket and lacrosse stick hanging on a wall, and a pink baseball glove near her crib.
Laura’s infant wardrobe contains New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Washington Redskins and ACC apparel. Soon as she’s big enough, her father will push her in a jogging stroller.
If Laura’s not into sports, it won’t be for lack of exposure from mom and dad.
Yes, two weeks ago I joined life’s most blessed, privileged, rewarding and challenging club: parenthood.
I know what you’re thinking: Is Teel younger than he looks? What about the hair that’s grayer than Newt Gingrich’s and the bald spot that’s expanding faster than the ACC?
Your eyes do not deceive. I’m 52 and a first-time father. Hey, as any basketball coach of mine would tell you, I’ve always been a step or three slow.
I share our family addition not only out of pride, but also in the hope that like countless parents before us, my wife and I can use sports to bond with, and teach, our child.
For this she not be the next Diana Taurasi, Serena Williams or Hope Solo. She need only, as participant and/or spectator, appreciate the values and joys of sports – among them competition, discipline, fitness, teamwork, integrity and authority.
Her mom and I can’t wait to start. To show Laura how competition stretches limits beyond the imagination, how teams accomplish more than individuals and bond disparate communities, how opponents, coaches and officials deserve respect -- in victory and defeat.
As an athlete we can only hope Laura takes more after her mom, whose youth, high school and college sports included baseball, softball, basketball, tennis, golf and lacrosse – her latest efforts were a triathlon and half-marathon.
Laura’s dad was a basketball benchwarmer, the Bill Buckner of soccer goalies and a first baseman who couldn’t handle inside heat. These days, I’m an habitual runner, determined to remain capable of shooting hoops with my little girl.
Quick note/reminder to all males: Nothing we do athletically approaches pregnancy and childbirth. Nothing.
I fell for sports as a kid, and my parents seized upon that love. Dad and I played catch for hours on end, baseball and football, and hacked our way around many a golf course. Mom and Dad were regulars at my games, from Little League to varsity, and reveled in my sportswriting career. An incurable grammarian, Mom was my toughest editor.
Dad took me to Major League Baseball stadiums in New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles, including Game 7 of the 1971 World Series between the Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates – Roberto Clemente broke my heart.
My most memorable Christmas present wasn’t a bicycle or even a baseball glove. It was two tickets to the Colts-Raiders 1970 AFC championship game.
Most enduring, Dad and I attended 25 consecutive Army-Navy football games, where the scoreboard was secondary to the academies’ awesome missions. We arrived early to watch the Corps of Cadets and Brigade of Midshipmen march into the stadium; we stayed late to hear Navy Blue and Gold and the West Point alma mater.
When the cancer that eventually claimed him ended our streak, Dad and I watched the 1991 edition together on television. We didn’t say much. We didn’t have to.
Laura has a head start on sporting venues. She’s been to Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Dean Dome, the ACC tournament and NCAA Final Four, albeit in utero.
Her weekends this fall will be wall-to-wall football. Come the new year, she’ll be bombarded with college basketball, and by summer she’ll be at War Memorial Stadium to watch the Peninsula Pilots.
Laura will learn that no door is closed to girls and women, even if they have to kick it open. She's the best laptop ever, and whether aspiring point guard, professor or POTUS, Laura is the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2029.
Until then, bank on middle-of-the-night tweets and blog posts, and perhaps a few typos, from your faithful keyboard jockey. Chalk them up to sleep deprivation, muscle-cramping, mind-altering, oh-so-sweet sleep deprivation.