That's a small joy most parents take for granted: seeing your child play a game. Watching him grow in sports over the years. Enjoying the best moments as much as he does.
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- Jean and Marie Pierre Paul will be traveling to Indianapolis this weekend to see their son, New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre Paul, play in the Super Bowl. Portrait taken in their Fort Lauderdale home.
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"It's just my life, I'm blind,'' he says in Creole through a translator. "Some days are good days, some days are bad days. Sunday with our son will be a good day."
Sunday in Indianapolis, when he attends his first NFL game — when New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's entire family attends a game together for the first time — Dad will follow the play in the same way he does on television at home.
His wife, Marie, will sit beside him, close by. She'll tell as best she can what their son does.
"I'll 'Oh, he made a good play,' or 'He just did this,' '' Marie said. "We don't know all the things that happen."
"She does fine,'' Jean said.
Jean, 60, hasn't seen since Jason was nine months old. He went blind in one eye while driving. Within weeks, he lost sight in the other eye due to a "problem with the blood," he says.
The Super Bowl is a long way from the Haiti they left almost three decades ago, a long way from the improved life they wanted in South Florida.
And if their path to Indianapolis was long and difficult, their son's was equally unusual. He was a basketball player at Deerfield Beach High School eight years ago when he walked into a geometry class as a junior.
The class was taught by the football team's defensive coordinator, Manny Martin. He pressed Pierre-Paul to play football, saying at one point, half-kidding, "If you want to pass the class, you're going to play football."
Pierre-Paul had played football as a youth. His mom remembers signing him up as a 9-year-old to play a sport she'd never heard of. But Deerfield was his first serious step in football, and Martin's plan was simple: Have Pierre-Paul rush the quarterback. Just that.
That wasn't a problem. He could do that like few others. The problem was life. Jean couldn't work due to his blindness. Marie did domestic work. Jason, the fourth of six children, needed to keep his job at Boston Market to help the family pay rent. All the kids worked.
Pierre-Paul told the Deerfield coaches his problem. They talked with the fast-food restaurant manager. A solution was worked out: Pierre-Paul would go straight from practice to Boston Market and work until midnight.
"That was the hardest year for me,'' he said this week during Media Day at the Super Bowl.
That was just the start. His football itinerary moved from Deerfield to the College of the Canyons (California) for a season, Fort Scott (Kansas) Community College for a season and then the University of South Florida.
He planned to stay at South Florida for his final two years of college eligibility. He had 16 1/2 sacks that year. He also showed rare athleticism by contorting his 6-5 frame into 23 consecutive backflips.
After he spent one year at South Florida, the Giants drafted him 15th overall. He signed a five-year, $20 million contract. He had 16 1/2 sacks this year, made the Pro Bowl, plays in Sunday's Super Bowl and has important plans after it.
"When Jason comes back, we're going to look at a new house,'' his mother says. "I was looking, but couldn't find one I like. He said he'll help pick one out."
"He's made us proud; we're happy,'' Jean says.
We hype the Super Bowl. We celebrate the football stage. And yet, on Sunday, as Pierre-Paul takes the field, his journey to Indianapolis, with his father in the stands, will represent something beyond sports, something remarkable.
It's the American dream meets America's game. Dad doesn't even have to see it to believe it.
Dave Hyde can be reached at email@example.com