With younger son, Alex, leaving to embark on a professional basketball career in Australia later this week – and the stress level rising – this blog will be suspended until next week – June 1.
At this time of the year, winning is nearly all everybody in the sports world thinks about (although I guess that’s true for any time of the year). The NBA Playoffs are underway and nobody wants to “go fishin’.” Major League Baseball teams are desperately trying to get off to a great start (see the Cubs) or, at the very least, are trying not to be eliminated by July (because that becomes a really long summer). On the PGA Tour golfers are grinding away too, except each one has to beat the entire field in order to win. Same for professional tennis players.
Fans of each of those sports, which includes me, are tuned in daily to whatever is televised or listening while driving (to sports talk, if not live action), plus checking results in the paper or online. Hey, whether your team wins or loses is important stuff. But, as hard as it is to believe (especially if you’re a Raptors’ fan), there are other things in life that are even more important than your team winning. I experienced one of them last Saturday.
My wife, Jane, and I have two sons. Our older son, Andy, graduated from the University of California, Irvine in 2011. It was quite a happening, seeing your first born participate in a real college commencement – realizing he had grown from the toddler we raised to a wide-eyed elementary school kid, to a know-it-all middle schooler, to a guy who wanted to prove he could be trusted, e.g. driving and later curfews, to a young man who actually got it done all on his own, away from home.
I had preached to him that business was the degree he needed to pursue since he didn’t have a burning desire for any specific career, e.g. medicine, law, teaching, social work. So he majored in political science (an academic area he enjoyed studying) – and then began working in the sales industry. He improved his position in the business world with each job move (four in all). A couple months ago, he was hired at SalesForce, a $49 billion company which Fortune 100 rated as the eighth best company to work for in the nation. His on-target earnings for this year dwarf my best salary. Better than that, he loves his work. Andy is on his way to a successful life, being a confident sales executive, yet someone who has remembered the life values we instilled in him throughout the years.
Upholding the family tradition, Alex, too, got through college in four years (something expected in my generation but remarkable in today’s). His college experience was somewhat different in that he was a recruited athlete. Not surprisingly, our favorite team was the California State University, Monterey Bay basketball guys. Jane and I would travel to Otters’ games throughout his four years, missing only a handful of them (including a three-game tournament in Alaska his freshman season). His major was business from the start. Of all the areas of business, he enjoyed marketing most, so his B.S. in Business has a marketing concentration.
Alex worked hard on the court as well and wound up statistically as the school’s leader in points and steals, third in assists and fourth in rebounding. More importantly, the team’s win total increased in each of his four years. Now, he has an opportunity to play professionally in Australia’s Queensland Basketball League. A week after his graduation, he’s off to give it a “shot” down under.
The feeling that went through me (other than pain because the commencement was held outdoors at the track stadium and we had to sit on concrete bleachers) was different than it was at Andy’s graduation ceremonies. During each, there was a tremendous sense of pride, both for our sons, who had achieved a goal and for us who, if nothing else, were parents of college grads. For the first one, it was a sense of accomplishment; for the last, a feeling of completion. No one is sure exactly how to define success for a parent, but when you have two children and both of them earn college degrees, that’s gotta count for something.
During the commencement exercises, I could have sworn I heard my late mother’s message to me when I was around 10 years old. Never was it more true than last Saturday:
“The world is made up of things besides sports.”