I consider myself lucky. I have a Dad who has helped guide me and shape me throughout my time here on Earth. That alone is enough. But he's also someone who absolutely lives and breathes through sports and has instilled an emotional attachment - one I consider as important as air - to Philadelphia sports franchises in me.
The past couple of years have brought new found love for soccer for myself. It wasn't until 2007 that the beautiful game became beautiful in my eyes. It took watching the Brazil - France game in the 2006 World Cup just to get me to admit that soccer was watchable. 12 years of playing the sport had done little to keep me from the same fate as any other American youth who played soccer, but it was watching the game that made it likable. Surprise, surprise.
My Dad had never been one to enjoy soccer purely for it being soccer. He always took time out of his weekends to coach a team every other year that had my brother or myself on it. It wasn't until my brother and I both took a liking to soccer that the four sports Philly fan tried to enjoy the game with us.
It wasn't obvious at first. There wasn't a purchase of digital cable and the soccer package to show that my Dad wanted to watch the game. We didn't go to any MLS games in the area and we didn't go to the Linc for any international friendlies.
Once my brother and I got a Wii from our parents and almost immediately bought FIFA08, it seemed our Dad took notice. The competitive nature of the game and his enjoyment in seeing my brother and I find something to spend time together playing made him pay attention. He began to learn names, learn about teams and started to talk to me about various soccer things.
All of that interest slowly turned into watching Comcast Sports Net for the replays of English Premier League games.
We finally, as a family, ended up seeing a professional soccer game in 2009. The Peace Cup was held in Spain that year and the final had tickets available for when we were going to be In Sevilla during our vacation. I convinced my parents to buy tickets. It ended up being a dull 0-0 draw between Aston Villa and Juventus, but we were able to watch Ashley Young tear apart the Juventus defense and Gianluigi Buffon play. Plus we got a bonus in seeing USMNT international goalkeeper Brad Guzan outduel Buffon during penalty kicks.
Now I have season tickets and my Dad has come out to two Union games this year. He has become an adopted member of the Sons of Ben by showing up to their tailgates on two occasions now, has sat with the Section 133 Illegitimates twice and has enjoyed himself on every trip.
Most fathers don't go to such lengths to try to connect with their sons, but my Dad has committed himself to reading this blog, reading the Daily News and Inquirer for more information and watching games. It's gotten to the point that he actually likes the game without me being around.
For all you've done outside of soccer for me, Dad, thank you. That would have been enough. But involving yourself in a sport that has turned into what I consider my number one sporting interest nowadays went well beyond your fatherly duties. I can't thank you enough for that.