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My Father Knew Best
Coleman Collins
February 27, 2006
Dad died last week, but I know now how fortunate I've been to have him and to benefit from his wisdom
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February 27, 2006

My Father Knew Best

Dad died last week, but I know now how fortunate I've been to have him and to benefit from his wisdom

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WHEN I was a child, I didn't listen to my father. It was more than just disobedience; it was full-fledged disregard. If he said to turn right, I'd make three left turns.

I graduated from high school and stepped out into the world convinced of my own invincibility. I was on my way to becoming a Big-Time Athlete at a Big-Time School, and I knew what lay ahead of me: easy classes, easier girls and my name in lights. But here came my father to ruin the fun. He gave me a lecture that lasted 20 minutes but can be summed up in one phrase: "Don't get pimped."

Too many young black men were being used, he said. They were idolized for a few years, entranced by the glitter of fool's gold, only to be shuffled off with nothing to show for it. "My son will not be among them," he told me. My father had seen guys come back to his neighborhood and return to the same street corner they had been hanging around on before. Far too often he'd heard, "Oh, there's what's-his-name, who used to play at the park.... Yeah, that boy could really play. Shame what happened to him."

My father told me to look past the glitz and glamour. Although some players make it to the NBA, he said, a lot of guys scrape by with the minimum GPA in college, ending up empty-handed on both graduation and draft days. He said that if he had to whup my ass every day to get me across that stage, he would do it. After a few academic bumps and bruises my first semester, I buckled down and took his words to heart.

I'm glad I did, but I'm even happier that I had someone to guide me. The lack of male role models is all too common in African-American households. Countless friends and teammates never had relationships with their fathers. I was lucky. As I reflect on the time I spent with my father, I'm not saddened by visions of what he'll miss, but cheered by memories of what he got to enjoy: 56 eventful years, 20 years of marriage and three children who will remember his lessons forever.

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