Calvin is the one, Janet says, from whom Grant gets that considerate streak. Calvin's father, Henry, went to Baltimore during the Depression, an ill-educated South Carolina farm worker in search of a better life. When Calvin signed his first contract, with the Dallas Cowboys in 1969, he suddenly came into more money than his father could earn in 25 years on a construction site. "I was very conscious of his feelings," Calvin says. "I didn't want him to think my economic power gave me preeminence in the household. He used to joke about it. 'Guess you have more money than me. Guess I can't tell you what to do.' But it made me uncomfortable."
Calvin has read comments from his own son in which Grant wonders how his father is coping with his success. Grant's concern may grow out of remarks his dad makes—good-natured, bust-your-chops comments like, "Grant, you're good. But you've only got half my genes. Imagine if you had the other half." There's also an oft-repeated story in which 13-year-old Grant has just returned from St. Louis with a national AAU title and a place on the all-tournament team. Calvin, 38 at the time, issues one of those so-you-think-you're-some-thing challenges, to play a little one-on-one. The story is true. Grant beat him, and Calvin insisted on a rematch, and Grant beat him again.
But the inference that might be drawn—that the passage from being Calvin Hill to being Grant Hill's father is the stuff of a midlife crisis—isn't true. The only competition Calvin engages in now is with himself, on the Stairmaster. "In my own career there were goals I didn't achieve," he says. "But I won a championship, and I'm very content with that. I didn't want Grant to feel he had to be an athlete. But the fact he has turned out to be one pleases me.
"It's like General Douglas MacArthur," adds Calvin, who was a history major, as is his son. "His father was a general too, and the son totally eclipsed him."
Calvin says this in his living room, not far from the souvenir piece of the Hoosier Dome floor that rests on the mantel. He has riffled through his memory, and he is now leafing through photo albums and picking through shoeboxes stuffed with snapshots chronicling the years: Dallas Cowboy socials and Players Association functions and images from Yale and Hawaii and D.C.—the images filled with people in tinted glasses and ties that could double as bedsheets.
He stops at a black-and-white glossy of five Cowboys in uniform, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, and points at wide receiver Drew Pearson. "Look at Drew," Hill says, shaking his head at a pair of unruly muttonchops and a huge Afro. "He'll never live that down. You have to be careful with these trendy haircuts."
Rescued from this scrapbook scrap-heap and framed on a wall upstairs is a photograph of Grant's April Fools' Day throwdown against Kansas. Grant can't bear to look at it, on account of his coiffure. "We call it the Thug," Calvin says. "He must have fallen asleep in the barber's chair. I tell him how much I wish I'd gotten a simple haircut that transcended the style of the times when I was playing. But some education is experiential."
(Equal-time guidelines require the insertion of this parenthetical aside. Grant? About the haircut?
"The barber was drunk," he says. "He did Tony Lang's hair first. Then he did mine, and by then the vodka must have kicked in."
There you have it. We now return to our regular narration.)