Last weekend, I learned how to be a better father. I wasn’t planning on it—I was merely going to an All Pro Dad event…as a single dude with two single Sports Spectrum co-workers.
(No worries, by the way. None of us are fathers already. God knows I can’t raise a kid on a sports writer’s salary, which leaves me two options: marry a doctor or take a picture of my kid and hack into Compassion International’s website.)
Anyway, we embarked on an 11-hour journey from Charlotte to Indianapolis in a three-person caravan for one sole purpose: interview Colts head coach Jim Caldwell and their offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen at the All Pro Dad event in the Colts practice facility.
It was me, our videographer and photographer Aaron, and our networking guru Greg. Little did we know that in the process, we’d learn lessons we could apply to fatherhood…whenever that may be.
Lesson 1: Take your child’s driving habits seriously.
We left Charlotte at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, right after we got off work. We arrived at my parents’ house in Indianapolis at 4 a.m. on Friday. Nonstop driving. Sleepy. Fatigued. Overall, not smart. Which leads to our next lesson…
Lesson 2: Know how stupid your children are.
I’ve fallen asleep at the wheel before. Greg “can’t see anything at night.” And Aaron, well, he sleeps until noon everyday, so you know he treats sleep like precious gold (he also ran out of good contacts last week and would be driving in his glasses which had a five-year-old prescription). Yeah, let’s put those three in a car for 11 hours. And while we’re at it, maybe the three blind mice can pilot a rocket shuttle. Or perhaps the BP executives can take a concrete mixer down the interstate.
Lesson 3: If you do become a father, don’t have a daughter.
Since my family lives in Indianapolis, we had all day on Friday to hang out at my house before the All Pro Dad event on Saturday. Everything was pretty normal in the Copeland household on Friday. Mom forcing food down our throats like it was Thanksgiving. Dad giving me financial advice like he was a stockbroker. And then there’s my eighth grade sister…sigh.
Every time I come home, she’s even prettier than before. Tall. Blonde. Athletic. (Time to retrieve that pistol from my editor’s desk.) I’ve already had one sister go through high school, and there’s only so much more I can take. To top it all off, she had just gotten her braces removed, and I can already see guys flocking after her smile.
(Now entering a segment called “If you do have a daughter…”)
Lesson 4: If you do have a daughter, make her get braces in high school instead of middle school.
Cruel? I’ll give you that. But ultimately, you’re just saving them…from those filthy, dirtbag scoundrels called “men”.
This eliminates the guys who are solely going after your daughter for looks. It makes them look on the inside…since braces aren’t exactly attractive. And if they do look on the inside, good for them, but it doesn’t mean they can date her.
Lesson 5: If you do have a daughter, ignore her whenever she talks about boys.
It wasn’t until the trip home that Greg told me what my little sister told him, “I’m going to the movies with some guys,” she told him. “But shhhhhh, don’t tell Stephen.”
Hey, at least I didn’t have to hear it firsthand. Much easier to hear it when you’re hundreds of miles away. It’s in the Lord’s hands, right?
Lesson 6: If you do have a daughter, don’t train her in the domestic affairs of womanhood.
On Friday night, my little sister baked cookies for us. Then, on Saturday morning, as I was getting ready for our interview with Caldwell, my sister looked at me as I was ironing my shirt.
“Stephennnn, you’re doing it wrong. Let me do it for you.”
I couldn’t believe it. This girl was an eighth grader. And she was going to make an amazing wife one day. When that thought crossed my mind, I slugged Aaron in the arm for no reason…just because he was there.
The next lesson was a tough one to swallow.
After my sister finished prepping my shirt, we left for the Colts Complex. We interviewed Caldwell and Christensen, nailed it (except for the fact that our tangled microphone kept tugging at Caldwell’s collar like he was a hooked fish), learned about the vision of All Pro Dad, checked out the team-building activities between fathers and kids on the practice field, and then we left.
Mission accomplished. Kinda.
Ten minutes later, making my way down I-65, my precious Dodge Stratus started to sound like a blender, I couldn’t go over 45 mph on the interstate, and my power steering locked up like an old man’s knee cap.
I pulled over, and we popped open the hood to examine the scene. I grimaced, itched my head (I have a degree in journalism), then looked up at Aaron (music). Aaron shrugged, then looked at Greg (sports management). Greg went back and helplessly sat in the car…
Lesson 7: Know cars. Real men know cars.
Luckily, since we were close to my house, we were able to get a different car to take back to Charlotte. So on Sunday afternoon, we left. And that’s when we had a terrible idea: we decided to listen to Shaq’s album on the trip down.
Let me explain why it’s terrible. Eh, forget my explanation. Just consider these lyrics.
“Mic-checka, the rim and rhyme wrecka, rocks from here to Mecca.” – “I Got Skillz,” Shaq.
“Times are hard, times are rough; Didn’t have Toys R Us toys, but I had enough love.”
– “I’m Outstanding,” Shaq.
“Do you want me to shoot it? No. Do you want me to pass it? No. Do you want me to slam it? Yeah.” – “Shoot, Pass, Slam,” Shaq.
Lesson 8: Monitor what your children listen to.
When we got back to Charlotte, we began thinking about the trip. It had been well worth the 22 hours of driving and even the death of my Stratus…maybe, I loved that thing.
But the thought of taking my kid to something like that one day actually made me excited to be a father—throwing the pigskin with my kid in the Colts Complex, doing football drills together, and all the while in the presence of guys like Caldwell, Christensen, Marlin Jackson, Freddie Scott and Austin Collie.
Lesson 9: Take your kid to an All Pro Dad event.
After all, as the great philosopher Shaquille O’Neal says in his smash hit “Biological Didn’t Bother,” it’s up to a father to take his son “from a boy to a man.” Which brings us to our last lesson…
Lesson 10: Just wanted to reiterate Lesson 8.