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Blanchat: Fathers and sons and sports

It’s almost over. It’s the fourth quarter. It’s the bottom of the ninth. We’re halfway up the 18th hole.

In reality though, it’s the end of spring quarter, and I’ve got a little more than one week left on the Farm. I’ve found that senior year is a good time to think about memories and spend time swapping stories about the last four years, but more importantly, it’s a good time to reflect on who we are, how we’ve changed, how twists of fate and luck brought us here today and why we do what we do. And with this being my final column in The Stanford Daily, I’ve got just one last chance to reflect on my time covering Stanford sports.

Last week, it struck me that my graduation would occur in Stanford Stadium, a place that’s been immensely important to my time here. I’ll never forget watching Andrew Luck complete a perfect 50-yard pass in his first Cardinal-White game or beating USC on a last-second field goal in 2010. It’s pretty easy for me to say that many of my most unforgettable moments here have occurred in various Stanford stadiums, and I’m glad my last Stanford moment will happen there.

But it also struck me that my graduation would occur on Father’s Day, with my dad in the stands. And for a somewhat mundane, Hallmark-card holiday, it’s one that has a lot of significance in my life.

My dad spent his first Father’s Day behind a glass wall, watching me in the neonatal intensive care unit in Dallas, Texas, hobbled by pneumonia that left me with just a 50 percent chance to live. He’ll spend his 23rd watching me cross the stage at Stanford, his alma mater. And really, there’s no better way to explain what brought me here than to start with him.

In the course of those 23 years, I have to attribute a lot of my character today to him, including my love of sports, reading and writing that inevitably drew me to Stanford and The Daily.

Together, through road trips to catch SEC football games, hot afternoons spent trying to hook fish and our fair share of nights watching the double-A Arkansas Travelers at Ray Winder Field, sports became the huge part of my life that it is to this day. Thanks to his near-obsessive level of reading books and magazines, there was always plenty of reading material to keep me occupied growing up. And thanks to his stories about the Theta Delt house or John Elway firing baseballs like rifle shots from right field to home plate, I always wanted to go to Stanford.

That said, the relationship between a father and his son is often a complicated one. At some point in our lives, just about everybody has to tangle with the marks that a father (or the absence of a father) leaves on us. Some of the things that we bear from our fathers are easy to understand — maybe you’re a Packers fan because your dad is from Wisconsin — but other times, there are things that you never understand or don’t understand until years into the future. Like at the 2004 Masters golf tournament, when my dad told me a major business deal he’d been working on had fallen through. Eight years and three career changes later, I now know just how significant that small moment was for my dad, a moment shared with a son through the medium of sports.

It hasn’t always been easy, but eventually, I think most people realize that their fathers are, in many ways, just like themselves — real people with hopes and disappointments of their own. I know I’ve had that realization in these last four years, here at the same place my dad went to school 25 years ago. And without my father, I know I wouldn’t be here today, and I definitely wouldn’t be who I am today. So that’s why, in my last column for The Stanford Daily, I just wanted to make sure and say thanks, Dad.

To my loyal readers, thank you too. It’s been one of the most profound pleasures of my life to write for The Daily for the past two years. And take some time today to thank your dad and tell him you love him. Or just go to a ballgame with him. In many ways, it’s the same thing.

Jack Blanchat looks forward to being a dad himself — in the very distant future. Send him your best parental advice at blanchat “at” stanford.edu or follow him on Twitter @jmblanchat.

  • Mdblanchat

    I’m Jack’s father, and I approve of this message. You’re a great son and a terrific person – I’m proud of you and of being your Dad! Love you too! Matthew 3:17  PS – Beat Cal!