Whether its the ‘crack of the bat’ or the ‘7th Inning stretch’, the ‘swish’ of the net or the ‘rim rocking’ dunk – special moments in sports occur every game.
A child’s first tooth (or first visit from the tooth fairy) or first words – special moments in life occur with less frequency.
That is why when the two intersect, the moment is ***extra special***.
Back in 1979, during the ‘heyday’ of the Big Red Machine, my father took me to my first professional baseball game. I grew up in Lexington and played baseball from morning to night. Cardinal Valley park was the spot and the baseball diamonds were my home. This love of baseball was fostered by a love that only a mother could describe for her favorite child, and my favorite ‘child’ was Johnny Bench. The fever was high and when my father told me that I was going to see him play (along with Pete Rose, Cesar Geronimo, Joe Morgan, Ken Griffey, Dave Concepcion etc…) in Riverfront Stadium, it was all I could do to wait an entire week. I remember being so excited that I told my 2nd grade classmates that my father WAS Johnny Bench and that was how I got the tickets. The anticipation was great for what I can only describe as NIRVANA.
I don’t remember anything about the game – score, crowd size, weather – or about the days that followed. I can however tell you how special that moment was. Me and my dad. That’s what I remember.
When I first met Dominic, he was sitting court side, eating ice cream and watching the Cats warm up. He was smiling as Marcus Lee would throw down a thunderous dunk and his dad, Matt, would look over at him and tell him to wipe the ice cream off his face. It was comfortable back and forth banter between father and son – you know that conversation where you remember every word. It is not because of the importance of what is being said, it is because of the beauty of the moment.
Dominic DiLorenzo is 10 years old and an avid Kentucky Wildcats fan (although he told me if he had to pick his most favorite team it would be the Pittsburgh Steelers). He knows the players, their mannerisms and their sneakers. Matt DiLorenzo is Dominic’s father and is also an avid UK Wildcats fan as well as Steelers lover. Matt could tell you more about the players than most people will ever know – he was a student athlete for the men’s soccer team and worked for the athletic department. He also runs a successful sports marketing business in Lexington. Matt also has sneaker game, as he was sporting his Air Jordan III’s – showing Dominic that he is still cool. Which is very important for dad’s to do.
I asked Dominic who his favorite player is – the player you would invite to your house for dinner and basketball. He paused for a second, as his vanilla cone left a mustache on his mouth and said, “John Wall.”
Matt shook his head in agreement. “Remember talking about that in the car tonight – who your favorite player is? Not Davis, Towns, Kidd-Gilchrist? You sure it’s Wall.”
“Yes dad. John Wall.” Dominic wasn’t completely paying attention to our conversation and I don’t blame him. Between the greatest soft serve ice cream, served in any sports arena and the awe that is your first basketball game in Rupp…Dominic was taking it all in.
Matt was too. Because not only was this Dominic’s first game at Rupp Arena but it was Matt DiLorenzo’s first game with his son at Rupp Arena. The pride and joy that were evident in his face when Dom would answer my questions or make sure that he looked me in the eye and shook with the correct hand. It wasn’t the 30-footers that Jamaal Murray was hitting with ease or the cool factor that was up in the clouds with the floor seats, no, it was the moment. The moment when sports and life intersect and it really is special.
What was the score to the game tonight? Who were they playing? In 15 years this won’t be remembered by either one of the DiLorenzo boys, but they both will remember the father-son first game moment.