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Vai's View: Vai's View: The power of parenting

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 12:21 p.m. MST

I'm around professional athletes all the time and I certainly didn't want to interrupt him just to introduce myself, so I left him alone and just observed. I couldn't hear their conversation but I was impressed that their interaction was playful and they talked for the entire hour-or-so-long trip. He was clearly a doting, loving, hands-on father.

When we arrived, I got my rental car and drove directly to Mile High Stadium never expecting to see Stockton again except on TV. However, at the conclusion of the game, I was surprised to see Stockton and his sons in the parking lot. Amazingly, he was parked just a few cars from me in the media lot. It never occurred to me that they were traveling to the game, but clearly he was well-connected because he had a media parking pass. What really surprised and impressed me was the car he had rented. It wasn't an SUV or even a full-size sedan. The great John Stockton — fabulously wealthy, owner of a Stockton-to-Malone car dealership in Murray, soon-to-be NBA Hall of Famer — was driving a tiny compact Chevy GEO.

He seemed to be in a hurry, probably to make their return flight home to Salt Lake, and I was returning to Philadelphia, but I was deeply impressed by what I had observed. Whether Stockton intended to or not, his financial restraint in renting only the bare minimal car for a day when he could drive whatever he wanted, indicated to me that he likely used restraint in other aspects of his life and certainly as a parent. I may be reading more into it than I should, but given what I read about his son Michael in Germany, my suspicions seem accurate.

Finally, I share with you a YouTube video clip of a speech Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter gave to his own family's congregation at the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church last summer following a flash mob incident in downtown Philadelphia where 20-30 teenagers looted stores, robbed and assaulted innocent bystanders. If you're a parent, grandparent, youth leader or scoutmaster, I strongly suggest you watch the clip. We watched it for family home evening earlier this week. It is raw, emotional and very powerful.

Mayor Nutter was straightforward, blunt and by his own admission, "not PC." To fathers who only provide a monthly check but give no direction to their kids, don't know where they are or who they hang out with, "you're not fathers ... you're just human ATMs." And to those who provide neither financial assistance or guidance, "you're just sperm donors."

His most pointed remarks were reserved for the youth of Philadelphia. "Take those doggone hoodies down, especially in the summer. Buy a belt! Nobody wants to see your underwear or the crack of your butt! Buy a belt! Learn some manners. Keep your butt in school, go to college, make something of yourself and be a good citizen. Extend your English vocabulary beyond the few curse words that you know, some other grunts and grumbles and other things that none of us understand anything that you're saying.

"And if you go to look for a job ... don't go blaming it on the white folks or anybody else if you walk into somebody's office with your hair uncombed and a pick in the back, with your shoes untied and your pants half down, tattoos up and down your arm, on your face, on your neck and you wonder why somebody won't hire you? They don't hire you 'cause you look like you're crazy! That's why they're not hiring you."

After a moment of calm, he closed with this: "If you act like you got some sense ... you'd be surprised at what opportunities will open up to you."

Father to father, I'm with you Mr. Mayor.

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