My father never compared me to Gandhi.
My father never compared me to Nelson Mandela.
I know that Tiger Woods’ father, Earl Woods, has compared his son to both those men. I know that Tiger’s father said in TV Guide last week that Mandela was one of the few people “as powerful as Tiger is.”
Earl thinks a lot of his son. That’s nice. I feel no envy. I do not mind.
My father never urged me to play golf, and he didn’t push me at tennis to reach a world-class level, the way Steffi Graf’s father or Jennifer Capriati’s father or Venus and Serena Williams’ father did.
My father never bragged about my skill. He never predicted I would one day be No. 1 in the world. We never took photos with the Wimbledon trophy. We never stood on Augusta’s 18th green. We were never profiled by “60 Minutes.” We were never interviewed by Bob Costas.
My father never held me on his lap in news conferences, the way Allen Iverson holds his kid after NBA playoff games. My father never popped me on his shoulders after a Super Bowl victory. He never did a lap with me at the Olympic stadium. He never rode me on his handlebars after winning the Tour de France.
Am I saddened? Am I bitter? Am I lacking?
I am not.
Forget the talk show circuit
My father never dressed me in a tux at the Oscars. He never took me to Cannes. My father never ran from a paparazzi photographer, my stroller bumping as he shook an angry fist at the intruder.
My father never told Barbara Walters how important I was. He never sat with Rosie O’Donnell and discussed baby tips. He never explained how I went with him to the movie set, “and made friends with all the cameramen.”
He never explained how the joint custody would work.
My father never did a Rolling Stone interview. He never hung pictures on the wall of him, me and Mick Jagger. He never named me Dweezil or Chastity. He never granted People a photo shoot when I was in diapers.
My father never found a womb donor, the way Michael Jackson did. He never volunteered to get Madonna pregnant.
He never got me an agent. Never took me to an audition. By the time I knew what Broadway was, I was too old to play young.
I never cared.
Forget the world of politics
My father never told me “we were born to lead.” My father never used his political influence to get me started. My father never suggested we were entitled to power, the way the Kennedys or Bushes might.
My father never attended my inauguration.
My father never covered up a crime for me. My father never bought off a policeman. My father never shielded me from public disclosure, never issued a press release regarding my privacy, never held my arm up high as he waved to an adoring crowd.
My father wasn’t famous. He never pushed me to be famous. He didn’t care about being famous, or being rich, or being powerful.
This is what my father did: He set an example. He was there. He was involved. He worked hard, but never spoke of work at the dinner table. He was polite, and taught his children to be the same.
He set the rules, and made the first one: “Respect your mother.”
He came home at night. He held us when we cried. He scolded us and molded us. But he always made us feel that, if danger came, he would sacrifice his life to save us.
Today is Father’s Day. There will be stories about famous fathers and their famous children. For this moment, however, let us salute all the ones who are not raising little Gandhis, Mandelas or Tiger Woodses.
Here’s to all the dads who, like my dad, teach their children what a father should be by the simplest and most time-tested method:
By behaving like one.
I love you, Pop. And I wouldn’t trade that for all the trophies in the world.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.