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There has only been one time I can remember that my Dad was wrong about something. On my first day of kindergarten, I whined that I needed a booksack, and he said that no one gets homework on the first day of school.

But 6 hours later I stomped home with an armload of paper and forms spilling out of my arms, declaring that indeed, a booksack would have been a useful commodity, and that in light of this early hitch in my academic career, I was done with the whole school thing.
"I don't think I'm gonna go back," I casually asserted.

My parents informed me otherwise. But there it was. I was 5 years old, and it was the first and last time I ever remember Dad steering me wrong.

Twenty-three years later and he's the only one with a greater error-free streak than the New York Yankees.

The first thing I ever remember Dad telling me is a lesson that has served me well over the years. If he hadn't passed along this sage nuggest of wisdom, my life would undoubtedly be drastically different than it is today:

"No matter what you do, don't EVER root for the Mets, the Nets, the Jets, or the Islanders."

What if he never taught me this? Would I be a Mets fan? Or worse? Would I even care about sports at all if my father hadn't instilled into me an unapologetic streak of competitiveness? Would I have developed a fierce devotion to sports and an uncompromised appreciation of the game had my dad not put a wiffle ball bat in my hands?

I remember when I was growing up and wanting nothing more than to spend time with my dad, a sentiment which he wholeheartedly and gratefully shared. Whether it meant "auditing" his advanced level accounting classes he taught at Iona College, or watching Sunday football with him while he patiently explained the rules. (I still reduce the game to "you get four tries to get what's called a 'down.'" I can't say I learned as much from his accounting classes. I don't know if any of the college co-eds in there did, either. I watched him grade papers sometimes, and they were pretty bad.)

He was never wrong. And his opinion trumped everyone else's. When I was playing 2B in my softball league last year, I was strangely unfazed by the fact that a co-ed league meant one screaming grounder after another hit to the chick infielder. And barring one or two hungover games, I was good. "My dad told me that if I stay in front of the ball, I would never get hurt," I bragged to my team.

"Well, that's just blatantly not true," they countered.

"Whaa..? Yes, it is! Wait, it's not?"

"NO. We play on crappy fields in Central Park. A bad hop off a stone and it doesnt matter if you're Honus Wagner, you're getting smashed in the face."

I took this information back to my dad.

"KRISTEN. I never said that. I said if you stay in front of the ball, it'll never get PAST YOU. But, who the hell are they anyway? Don't listen to them, just follow my advice, please."

So I did. And have. And haven't gotten hurt yet. I should have listened to him when he said to stay away from soccer--if I had, I'd still have my ACL and wouldn't be sidelined for the duration of the summer.

He taught me to never swing at the first pitch. I don't know why, since the more I read, the more it seems this isn't advantageous. But I struck out less than anyone on the team in high school. He doesn't trust anyone, and neither do I. He doesn't waste his time or energy on people he doesn't like. He never graded on class participation. He uses cookie cutters to make cheese circles for hamburgers so no excess cheese corners fall onto the grill. He bought me a shirt in 8th grade that said, "Second best is first loser." He is wildly emotional and passionate about things...for about 15 minutes and then forgets about it.

He seems to know a little something about everything, and I don't think I've ever once heard the phrase, "I don't know" escape from his lips. He drew caricatures of me on my lunchbags instead of just writing my name, making me either the weirdest kid in 3rd grade or the coolest, I'm not sure which. He is inexplicably obsessive about how much gas in the car at any given point. He is averse to buying batteries, out of principle since companies can make batteries that last forever, but don't. He is never happier than when he's with his wife and 3 daughters.

I'm pretty sure he hasn't liked a single guy I've ever dated, since he insists on calling them all "Sean," the name of a guy I dated about a decade ago. "What do I got to learn their names for?" he reasons. "You're not gonna marry any of em." This is hysterical to me, not to any guy I bring home whose name isn't Sean.

He watches movies of the Vietnam War like I watch Yankee Classics, suspending any knowledge of the fact the outcome has already been determined and hooked to the tv as if he was watching it unfold live for the first time. He has an ordered rankings list of his favorite sorbets. He hates how other fans stand up after 2 strikes since it was a Yankee trend that began with Rod Guidry.

I idolize the ground my dad walks on. I'm cut from the same mold as him, and there are few phrases I've heard more often than, "You are your father in spades." (With the possible exception of, "Have you lost your mind?") Any quirk, any idiosyncrasy, anything good to my credit, is a direct result of being his daughter. He taught me everything. After he drilled the mnemonic lesson about team loyalties into me, he told me that the two most important things in life are your family and to do the right thing. (Food a close third.)

I don't know where I'd be today without him. Maybe Citifield. But I know I'd be a paled version of what I am now. So on Father's Day 2009, I'm celebrating the man who's never steered me wrong. I looked to him in the bleachers for signals when I was playing little league, and at 28 years old, I'm still looking up to him. I couldn't have asked for a better coach.

Thanks, Dad--Happy Father's Day.


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