For years, we have jokingly referred to my dad as Forrest Gump. But it’s an apt comparison: Somehow, he’s been involved in a surprising number of historical events of the last 50 years.
He worked with Howard Cosell as the two tried to establish the Federal Sports Commission.
He worked in the NBC Sports broadcast booth with Jim McKay on Sunday of the 1973 U.S. Open, when Johnny Miller shot 63 in the final round to win — the lowest final round in the history of golf’s four major championships (a record that lasted until 2017).
He was at all three legs of Secretariat’s Triple Crown.
He served drinks to Reds players Pete Rose and Tony Pérez between games one and two of the 1970 World Series.
The first vote he cast as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives was for Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be Speaker of the House.
“… And I went to The White House, again.”
This scratches only the surface of his amazing encounters.
Recently, as I’ve spent considerable time daydreaming about my son — thinking about the path he will carve around the world — my only conclusion is that I’m grateful he won’t be bound by my imagination. The amazing future he will be a part of and create reminds me of when my dad met the Louisville girl who cured cancer and harnessed the power of cold fusion.
Who is this girl? And when did she cure cancer?
Well, she hasn’t… yet.
A few years ago, at a charity auction, my dad lost a $50 bid on a painting. He liked the piece so much, he sought out the artist after the event to commission a copy of it. Turns out, the artist was 17-year-old Lindsey Rogers, then a senior at Male High School.
She agreed to do a similar painting for a donation to the charity. He offered $500.
“It’s not worth that much,” she told him.
“It is to me,” he responded.
She produced a remarkable rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” over the Louisville skyline. The painting has been a fixture in my dad’s Washington, D.C. office ever since.
Through the process, he learned that Lindsey planned to attend Dartmouth College but was on the wait-list at Yale University — her first choice. He offered to write a letter to have her application reconsidered, and, ultimately, she was admitted.
As a freshman at Yale, she became president of the student body.
Several months later, when he was visiting campus, he asked everyone he came across — from students to administrators — if they had met Lindsey Rogers from Louisville.
“Everyone’s heard of Lindsey,” he was told.
My dad recently retold this story — in the context of his greatest Forrest Gump episodes. It struck me that the most amazing part of this story has yet to occur. One day it will be Forrest retelling us of when he met the woman who cured cancer, who discovered dark matter or who became the first person to walk on Mars.
He has met every U.S. president since Lyndon B. Johnson. He played a round of golf with Barack Obama… even rode in the cart with him. Yet, it may be thanks to a losing $50 bid at a silent auction that led him to meet the coolest, most important historical figure of all.
Now, here I am with my son.
I have no idea who he is but, already, I am amazed thinking about the footprints he will make on the world… this one or another, undiscovered world. Mostly, I can’t get over seeing these two, incredible paths cross — my dad’s and my son’s.
He will have his grandads’ names, John and David, and he’ll hear them both when he’s in big trouble with his mother. Otherwise, he’ll be called JD.
I hope he has his grandmother’s fire, sense of exploration and curiosity for the world.
I hope he has his mother’s intelligence and righteousness.
As for me?
I hope he thinks I’m funny; I hope he wants to sing in the car with me, like I did with my dad; and I hope there’s a time he believes I’m the greatest golfer in the world.
If it’s not too much to ask, maybe, one day he’ll find me interesting enough to read some of my columns.
Otherwise, I just hope he lets me tag along on his path for awhile. •