I thought of my father this morning, as I do most mornings. Today was different, though, because I was nervous about a keynote I was doing on cool technology. Every good presentation starts with an attention grabber, a hook to make a connection with the audience. So I had planned to walk on stage in my very conservative black suit, donning a cool 70’s style dress beneath it. Trusting that there would be no wardrobe malfunction, I would drop the suit, as music from Queen, “I want to break free” rose up, and my inspiration for cool, “The Mod Squad” showed on the screen behind me.
I was nervous. It was a conservative crowd. Would they find my stunt too edgy … too silly … too unprofessional?
So I thought of my Dad in circa 1983, then a rising sportscaster in Washington, DC. He was interviewing a few Redskins players on his show, pool side in Miami ahead of the Super Bowl. At the end of the interview, the two players tossed him into the pool, expensive sport coat and all. Some people in journalistic spheres criticized him then, noting that his shoes were coincidentally not on him when the football players spontaneously threw him in the pool. Had he staged the act for the sake of entertainment? Of course he did. It was his hallmark: to entertain while also delivering sports news. He taught me well.
To educate and inspire people, it’s more effective to make it also entertaining. I wonder if he was nervous when he staged this event? Surely, he couldn’t rehearse it, as I had done with my suit a dozen times in advance. There were other times though that I had heard him rehearse, usually before announcing a baseball or hockey game, memorizing the visiting team’s numbers. Who inspired him on that day, on so many days? He would have been 43 when he was launching that part of his career. I am now 47, and somehow, I still feel like a child, in awe of my father who was larger than life.
My father may have disowned me, refusing to acknowledge me as his daughter, but in my work, there is no denying the resemblance.