Delaney: Down The Middle Willie
There were others, of course, outside of sports. Shriver's brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Michael Jackson, and former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara.
None of these people, while all talented and influential, meant more to me than William J. Delaney, Jr.
The oldest son of a Boston-area family, Delaney grew up playing ice hockey on ponds. He went to school, went to war, married and raised a fairly well-adjusted family. Bill Delaney was my father. Dad was 88 and in ill-health when he died Dec. 14. Despite how his full life ended, at times confused from a lack of oxygen due to heart and lung disease, I miss the man I remember.
A big part of my father included sports. This is where I come in. I watched games with him when I was growing up. For better and worse, I chose a profession based on a love of sports. It was our bond.
I think Dad would've watched the New Year's Day NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park with particular interest. From his home in Pennsylvania, it's likely his TV remote would've shuffled between the Flyers and Bruins and Penn State and LSU in the Capital One Bowl.
I will never look at a golf course the same way, I imagine, now that my father is gone. I do not know anyone who loved anything more than my father loved golf. He played on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, and New Year's Day when possible. In an infamous moment, he left a family gathering my parents hosted to play golf.
He saw Jack Nicklaus play as an undergraduate at Ohio State when my parents lived in Columbus, and he watched the game on television long before Tiger. In the 1970s, he wore the same gaudy, plaid pants as the pros. My father never cared how he looked, or anyone else for that matter.
Dad was meticulous about cleaning his golf clubs. He kept golf balls in a sock drawer, and my mother regularly awoke to the rumble of the balls rolling around as dad got ready for a morning tee time.
My father was a pretty calm guy, but frustration with the game at least once led him to the breaking point. He threw a golf club into a tree. A sand trap rake was tossed up to dislodge the club from the tree's branches but the rake also got stuck. My dad, probably never weighing more than 150 pounds at any time in his life, was then hoisted into the tree to retrieve the club and the rake.
I never caddied for my dad, but I loved watching him play. I went to the Bucknell University course with him whenever I could. He often bought me a grape soda while we talked with his friends and I wonder if this is why I still love grape soda. My father had the funniest swing. It was smoother than Charles Barkley's but still sort of a choppy, old-man swing. His buddies said more often than not dad hit it in the fairway. He could not always see where his ball landed. Challenged since birth with poor eyesight, my father relied on playing partners to help him find his ball off the tee.
"Down the Middle Willie" his friends called him. I hope he's playing a round right now. Thanks for everything, Dad. Hit 'em straight.
Happy New Year