Wednesday, January 28, 2009

TRI: A story

Everything Connects
By J Hutcherson

Five January's ago, the NSCAA Convention was held in Charlotte. I grew up near there, and I spent a week getting dropped off by my Dad like it was middle school. Well, a middle school populated by people wearing tracksuits and calling each other 'coach.'

That was also the only time I've ever finagled a press credential. I got my Dad in as a photographer to cover the MLS SuperDraft. He was taking a course and he needed to cover an event as part of the work he was doing.

Even on Freddy Adu's big day, Major League Soccer didn't mind. Adu introduced himself to my father that afternoon. The poise that kid had was unreal. In real life, my dad was a trial lawyer, but that day he got to be a pro sports photographer.

Had it been familiar to him growing up, I think my father would've understood soccer. He played baseball, a game of complexities. Soccer stresses getting the simple things right. Step-overs will never be as important as passing and keeping shape.

In a courtroom, my father knew the value of keeping language simple, even when making a complex point. He was good at it. I'm far from the only person who thinks so.

He had the skills: a gift for speaking, an ability to read his audience and adjust accordingly, and a scholarly understanding of the law. What he also had was a basic empathy for people that most would write off. My father saw the worst this country's criminal justice system has to offer, day after day for over thirty years. It had to have gotten to him. I know it got to him. He didn't let it define him.

Pancreatic cancer isn't subtle, and we'll leave it at that. Diagnosed in mid-September, he died on Tuesday.

How I hope to remember my father is one of the last days he went to his day job. He no longer had an office, he couldn't drive himself, and he was very tired. I was at a stop light when I saw him walking to the sidewalk where I was going to pick him up.

He stopped, sat down on the concrete riser that surrounds a tree in the courtyard of what was the post office when I was a kid. Holding his briefcase, wearing a suit that was already a couple of sizes too big, he could have been at any stage of his working life. He was smiling. It was a good day. No complaints.

That was my father.

Do us both a favor and, if you haven't already, spend some time on as they work to help Real Salt Lake midfielder Andy Williams' wife Marcia in her fight with leukemia.

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