The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER & son hit the road….by LVO Roving Correspondent

July 17, 2011
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     Sports.   The ultimate memory maker.   Placeholder.   Organizer.   Hook.

     Here’s how one man does it.

 The Sports Philosopher and Sports Philoso-kid are all smiles at the happiest place on Earth….their hats reflecting two generations of  Giants fans---and where the Giants were located when each was born.

The Sports Philosopher and Sports Philoso-kid are all smiles at the happiest place on Earth….their hats reflecting two generations of Giants fans---and where the Giants were located when each was born.


     For our 2011 summer vacation my 14-year-old son and I just went on a road trip.   A long one.   Over 1,300 miles of memories.   It was just the three of us….me, Rob, and our faithful, golden-bronze, 11-year-old Chrysler-Plymouth convertible….who I call “Old Betsy” after one of the truly great figures in American folklore, Davy Crockett’s rifle.   I’m nothing if not sentimental.   We threw a few bags into Old Betsy’s back seat, threw in a couple of wonderfully squishy pillows as well (never trust motel room pillows), and with little to no advance planning off we went.

     Day One was uneventful, but on Day Two (Sunday) we arrived in San Francisco and headed straight to AT&T Park to catch a five-o’clock Giants game.   Me and my only son at a baseball game?—a San Francisco Giants game, the reigning world champs, at the most beautiful ballpark on Earth?   For the Sports Philosopher, this is Paradise.   Everything was perfect.   The Giants won 4 to 2, I spent $42 dollars on a fitted Giants cap large enough to house my huge and happy head (I’ll never do that again), and along the way we pounded down some of the best ballpark chow in Creation.   I myself had a Philly cheesesteak laced with authentic Whiz and sweet peppers.   (Conversely, here’s a recent column I wrote on how crummy the food is right down the road at Dodger Mausoleum, uh, Dodger Stadium…. )

     Anyway, what a great way to kick off a week of priceless memories.   After the game we checked into a Travel Lodge in Millbrae, I negotiated $50 bucks off of the rate, and we crashed.   I’m old.   I need to pace myself.   Rob?   He just likes sleeping for sleeping’s sake.

     The next day, Monday, Rob slept in.   Until I told him about the continental breakfast in the hotel lobby, at which point he bolted to his feet and dressed with alarming alacrity and dispatch.   We spent the morning and early afternoon in San Francisco, where we drove down the famously crooked Lombard Street, visited an 80-year-old author friend of mine (who I’d never met), and ate way too much sourdough bread at Fisherman’s Wharf.   And then across the Bay Bridge we went.

     The rest of Monday was intended (by me, anyway) to be the ideal father/son bonding experience.   I took Rob to Berkeley, or Berserk’ley as they used to call it, where I graduated from college when Carter was Prez.   I was Rob’s proud tour guide.   I walked him all around the campus, drove him all around town, showed him all the cool places I lived, including this one little duplex where a strange shirtless fat man once tapped on my window at 3:00 a.m. so that I could look out and observe him, uh, well, let’s just say he did something very nasty which both scared and scarred me.   Anyway, I expected Rob to be overwhelmed by emotion, jazzed to the bone by his dad’s still-vivid college memories, and he was sort of impressed, I think, maybe, sort of….but all he kept saying was he wanted to get back to our Berkeley Bed & Breakfast in time to catch the pre-All-Star-Game Home Run Derby.   So we did.   We watched the Yankees’ Robinson Cano win the home run contest, successful in part due to the excellent job his own father did as his designated pitcher.   Which filled me with mixed emotions.   Whenever I try pitching balls to Rob, half of my tosses seem to gravitate towards the lad’s head.   He spends a lot of time on his butt.   He doesn’t ask me to pitch to him too often….

     We had a late dinner at the world famous Spenger’s Fish Grotto in the Berkeley Marina, where I had not eaten in over 20 years, and wherein Rob declared his crab bisque soup to be pretty much the finest food he’d ever eaten.  (As it damn well needed to be, at ten bucks a bowl….)

     Tuesday, after sleeping in, we drove through Sacramento and wound up in Folsom, took a few pics of the prison, and then checked into a Comfort Inn comfortably before 5:00 p.m.   Why?   So that we could watch the entire All-Star Game in comfort, of course.   As baseball games go, for provincial Giants fans like us, it was another good one.   The National League won, and two Giants players played big roles; Pablo Sandoval had an RBI double, and relief pitcher Brian Wilson, Rob’s favorite player by virtue of his laughably long black beard and pleasantly psychotic personality, closed the door and got the save.  (Wilson further endeared himself to Rob by telling roving reporter Eric Karros, in a post-game interview, that Karros’ hair was “immaculate”.)

     Wednesday morning.   Rob slept in.   We headed for South Lake Tahoe only when he was good and ready and well-fed.  (Yes, the Comfort Inn had a continental breakfast too.)

     I did pull over by a nameless roaring river en route, a change of pace, and Rob tried to make it look good by pretending to throw stones into it, but he made it clear that what he really wanted was to find a motel early because he wished to get an early dinner.   So on we went.

     On Thursday morning I woke up early to watch the early telecast of the Open Championship of golf (a.k.a. the British Open), from Sandwich, England.   Rob was not interested, and slept right through it in the other bed (which is surprising, since the sandwich is one of his favorite foods.).   So I’m watching by myself, and here’s this 20-year-old kid who looks a Rob-like 14 or 15 called Tom Lewis, an amateur, who shoots a 65 on Thursday to take the 1st-round lead at the Open Championship.   It’s a terrific story, made all the more heartwarming when it is revealed that his father had named little Tom after 5-time Open champ Tom Watson….and he was actually paired with Watson in the opening round!   That’s where I made my mistake with Rob.   If I had named him Aubrey or Cody or Brian or—God help me—Pablo, he’d probably be up playing with the Giants in a couple years….

     That afternoon I laid by the pool, got a little sunburn (I never learn) and we spent the entire late afternoon and early evening circumnavigating the whole of beautiful Lake Tahoe.   Breathtaking.

     But not as breathtaking as what transpired later that evening.

     That night was the Giants’ first game after the All-Star break and, luck be a lady, it happened to be on TV.   Rob even agreed to a late dinner so that we could watch the entire game start-to-finish.   Good strategy.   And it was a good, close game.   Despite struggling to get any hits at all (as they often do) the Giants were only down by a run, 1-0, for most of the game.   Everything was going beautifully.   And then in the 9th, incredibly, Aubrey Huff—on an 0-2 pitch for crying out loud—homers to tie the game.   Rob and I are exultant!   Extra innings!   We’ve got a chance!

     But it was at about this juncture that Rob began to figure it out.   Extra innings.   More baseball.   A dinner delayed.   Panic.   Yes, he finally realized, the longer the game lasted, the longer it would be before he was properly fed.   “Dad, I’m torn,” the lad mused: “I really want the Giants to win, but I’m really hungry and need food!”  

     Breaks your heart, doesn’t it?

     So I told him we’d split the difference.   It was still tied 1 to 1 in the 11th, and so I told him we’d go search for food, simply hope the Padres didn’t score the game winner in the bottom of the 11th, and we’d bring the food back to our room to watch the Giants bat in the 12th.   He instantly agreed.   We fired up Old Betsy and drove up and down Highway 50, looking for food.

     The problem was that there was nothing open.   It was after ten, and things were closing up and shutting down all over.   Finally we spied a place called “RoJo’s Bar-B-Q”, parked, and went in.

     Rojo’s Bar-B-Q didn’t need the B and the Q in its name.   This was a bar.   RoJo’s Bar.   A seedy little dive bar, dark, windlowless, with no women to be found anywhere.   A man’s bar.   A place where men come to eat, drink, burp, and swear.   Accordingly, I told Rob to tune out and basically disregard any salty language he might pick up for at least the next half hour.   Luck was on our side.   The Padres had not scored in the 11th.   And the bar did have a TV, albeit a small one.   So we ordered up a couple of sandwiches and grabbed a seat right in front of the TV, just as the Giants came to bat in the 12th inning.

     Which is when the miracle occurred.

     The Giants loaded the bases with none out.   I was stunned.   Rob was stunned.   Grown men behind us were beside themselves with joy, dropping F-bombs, S-bombs, A-bombs, and C-bombs with equal impunity.   They couldn’t possibly have cared less that my son was only 14-years-old.   This was a bar.   A place where men come to eat, drink, burp, and swear.

     And these were the Giants, who never make it easy.   The next two batters were retired easily, and they couldn’t get the go-ahead run across.   Two out.   Still 1-1.   A golden opportunity about to be wasted.   And disturbingly, Mike Fontenot was coming to the plate.

     Now Mike Fontenot, bless his little heart, is probably the worst hitter on the whole Giants team, not counting pitchers.   But for some reason, the Padres pitcher must have thought Fontenot looked an awful lot like Barry Bonds.   Because he didn’t come close to challenging Fontenot or finding the plate.   Four pitches, all outside, all way outside, all more than two full feet from catching the corner.   A bases-loaded walk.   To the worst hitter on the team.   Forcing in a run.   RoJo’s was exultant!   Complete strangers were suddenly high-fiving the Sports Philosopher!   Even the constant swearing died down for a couple seconds….

     It got even better.   Pablo singled in two runs.   Nate Schierholtz singled in another.   Huff singled in yet another.   And suddenly the Giants, who often have trouble scoring five runs in a whole week, had somehow scored five runs in half an inning.   Victory was ours.   Victory was ours.  Great day in the morning, victory was ours.   It was definitely the high-water mark of the trip.   An all-time moment for both father and son….

     Friday I woke up early to catch the Open again (Rob slept in again), and by noon we were on the road.   Rob missed something special.   The aforementioned Tom Watson not only made the cut, he also made a hole-in-one.   And he’s 61-years-old!   That’s the great thing about golf.   Guys old enough to be grandfathers and receive AARP benefits and get the senior citizen price on a grand slam at Denny’s can be among the best players in the world.   But Rob cared not.   Sleep ruled the morning for the lad.   I guess for Rob it was more of a baseball-memorialized vacation than a golf-memorialized vacation.   That’s fine with me.   I love golf, but baseball is still the sacred idol of worship I pray to.   Nothing much happened on the long drive home.   Betsy did a fabulous job, enduring near-constant commands for air conditioning and cruise control and never overheating even once.   About the most memorable thing that happened that Friday (besides Watson’s ace) was I got a speeding ticket.   Hick town speed trap, just outside of Bishop, it’s probably happened to you too.   Betsy idled beautifully through the entire citation process.   Rob slept through most of it.

     I’ll never forget this road trip, and I suspect—thanks to baseball—neither will Rob.

     Here’s how it will go.   Decades from now, Rob and I will be sitting around reminiscing about the good old days, I’ll be like 90 something and he’ll be in his 50s, and I’ll cough, clear my throat, and say, “Son, ‘member when we went on that long road trip way back in twenty-eleven, when you were just fourteen dad-blasted years old?”   and he’ll say, “Sure, dad.   I remember.   That was the time you took me to that seedy little bar in South Tahoe and the Giants scored five runs in the twelfth….”

     And soon after, knowing that I did the lad well, I’ll die with a smile on my face.


meet….The Sports Philosopher!brad-eastland1

Brad Eastland is an author, historian, film buff, undiscovered fictioneer, and baseball fan nonpareil.   Brad’s other recent columns for LaVerneOnline can be found in Sports under ‘The Sports Philosopher’ and also in Viewpoint under ‘Brad Eastland’s View’.    Brad has also written 4 novels* and over 20 short-stories.   

*To pick up a copy of his recently published novel of life at the racetrack, WHERE GODS GAMBLE, a tale of American mythology, simply search for it on,, or…it’s easy!  (You do wanna read it, don’t you???)








One Response to “The SPORTS PHILOSOPHER & son hit the road….by LVO Roving Correspondent”

  1. Brad, another awesome sports philo column. rojo’s bbq, I was right there with you. Hey, you really got a connection with Father / Son relationship. You live it and can write about it. Weave it into a novel?

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