Joseph C. Phillips

Appearing on television and radio is good for my career. Every time I show up in the media it sells books and further legitimizes me as a cultural and political commentator and answers a question that, alas, has been asked far too frequently of late: “Whatever happened to…”

Last week I canceled an appearance at the last minute in order to attend my youngest son’s gymnastics tournament and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I had originally planned to miss the tournament. I explained to my son that “Daddy had to work.” He was disappointed, but he understood. Early in the morning I changed my mind and I am glad I did.

During the team competition the top three teams battled back and forth through all six events. My son’s team was in second place going into the final round and spirits were high as the high-bar was our team’s best event and my son was the team’s strongest high-bar competitor.

My son went last. He looked good; toes pointed-legs straight, lots of height and then he stumbled. My son missed an element – an element he can do in his sleep. He finished with a decent score, but much lower than normal.

Anyone that has watched a televised Olympic gymnastics competition can tell you that a step on the landing results in a one tenth of a point deduction. That afternoon the difference between the first place team and the third was one tenth of a point; literally one step. There was a tie for first place between our team and a team from Redondo Beach. The other team won the tie breaker and our boys took their place on the second step of the podium.

Afterwards I gave my son a huge hug; he had performed well all day. He fell into my arms in tears. To his young (and competitive) mind the difference between his team taking first and finishing in second place was the missed element in his routine.

My heart broke for my son. It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. I have three sons and have wiped many tears over the years – some of them my own. Disappointment is part of life and salving the wounds of disappointment is part of a parents’ job description. Call it the bittersweet experience of parenthood; bitter because the tears we kiss away are always salty; sweet because these moments flavor our lives forever; they remain with us as parents and are part of the glue of trust that bonds our children to us.


Joseph C. Phillips

Joseph C. Phillips is the author of “He Talk Like A White Boy” available wherever books are sold.