When Sportswriters Are Fathers Too

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: November 13, 2008

OKLAHOMA CITY – He stands 6-feet-2 inches tall and weighs approximately 170 pounds. He’s lightning quick, agile and almost freakishly athletic. Matter-of-fact his room at his home is littered with his track and field accomplishments dating back to when he was 8 and 9 years old when he tied for eighth in the nation in the 100 meter dash at the Nationals in Norfolk, Va., up until recent times when earlier this year he was named the Regional Champion of Oklahoma City Public Schools in the long jump (nearly jumping 22 feet) and was awarded a gold medal.

He then, as a junior went on to qualify in the States where he placed in the top 15. Not bad for a young man that took up long jumping for the very first time in his life.

This young man (who is also an A-student) goes by the name of Jordan A. Hoover; if you’re wondering why does that last name look the same as the person who’s penning this article; well, you can stop wondering, because this young man is my one and only son.

Jordan was born and lived in the Big Apple until he was 8 years old. His mother decided to relocate back to Oklahoma after our divorce. Much to my displeasure and dismay, we had to do what was best for Jordan. I had already made up in my mind; the distance was not going to prohibit me from fathering my son.

I didn’t care if he had been relocated to Hawaii, Alaska or Budapest for that matter. I was going to still parent him to the best of my ability and be visible. It turned out to be a good thing.

Sports seem to be the great equalizer for harmony and companionship amongst friends, family and brethren alike. That goes whether you’re great at it, not so great or just think you’re great. Working up the sweat or cheering those that actually break the sweat does something for the bonding factor.

Jordan HooverWhen my son was but a few inches tall and could barely walk, I would race him up and down the street. Of course, I would let him win. That trend continued until one day when he came to visit me in the summer, in his early teens; he beat me for real.

Trying to jog around the track with him became embarrassing, as he would LAP me without even trying to do it. Listen, it’s not like I’m some athletic stiff and cannot move. I have some ability and I at least look like I’m in decent shape.

The same thing happened with baseball. I would let him hit the ball after I would give him a ‘room-service’ type of pitch and believe it or not, I would retrieve it in the outfield. Sometimes I’d be dressed in business attire: shoes, shirt and tie and cologne. But, that didn’t matter to me because, my son and I needed to play and he needed to hit the ball several times cleanly to get and keep his confidence after a bad game the previous day in Little League.

Jordan was a great hitter and serious pitcher whenever he would pitch. One game he even pitched a one hitter and had 13 strikeouts. When he got the game ball that day, I think I was prouder of him than he was of himself. I guess some dad’s are like that. As he got older, I no longer was able to just serve him ‘room-service’ pitches. I had to throw it and throw it hard!

With basketball, my personal favorite, but not Jordan’s, I would run him through a series of drills and exercises so that he could not only get the proper timing but get the proper feel for the game and thus be able to act and react on instinct instead of looking robotic and rehearsed.

So, when he was a tot I would let him win as I would miss shot after shot or let him steal the ball away from me at will. Then the joker got older and yes in his early teens he got confident and beat me handedly on his own. Now, I couldn’t beat him if I tried and he was extremely tired.

I found that I could no longer drive by him or shoot over him. Handling the ball became more of a task for bare as with his sleight of hands he would steal the ball away from me constantly.

One day while Jordan was in the 10th grade, he was horsing around and tried to dunk. He made the dunk but he landed awkwardly and hurt his knee. The knee required surgery and that was in the summer of 2006, so that meant no sports, no recreation, no nothing, just rehab.

Although he would smack around a few baseballs in a batting cage just for fun even though, he was in pain and discomfort. That was a long and hot summer for him. And that also meant that when the winter sports rolled around he would be behind the 8-ball.

Needless to say Jordan’s mom and I decided that he should just take the year to mend and to rest his knee. After all, it is not like he was making a living playing ball and his studies were just as important as striking a ball or catching a pass.

Jordan made the honor roll again and track season was upon us. Jordan (as a junior as mentioned above) ran track for his school, Putnam City High School for the very first time and basically steamrolled to success.

A true blessing considering he hadn’t ran competitive track sense before the injury. He still would experience soreness here and there but that was to be expected with the type of injury he had. Which wasn’t THAT serious of an injury thankfully, but still in all, an injury is an injury.

Jerald Hoover, Willis Reed, Jordan HooverIt just so happened that one of the track coaches, Coach Todd Bonnewell is also part of the coaching staff for the football team. And with the coach being around Jordan and seeing his speed and agility and his ability to pickup things quickly and showing how much of a team player that he is, he encouraged Jordan to come out for the football team.

Needless to say, his mom and I had major reservations on this one. She was more concerned with his health and taking hits and all. I on the other hand was thinking that he wouldn’t be able to spend his summer in New York with me as he’s so accustomed to doing.

Because with football, the season starts in the summer with grueling, two-a-day and sometimes three-a-day practices. But, I thought about it and prayed about it and discussed it with Jordan (not to mention a couple of the coaches BEGGED Jordan to BEG me for permission) and what it could mean to him going into his last year in high school.

So off he was this past summer running and drilling and all the other football stuff in the hot and blazing Oklahoma sun. And the hard work paid off great dividends as Jordan surpassed a lot of people’s expectations, mine included. He became the starting wide receiver and a very integral part of the team’s offense.

Coach Mark Little, the team’s award winning head coach upon meeting me recently shook my hand and hugged me and offered a heartfelt, ‘thank you’ for allowing Jordan to join the team. His wide receiver’s coach, Coach Mark Hanks tells me that ‘he thinks Jordan can do virtually anything he wants.’

What’s so special about that is that the Putnam City Pirates’ offensive scheme is more of a running system. But, through the grace of God and Jordan’s ability as a receiver, Coach Little made some adjustments to accentuate what Jordan could do with the ball once he catches it.

Because I live in New York, I wasn’t able to see all of Jordan’s season in person. But through the magic of video cameras I will be able to see the games that I missed on tape. I did however make the last regular season game, the game that determined whether or not Putnam City would make it to the playoffs.

The Pirates won 31-26 over Edmond Memorial and it so happened to be Jordan’s best game of the season. He had 105 yards on four catches. I videotaped of course like a father would. And when he scored I think I shouted and jumped up and down like a crazy person!

Hearing myself on tape is frightening to say the least.

No one looked at me funny however. They knew I was a proud parent. Putnam City plays Edmond Sante Fe at home this week in the first round. I hope and pray for good results for Jordan and his team (a convincing victory would be very satisfying) and that all come out injury free.

After the playoffs then it will be time to look for colleges that are looking for a good character guy with amazing upside to help not only their football team but to be an overall credit to their student body and school in general.