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Doting Dad Made Sure She Got All Her Shots

I remember the doctor telling the wife to stop pushing. He wasn’t married to her, so he had no idea she does what she wants, and so the baby came flying out like a football.

I remember the doctor making a nice catch, complimenting him on acting like he’d been there before, thanking him for not spiking the kid, and the wife groaning at some point: “Must you always be thinking of everything in terms of sports?”

I remember looking down. The first child, born three years earlier, had been a girl, and so in this case with child No. 2 -- I was expecting to see something, but it wasn’t there.

In all honesty it wasn’t even a second -- maybe if there is such a thing as a nanosecond -- OK, I was disappointed for a nanosecond that it wasn’t a boy. But then I checked the legs, the hands and the shooting finger, the last finger that’s supposed to come off the ball if you want good rotation and a chance to make a three-pointer.

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And she was perfect.

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NOW DON’T get me wrong, I think it’s all right that a girl grow up a girl and then become a woman. I’ve got one of those, in fact, and a mighty good one. I have to address her now as “Miss Radio Personality,” of course, and listen to her sports opinions on Sunday morning as though she has any idea what she’s talking about. It’s like listening to Sports Editor Bill Dwyre, so it’s not like I’m not used to it.

I never tried to make an athlete out of Daughter No. 1 because walking home one day she tripped over air and landed on her face. I didn’t want her to grow up, be a clumsy player and have everyone laugh at her like she was Jack Haley in pigtails, so we just argue about sports. I grew up watching, “Father Knows Best.” Obviously she didn’t.

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When it came to Daughter No. 2, it wasn’t like I put a basketball in her crib. No, I left her alone for years so her mother could do the things you have to do with babies, diapers and stuff. I was good. I waited several years before hiding her Barbie and Cabbage Patch dolls and putting a basketball hoop above the garage.

For the record, I’ve always treated Daughter No. 2 like a girl. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told her, “That’s not a bad shot for a girl.”

When I took her to her first practice, there were only boys in the gym. She cried and walked out. I wish she had reacted the same way when she went to Ralphs and met the Grocery Store Bagger for the first time, but if I remember correctly, by that time she was crying when there weren’t any boys around.

She scored one point her first season in the all-boys’ league, and they hung the scoring totals on the wall at the sports banquet, and she was embarrassed. I told her one day her name would be above all the rest. It’s not a lie if you’re a father.

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The following year her name was above all the rest.

We continued to spend quality father-daughter time together -- yelling at each other. I didn’t think it was unreasonable to ask her to practice every spare moment of her childhood. That’s what a boy would’ve done.

“I’ll give you $20 to go shopping if you practice,” I used to tell her, and how much more supportive can a parent be?

She shopped a lot as a kid. She always had a much better wardrobe than her mother. But then her mother couldn’t shoot.

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We traveled together from basketball camp to camp. Every dinner was moving the salt shaker in front of the ketchup, the pepper screening the fork and setting up her shot. Miss Radio Personality wanted to talk about her academics, and this is why every family that has two daughters should have a mother too, so she can listen to the daughter who wants to talk about academics.

Daughter No. 2 went on to play high school basketball, and make 134 three-pointers one year, which nationally remains the fifth-best total for a girl. She played on a very good team under a verbally abusive coach who visited his idol, Bob Knight, so he could learn better how to demean young girls.

Daughter No. 2 quit in the middle of her senior season because she wasn’t having fun. Anyone with father credentials knows you don’t quit, and you certainly don’t quit just because it’s no fun. She did what she wanted, of course, just like she did when it was time to be born. She became a kid again. She was happy. Dad was miserable; he never got to see her play her final game.

She went to college, played some, but began to enjoy the college life because Dad was paying for it, and that was it for basketball.

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She earned her master’s, works now with stroke victims and got married. The night before her wedding she gave me the basketball we used to practice with all those hours. She glued it to a piece of wood and put it under glass; she wanted to make sure she never had to practice again.

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THEN ALONG came the Clippers, the chance for the kid to take the court Thursday night for 30 more seconds, and nobody could ruin this -- even the guy who yelled “Your father stinks” when she got ready for her first shot. By the way, I had no idea Haley could yell that loud.

She topped all competitors in the first round, earning an additional 30 seconds on the court and the chance to compete for the top prize from the California State Lottery and the Clippers -- the Clippers increasing the money going to charity from $2,500 to $4,000.

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The male media competitors all gagged, and so it came down to Daughter No. 2 and Channel 5 morning anchor Michaela Pereira. Pereira scored 8 points, and Daughter No. 2 posted 15.

As a result, the Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA gets $4,000 from the California State Lottery and the Clippers. Mattel also gets an additional $2,000 from Times employees and generous readers who pledged money to the hospital on behalf of the kid.

As for me, I got 60 more seconds of basketball, and a hug.

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Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.


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