Forum: An appreciation
It was 9 a.m. on the morning of my father’s funeral. Fully dressed in my dark suit, I paced our Vermont house, nervous about giving the eulogy and keeping my emotions in check. I knew I would need a handkerchief, so I walked to my dad’s bedroom and went through his bureau. The first drawer had personal belongings, but the second drawer got me.
My dad, a devout reader of this publication, had ripped out my columns from recent issues and organized them in this drawer to read on future, better days. There were pieces I had written from September on, when he was too ill or didn’t have the energy to read. After seeing that, I really needed a handkerchief, grabbed one from the third drawer, and used it on Saturday, Feb. 29, on the day of his funeral in our small town of Manchester, Vt.
This is the column I never wanted to write, nor am comfortable writing. But while my father, Dr. Abraham J. Madkour, was proud of me, he was incredibly fond of the sports industry and the people in it. Many of you met my dad over the years, as I showed him off at a number of SBJ events — Forty Under 40, Sports Business Awards and the World Congress of Sports. You were always gracious to him, as he was easy to like. Kind, gentle, cute and fun, he made everyone feel at ease. He had a number of fans, and I am so grateful for the outpouring of condolences, support and concern that my family and I have received over the past month. From the flowers from sports organizations that enriched the church and reception, to the empathy cards, memorial trees and financial contributions in his name, the response has been overwhelmingly gracious. It’s a tremendous reflection of the quality of people who work in sports, which has clearly become an extension of me and my family.
My dad loved the industry that I have chosen as my vocation. Growing up, he never pushed or prodded me into sports. As the youngest of seven children, and five boys, sports were very prevalent during my childhood.
My dad, a local dentist, let each of us choose our course, but was always there to support our interests. That meant spending his one day off driving hours and hours to games in Foxborough or at Fenway Park, or to tennis events at North Conway, N.H., or in Queens, N.Y., for the U.S. Open for a final glimpse of Bjorn Borg. My dad always came through, buying tickets on his own or landing some through the generosity of patients — whether it was obstructed seats at the old Boston Garden for 76ers vs. Celtics, to letting us miss school year after year to take in Opening Day at Fenway Park, to withstanding the rough and rowdy bleacher crowd on a hot August doubleheader at Fenway in the late 1970s, to flying down to Philadelphia and going to The Spectrum for one last game of Dr. J with the 76ers. He did it all.
He had a soft spot for basketball, and one of my last live sporting events with my dad was in 2010. He came to the World Congress of Sports and Forty Under 40, which were held at L.A. Live in Los Angeles. He and my sister took in St. Patrick’s Day and a boxing match in L.A. Live. On the Friday evening after our week of events, we went to a Timberwolves-Lakers game at Staples Center. He sat back, with a glass of wine, and delighted in every great pass, shot, dunk and blocked shot — and saw Kobe Bryant score 22 points and dish out 13 assists in a Lakers win. Afterward, we went over to Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant, sat at the bar, and toasted over a nice Chardonnay. It was a night my sister and I still talk about.
I’ll certainly miss my dad and his love of sports. I’ll miss calling him, hearing his voice and what basketball game he watched, or his take on the Celtics. I’ll miss his recap of the Red Sox game he watched on NESN during a warm summer night, and I’ll miss him telling me how he thought the Patriots were lucky to escape with another win. I’ll miss so much about him. But I’ll forever appreciate how much he taught me and the experiences and memories we shared through sports. I also cherish the special times we had at industry events where he spent time with so many of you. I know he’s still watching and reading.
In addition, I will forever appreciate all of you who lifted me up during a difficult time. It means more than you know. I appreciate you, and I thank you.
Abraham Madkour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.