ARTICLE OF THE DAY
 
Joys of Daddyhood
by Chris Stansbury
6/20/07


For once in my life, I can honestly say I know what Tiger Woods and Jeff Gordon are feeling.

First, I will tell you that when I was a college student at East Carolina in 1991, working with Sports Information at baseball, football and basketball games and also interning with Brian Bailey at WNCT-TV, I had one thought in my clueless, little mind.  I wanted to be a sportscaster on ESPN.  After seven years on TV, I had made it to a top 30 television market.  Then, I had my first son.  And things changed. 

From the time my wife and I brought Zach home from the hospital, I could feel priorities change.  It was just a few months later during contract talks that I decided to get out of the business I loved and be there for my family, who I love more.  

Both Tiger Woods and Jeff Gordon will have their lives completely turned upside down in the weeks to come.  Tiger became a father for the first time to daughter Sam one day after the U-S Open ended.  Thank goodness he didn't make it to a Monday playoff.  Jeff Gordon's wife goes to the doctor Tuesday afternoon to see if inducing labor to deliver his first child, a daughter is necessary or take the chance of her arrival while he is on the track in California.

Woods has won 12 major golf tournaments and is the undisputable best golfer in the word.  Gordon holds four NEXTEL Cup championships and is chasing number five from the top of the pack.  Tiger has already said he doesn't know when his next event will be.  Quite possibly, he will only play in majors for the rest of the year.  If Jeff's daughter comes into the world on Saturday, he has said he will skip this weekend's race in Sonoma.  He has five wins there and oh yeah, he's the points leader, but it's the right decision. 

Remember back to when Phil Mickelson played in the 1999 US Open at Pinehurst.  He finished second to the late-Payne Stewart by one shot and played with a pager on his belt in case his wife Amy went into labor with their first child.  At that time, Phil said if he got buzzed, leading or not, he would walk off the course.  Again, the right call. 

And this is just the beginning for Woods and Gordon.  As their girls grow up, they will want to be there for school plays, dance recitals, or knowing the stock these girls are coming from, a golf tournament or car race.

I will say this.  I expect both to remain at the top of their sports, plus affording a nanny won't be a problem.  However, Tiger will probably stop traveling all over the world for tournaments and reduce his already low number of PGA tournaments played to even less.  Jeff will still run 36 races a year, but will he think twice before rubbing fenders at 200 miles per hour? 

These guys are no stranger to firsts. First in money list, first in points, etc.  But no golf tournament or race will compete with their daughters' first smile, first step, or first word.  That is unless they aren't there to see it. 

I made the right choices for my family and I am right here back where I belong at East Carolina with my wife and now two boys.   And I fully expect Woods and Gordon to make decisions in the best interest for the families, even if it isn't in the best interest of their sports or fans. 

Chris Stansbury