By Teddy Greenstein
For years I likened writing a book to covering the Olympics. I’m not a big synchronized swimming guy. But is a sportswriting career complete without chronicling a Dream Team and the dreams of a teenage gymnast?
I covered the Rio Games for the Chicago Tribune in 2016 and loved it. Four years later a friend texted me: “Random question: My son has a QB coach who has some great QB dad stories and needs a ghostwriter. Any ideas?”
Yeah, I have an idea — me!
Football is America’s No. 1 sport. Quarterback is its glamour position. Quarterback Dads are black, white, rich, and poor. More than 60 million American kids, including my soccer-playing daughters, participate in youth sports. So I said yes. By month’s end, we had a plan. First priority, is to meet Donovan Dooley, the private trainer savvy enough to register QuarterbackDads.com.
He once handed out notecards to aspiring QBs and asked them what they wished they could tell their parents.
Coach hates you. Now I have no shot.
I wish I could tell you I wanna quit. My arm kills.
“Quarterback Dads,” Dooley says, “struggle to realize it’s a game.”
As one exasperated college coach put it: “You’ll ‘friend’ a kid and the next day, you get a friend request from the dad.”
Jim and son J.J. McCarthy, who now wears No. 5 for the Michigan Wolverines. (COURTESY JIM MCCARTHY)
The word “bad” appears in this book more than a dozen times. But Jim McCarthy, whose son J.J. is vying to be the starter at Michigan in 2022, prefers a different descriptor for the Quarterback Dads who make him wince: “Uneducated.”
These pages can provide that education. Quarterback Dads can heed the message of the great Archie Manning, who says football is “like a yo-yo,” so appreciate the ups and downs. Rick Neuheisel recommends Quarterback Dads sit far from the field because “you’re gonna say things you cannot believe would come out of your mouth.”
Joel Klatt and Brady Quinn are adamant that young athletes resist the urge to specialize. Play shortstop. Play point guard. Play tag. Illinois coach Bret Bielema suggests young QBs work on their communication skills — even acting. Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald says it’s essential to build a relationship with your son so “you’ll know when it’s time to push, when it’s time to hug and when it’s time to give ‘em a kick in the britches.”
Let’s also remember to salute these dads, even the ones who shriek from the stands or crash Zoom calls with their son’s quarterback coach. These might be the same dads who work two jobs to pay for private training.
“When a kid decides he has a dream and is willing to work for it, you turn over whatever resources you have,” says Carl Williams, who advised son Caleb on his transfer from Oklahoma to USC. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you have to refinance or take out a second mortgage. If you want uncommon results, you have to do uncommon things.”
With Quarterback Dads, everything is uncommon.