Sports Make Father’s Day Unique for McDonough, Hornacek
Most fathers and sons share simple memories. Playing catch. Riding bikes. Greeting each other after a typical 9-to-5 shift.
Ryan McDonough’s memories are different.
“I distinctly remember being in the Celtics locker room after playoff games in the eighties when I was a kid, seeing Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and those guys walking around,” the Suns’ general manager said. “I remember being on the field at Fenway Park as a little kid watching Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs and all those guys. We were fortunate enough to go to seven or eight Super Bowls. We really had a blessed childhood.”
Those star-studded recollections are courtesy of McDonough’s late father, Will, a 41-year-sports columnist for The Boston Globe. His longevity and social skills in his field of work earned him – and subsequently his children – better access to professional sports than most can hope to experience.
“My father was a member of the media, but he was a little bit unique in that he had terrific access to some of the biggest players in all of professional sports,” McDonough said. “Some of his best friends were Red Auerbach and Bill Parcells, Paul Tagliabue and guys like that. We had a pretty unique upbringing.”
It is equally unique being the professional sports father. Hornacek’s children were heavily involved with the teams he played for, whether it was socializing with teammates’ children or simply hitching a ride on the team plane to hang out with Dad.
“They enjoyed being around [the game],” Hornacek said.
The innocent enjoyment gives way to trying moments as those sports children grow older. Unfair expectations are heaped upon them from strangers, friends and even other parents.
Hornacek shared a blunt example of the kind of pressure sports figures’ children experience when they attempt to play the same game as their fathers.
“Anytime you play in a game, if your kid’s team loses, it’s not ‘we won the game’, it’s ‘we beat so-and-so’s kid,’” he explained. “That gets tough on kids… The father presence is always there”
Consequently, Hornacek made a conscious effort to steer their children with far different voices.
“We always said, ‘we’ll get you involved in everything, whether it’s acting’…my son did some of that,” Hornacek said. “’We’ll expose you to everything and then you figure out what you want to do.’”
McDonough’s father was equally encouraging of his children’s independence from his own reputation, which grew to legendary status among the media in general and in the Boston area, especially.
“I think it would surprise a lot of people to know that our father was very hands-off in terms of our own sporting careers,” McDonough said. “He really didn’t push us to play sports. He kind of wanted us to do whatever made us happy. I really respect him for that.”
“He didn’t want us to be in media or the front office or whatever,” he added. “He just wanted us to do what made us happy.”
That’s not to say happiness can’t include following a father’s footsteps. Hornacek’s father was a dual-sport college athlete. Jeff ended up choosing what he deemed the better half in basketball.
Meanwhile McDonough and his two brothers all ended up in various sports careers. Sean McDonough is a well-regarded ABC/ESPN broadcaster. Terry is the vice president of player personnel for the Arizona Cardinals.
“With the three boys in my family, we all ended up in sports,” McDonough laughed. “I guess the sons of doctors become doctors, the sons of lawyers become lawyers and so on. That’s the way it works a lot of times.”
It makes for three extra reasons to appreciate Father’s Day in the McDonough family. They recognize and reminisce about the origin their sports passion, one each of them individualized and pursued on their own paths.
“We think of our dad all the time, but especially on Father’s Day,” McDonough said. “It’s kind of cool. I hope he still has a sense of what’s going on with the three of us."