"I'm just a dad here to watch my son play." -- Cal Ripken Jr.
It must be great for the baseball superstar to be able to say that at this point in his life.
Ripken is retired from playing and enjoying a luxury most active athletes and coaches don't have, which is an opportunity to watch their kids' games. That must be tough for the kids, simply because who doesn't yearn for his or her dad to see them play?
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Cal Ripken Jr. watches his son play basketball at the Fieldhouse on?Friday.
There was a buzz in the crowd Friday night at Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse as fans chatted about Ripken's appearance. The Hall of Fame iron man was there to watch his son, Ryan, play for Gilman School in the first round of the Mountain Lion Tournament.
"That's him over there," fans could be heard saying about Ripken, who sat alone a few rows up at midcourt on the opposite side of the benches.
"That's his son, No. 35," others said to friends.
Ryan Ripken, a lefty, is a nice-looking player with good basketball instincts. The junior guard/forward - listed at 6-foot-6 but more like 6-3 - scored 10 points in Gilman's 58-41 loss to Norristown.
Ripken watched the game intently and took notes each time his son did something. He made a beeline for the exits with a few seconds left and is expected to attend today's consolation-round matchup against Altoona at 2 p.m.
Ripken, who lives in Maryland, made it clear to AAHS officials that he wanted his privacy and didn't want any attention paid to his visit. A few people in attendance went up to talk with him on occasion and, according to those on hand, he politely declined signing autographs.
Ripken and his son also politely declined to be interviewed after the game.
One of the pitfalls of fame - for both a celebrity and his or her child - is that everyone wants a piece of your time no matter where you go. Normal people may think being a celebrity would be wonderful, but virtually all celebrities crave a normal existence that would allow them to go about their daily activities without being approached by fans.
That's all Ripken was looking for Friday night. And whether he wanted to talk about it or not, you can bet his son appreciates his dad making the effort to be there at his games.
The best memory I have of my late father, Joe, was when I was 9 years old and hit two home runs over the fence in one game. The homers don't mean anything to me now, but the fact that my dad was coaching third base and I got to see the smile on his face as I rounded second base still makes me tear up.
I love that my dad was there. He and my mom were divorced, but he made sure to show up and take me to every practice and every game.
I often think about how much that meant to me when I hear coaches and athletes retire and say how much they're looking forward to spending time with their families. Part of that is getting to watch their kids' teams, dance recitals or what have you, something that's often impossible for them to do while they're active.
Ripken is 50 and has been retired for nine years, so he's been fortunate to watch his son play sports since a young age. In that regard, Ryan Ripken can consider himself much luckier than kids of many other sports stars.
Ripken's name came up in national news this week when sports analysts began comparing his iron-man streak of 2,632 consecutive games played to that of Brett Favre's, which ended last week at 297 (321 including playoffs).
From this view, Ripken's streak is the second-greatest statistic in sports history, behind only Cy Young's 511 victories. Both numbers are so far ahead of the competition that it's ridiculous to think anyone will ever come close to them.
Lou Gehrig is second on baseball's list at 2,130 consecutive games, while No. 3 Everett Scott is way, way back at 1,307. The major leagues' active leader through the 2010 season is the L.A. Dodgers' Matt Kemp - light years back at 204 games.
Favre's streak is incredible, no doubt, but it may not even be the most impressive in his sport. Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jim Marshall played in 282 consecutive games, starting 270 in a row, and he was getting hit in the trenches play after play.
Favre has taken his share of hits, but he also has played in an era when breathing on the quarterback is a penalty. If banged up, Favre had all week to rest his body, while Ripken - a shortstop no less for most of his streak - went out every day for 16 1/2 years for the Baltimore Orioles.
When thinking of Favre's streak, consider this: Peyton Manning has started 205 games in a row, and if he makes it another five years - which is conceivable - he will be at 288.
No one will ever, ever get anywhere near that close to Ripken's streak.
It's fun comparing these kinds of things, but really, there's no comparison. Ripken is the greatest iron man in sports history.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.