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Tough Dad

In his men’s seminar, David Simmons, a former cornerback for the Dallas Cowboys, tells about his childhood home. His father, a military man, was extremely demanding, rarely saying a kind word, always pushing him with harsh criticism to do better. The father had decided that he would never permit his son to feel any satisfaction from his accomplishments, reminding him there were always new goals ahead. When Dave was a little boy, his dad gave him a bicycle, unassembled, with the command that he put it together. After Dave struggled to the point of tears with the difficult instructions and many parts, his father said, “I knew you couldn’t do it.” Then he assembled it for him.

When Dave played football in high school, his father was unrelenting in his criticisms. In the backyard of his home, after every game, his dad would go over every play and point out Dave’s errors. “Most boys got butterflies in the stomach before the game; I got them afterwards. Facing my father was more stressful than facing any opposing team.” By the time he entered college, Dave hated his father and his harsh discipline. He chose to play football at the University of Georgia because its campus was further from home than any school that offered him a scholarship.

After college, he became the second round draft pick of the St. Louis cardinal’s professional football club. Joe Namath (who later signed with the New York Jets), was the club’s first round pick that year. “Excited, “I telephoned my father to tell him the good news. He said, ‘How does it feel to be second?’”

Despite the hateful feelings he had for his father, Dave began to build a bridge to his dad. Christ had come into his life during college years, and it was God’s love that made him turn to his father. During visits home he stimulated conversation with him and listened with interest to what his father had to say. He learned for the first time what his grandfather had been like—a tough lumberjack known for his quick temper. Once he destroyed a pickup truck with a sledgehammer because it wouldn’t start, and he often beat his son. This new awareness affected Dave dramatically. “Knowing about my father’s upbringing not only made me more sympathetic for him, but it helped me see that, under the circumstances, he might have done much worse. By the time he died, I can honestly say we were friends.”

Unfinished Business, Charles Sell, Multnomah, 1989, pp. 171ff