"My Best Friend For Life"

Jim Nantz of CBS Sports has just published a book about his father and the difficult times he's been through. With Father's Day just one week off, Jim has some thoughts to share:

You could say my dad, Jim Nantz, Jr., is just your average decent, humble, generous, honest, patriotic guy.

And that's enough to make him my hero, my inspiration, my favorite teacher, and my best friend for life.

For the past 13 years, Dad has been incapacitated by Alzheimer's disease, a neurological nightmare that destroys precious memories and robs its victims of the gifts of rational thought and coherent speech.

Still, not a day goes by when I don't find myself trying to hear his gentle voice through the din of my frenetic day-to-day existence.

"How would Dad handle this?" I'd ask myself. Or, "What would Dad say?"

Smile, he said, and people will want to be your friends.

Remember their names and you will make them feel special.

Keep your word, and they will believe in you.

These are basic values. Yet I've come to see that they are about as common these days as, well, common sense.

Dad encouraged my sister, Nancy, and me to dream big dreams and to pursue them. Drink in all the world has to offer.

With a good plan, hard work and integrity, anything is possible. He not only believed this - he proved it.

In purely financial terms, my father was not rich - but he had a portfolio that overflowed with friendships.

My dad wasn't famous - but everyone he ever met remembers his smile, warmth, and kindness.

He didn't cure polio, or split the atom, but he parlayed his small-town football prowess into a college education and a career that enabled him to travel the world.

In short, he achieved the American Dream.

A few years after his Alzheimer's diagnosis, I was lamenting that my father could no longer travel with me as I covered the great championships of American sports. Nor could he help me resolve difficult career questions.

Once, golfing legend Arnold Palmer reached over and gently tapped me on the heart and said, "Jimmy, he's right there! He's prepared you your whole life to make this decision. You heard his voice, you just didn't realize it."

Those kind and wise words are typical of the guidance I've been fortunate to receive from father figures and mentors who've stepped up in my father's absence, all of whom have helped me realize Dad's final gift to me was to inspire me to write about his adversity, and to seek his goodness, his virtues and his values in the people who surround me every day.

Next Sunday is Father's Day, the one day of the year more than any other I wish my father could recognize my voice. If he could, I would tell him, "Thank you, above all, for teaching me to be a father myself, and for being always by my side."

For information on "Always By My Side: A Father's Grace and a Sports Journey Unlike Any Other" by Jim Nantz, visit the Web site of Gotham Books.