My three sons and the nickel package |

My three sons and the nickel package

Alex Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyAlex Miller

We used to love Friday nights at the racetrack, my siblings and I. The track was in a town called Islip (which was fun to say), the evening’s events usually concluded with a crack-up derby, and afterward, Dad took us to a place called Danny’s Pizza. This being Long Island, the pizza was heavenly ” good enough to endure a couple hours of watching cars go round and round to no readily apparent purpose.

Once, our Dad took us to a Mets game. He was a New York City firefighter, and it was free day at Shea for the guys who wielded the hoses. I watched an inning or two and then fell asleep for the remainder. It would be 20 years before I saw another baseball game (Rockies’ first season at the old Mile High), but my interest level in the sport hadn’t changed much.

With the Rockies making it to the World Series this year, my interest piqued slightly. It went from, say, my level of concern for the standings in the South Korea Women’s Mah-Jongg Championship to that of the South Texas Good Times Shuffleboard League (at least I can understand what the south Texans are saying). A big fan of Colorado the state, I wished the Rockies all the best but didn’t watch a single game. And when I told some guys around the lunch table at the Vail Daily that I couldn’t name a single player on the championship team, I got that look ” the same kind of look guys might give you when you reveal that your role in the high school play was that of a dancing unicorn.

The old nature-nurture question comes into play when talking sports, although I suspect the latter has more to do with it than anything. If your father is planted in the easy chair every Sunday watching every NFL game he can, you’ll likely grow up to do the same thing yourself. At the very least, you will likely gain some knowledge always helpful around the nacho bowl ” like the difference between a strong safety and a free safety or what it means when they say players are lined up in a “nickel package.”

Illiterate about sports as I am, I nonetheless do enjoy watching the Broncos ” especially if I think they have a slight chance of winning. I have learned a few things over the years about the rules, although I still don’t know what a “nickel package” is, and, at this point, I don’t really care. I was curious, though, to see what kind of Broncos fans my three boys might turn out to be. Perhaps I would do a dissertation for the University of Who Gives a Crap.

The 6-year-old wishes the Broncos would be abducted by aliens ” the whole team. That’s because when the game is on, I am not giving him 100 percent undivided attention. The 13-year-old will sit and watch the game with me if he’s around, but he’ll also wander off and come back later to ask the final score. He’s happy if the Broncos prevail, but that’s about the extent of his “sports mania.” The 16-year-old doesn’t give a damn about the Broncos or other sports teams. Come to think of it, he doesn’t care about much these days other than his long-distance girlfriend.

Mostly we reap the parental seeds we sow. I’ve spent a lot more time in dark theaters acting and directing than I have on the sports field, and that influence seems to be rubbing off. Fine with me: Concussions and career-ending fractures are rare onstage. Plus, there are lots more women in theater, most of whom will never ask my sons to explain the nickel package.

Alex Miller can be reached at

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