I was involved in the upbringing of three sons. Everything has worked out OK, although I don't think writing a "how to'' book on the art of such duties was ever a possibility to fortify my income.

For instance: Some might not agree with all those Saturday afternoons at Met Stadium, when my two sons were 12 or younger, and they would travel with me to a Twins game.

I would hand over a few bucks and say, "Don't kill yourselves,'' and head to the press box. And they never did, although we had one case of permanent scarring.

Later, the stepson was 6 when we hooked up and the staples of my commentary were the following: "Don't get me in the middle of this,'' and "Do you need any money?''

The presence of young girls in the household was not part of my existence. Heck, during the first seven or eight years of my sports writing career, we didn't deal with girls and young women as athletes for the most part.

Admittedly, I still was something of a moron about women getting their chance in athletics as late as March 2, 1991, when the regrettable phrase "tip-toed ball throwing'' was used to disparage what was perceived to be the slow growth of skills in women's basketball.

That turned into a life lesson, although nothing to compare with being around nieces from my wife's large, close-knit family, and friends' daughters, and then a granddaughter, amazingly and incomprehensibly, now closing in on 11.

Hey, boys are great. My grandson, 18 months younger, is a hoot. He makes up his own jokes. Some of 'em are even funny.

Girls, though .. dads with girls to raise are the luckiest people on the planet. Girls have opinions. They have confidence. They are hilarious, without working at it.

RandBall: Kobe Bryant and every parent's nightmare

My granddaughter was no more than 6 when this took place one winter: There were a half-dozen of us at the kitchen table. My wife and I would be leaving the next day to drive 1,750 miles to Fort Myers in a well-used convertible.

The bride expressed considerable concern over taking such a long ride with someone with my overabundance of impatience, to which I replied: "After 35 years, you should be used to it.''

Without pause, the granddaughter said, slight smirk on her face: "Maybe after 35 years grandpa could change.''

There also are a pair of nieces who grew from tykes to young women as the most-reliable users of our backyard pool. In fact, my annual joke after a family gathering at their place on Christmas Eve was, "OK, girls. We'll see you when the pool opens.''

There's also Nora. Her father is a friend, world traveler, walks in and takes over the room, with stories to tell. Except when Nora is with him.

I picked up the pair at the airport one afternoon. Nora was 9, I'd guess. Over the next half-hour, I learned Nora's life story, details of her well-planned future and opinions on various world events.

Greta Thunberg couldn't have gotten in a word edge-wise if she was in a car with a 9-year-old Nora.

There's also my friend Tate. In 2018, I went to Croatian Hall in South St. Paul on a Sunday morning to watch Croatia play France in the World Cup championship game. A gent pointed to a pair of kids wearing Croatia (and Purina's) colors and said, "They actually are from Croatia.''

I watched with bemusement at the girl's animation, as did her older brother Jack. Finally, I walked over, introduced myself and said: "You didn't even know Croatia had a soccer team until two weeks ago.''

To which Tate, 8 at the time, stared fiercely and said: "I've known Croatia had a soccer team since I was 2.''

We're texting friends now. The kids come back with Mom to spend several weeks in Minnesota in the summer, to visit grandparents now living in Melrose and other relatives. Tate's playing baseball back in Croatia, as does the slugging Jack. She also remains convinced that Barley Days in Greenwald is a celebration that can't be missed.

And this is what I've come to experience in this millennium: As adolescent occupants of this planet, boys are terrific, but girls are the best.


The only true dealings I had with Kobe Bryant came during the one period of grand excitement in the 31 seasons of the Minnesota Timberwolves: the playoff run of 2004 that ended with a six-game elimination by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals.

The Wolves put up a fight, and might have pushed it to a Game 7 at Target Center if the tremendous Sammy Cassell wasn't hurt. The Lakers had Kobe and Shaqulle O'Neal, and had brought in noble veterans Gary Payton and Karl Malone as reinforcements, and they were finally healthy at playoff time.

A sexual assault charge against Bryant from the previous summer in Colorado remained in force. His feuding with O'Neal – the battle to be the team's focal point – was more public than ever.

Kobe was 25, an all-time great talent, insolent, a leader in egomania in a league filled with contenders. He became a father during all of this, the first of four girls with wife Vanessa.

He escaped the Colorado mess, presumably by writing a huge check to the woman. He played 20 years for the Lakers and remained perhaps the most-popular athlete in the history of Los Angeles sports. On Sunday, he died in a helicopter crash at age 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven other people, headed for a youth basketball tournament.

All it takes is a look at the eight-second video of Kobe and Gigi, at a Lakers game, him showing her the right cut to make on the court, her with a "Yes, Dad, I know this'' smile, and you see that whatever Kobe Bryant was in 2004, he was different now.

He was a father of four girls, making him four times lucky as a citizen of this planet