Because only about 5% of babies are born on their due dates, there was much wagering in my family as to when, exactly, my wife would give birth. And though the due date of our daughter-to-be happened to fall during the holiday season, her impending arrival evoked not Santa Claus but Santa Anita. Indeed, the frenzied action riding on her delivery ensured that she would enter the world like Pete Rose. Which is to say, headfirst and surrounded by betting slips.
Of course, my wife also had a piece of the action, so she bluffed all other bettors, announcing more false contractions than Bud Selig.
It isn‚Äôt easy being the unborn offspring of sports-addled parents whose entire extended family is also sports-addled, as is our circle of friends. (How sports-addled are we? We have an on-deck circle of friends.)
As a professional athlete and sportswriter, respectively, my wife and I were infantilized by sports. Which may explain why we are now sport-ilizing our infant. Naturally, we started the process before she was born. This can‚Äôt be healthy, can it?
But being a sports fetus does have its advantages. My unborn daughter enjoyed the prenatal attention of NBA All-Stars. In a locker room in Philadelphia, Phoenix Suns point guard Steve Nash told me that he and his longtime girlfriend, Alejandra Amarilla, had just become parents of twin girls. ‚ÄúLola and Bella,‚Äù said Nash. ‚ÄúIf we had had triplets, the third would have been Stella. You guys can have that name.‚Äù
‚ÄúStella,‚Äù I said, stroking my chin in contemplation. ‚ÄúIt is the name of one of my favorite beers.‚Äù Nash looked at me with pity. We agreed that the bold taste of a Belgian lager was insufficient inspiration for so christening my daughter.
In the end, my wife and I chose a name like an unplayable Scrabble rack: Siobhan, from the ancient Gaelic word for unpronounceable. Indeed, even before her birth, Siobhan--‚ÄúShuhVAWN‚Äù--would already be butchered as Soybean, Chevron and Shakeyourbonbon.
‚ÄúLove the name,‚Äù said our friend Mike Gorman. ‚ÄúShe will drive play-by-play guys crazy in 2020.‚Äù This is saying something, when you consider that Gorman--as play-by-play guy for the Boston Celtics--has conquered, over the years, such C‚Äôs as Vitaly Potapenko, Stojko Vrankovic and Ruben Wolkowyski.
‚ÄúIf you need any parenting advice,‚Äù Orlando Magic senior vice president Pat Williams told me, ‚Äúdon‚Äôt hesitate to call.‚Äù I saved his number because Williams and his wife, Ruth, have maintained a sense of humor despite--or more likely as a result of--raising 19 children.
So we had our baby‚Äôs name and our baby‚Äôs support group. All we needed now was our baby.
And so the other morning, at 1:15 a.m., we rushed to the emergency room at Hartford Hospital, where a woman waiting in a wheelchair yelled at my wife on our way to maternity, ‚ÄúRebecca Lobo, shake my hand!‚Äù Bent at the waist, jackknifed by labor pains, my wife crossed the room to comply. She grasped the hand of this trauma victim and held it for a pause, the two women bonded by basketball and abdominal agony.
Because Rebecca is 6'4", her feet hung over the maternity bed by several inches, so that she appeared to be giving birth in a wheelbarrow. When Siobhan arrived, I lopped the umbilical cord like a mayor at a supermarket ribbon-cutting, then held, kissed and victory-lapped her around the room, as if she were the Stanley Cup.
Like it or not, our daughter was instantly baptized into sports. Nurses taught us the ‚Äúfootball hold,‚Äù tucking our infant into an elbow like the ball on the Heisman Trophy. Visitors helped change diapers like a NASCAR pit crew. A nurse noted that she was the fifth baby born on her shift, all girls, so that we could now take on rival hospitals in a basketball game. ‚ÄúCan she suit up on Sunday at St. John‚Äôs?‚Äù asked UConn women‚Äôs coach Geno Auriemma.
Waiting for her at home were a pink Boston Red Sox jersey, a Minnesota Vikings bib, a Notre Dame sweatshirt and--from a depraved friend in New York--a full wardrobe of Knicks babywear. Because her aunt Rachel works for Adidas, Siobhan‚Äôs closet already looks like Missy Elliott‚Äôs, pimped out with sweat suits and 21 pairs of sneakers. Our daughter is more than welcome to hate sports. But if she does, she‚Äôll have nothing to wear.
And while she‚Äôs already dribbling (like basketball player Mom) and spilling food down her shirt (like sportswriter Dad), for the moment she‚Äôs more enamored of Poop Dreams than Hoop Dreams. Which is wonderful.
Because the moment she was born, it felt like Christmas morning. In fact, it was Christmas morning. Within minutes of her arrival, Siobhan had wrapped her entire hand around my little finger. But of course I knew it was the other way around, and I was really wrapped around hers.
• For a collection of Steve Rushin‚Äôs columns, go to SI.com/writers.