Publishers Note Will Carlin’s No. 1 Fan

By Jay D. Prince

On the heels of my “Psycho Parent’s” column in our last issue, and the interestingly large number of emails I received in support of the message I was trying to deliver, it seems appropriate to reprint a column from Will’s World that we ran in June/July 2004 (though edited slightly). Will’s father, Bill, was a obviously a strong supporter of his son; but I too got to know him over the years and he always took the time to talk with me about the sport and this magazine. I will miss him… and his approach to parenting an athlete. It obviously left a lasting impression on Will, and well it should. William “Bill” J.C. Carlin died on February 15, 2013. He was 86.

Thank you, Dad, for everything you did and for everything you didn’t.

Thanks for never showing up at a tournament with a bullhorn to make sure I heard you cheering, with a desire to “help” the referees with my matches, and with a hand-signal code to coach.

Thanks for not being too upset when I lost or too happy when I won; you made me know that you loved me regardless of the outcome on the court.

Thanks for not being as serious as I was about the game. Your good humor and sportsmanship when I was competing made you more popular than I ever was and helped smooth out relationships with my competitors.

Thanks for not letting me win when we played against each other in anything. You showed me that it would take hard work to get good enough to win.

Thanks for making me realize that I needed to take lessons to get better. I thought I was hot stuff at age six, but you steered me to good coaching. When people ask you if you were the first person to teach me tennis, you always say, “The best thing I ever did for my son’s tennis and squash games was never to teach or coach him.” Of course, that wasn’t true. Watching you play taught me never to give up, to fight as hard as possible while the match is going on and to smile and shake hands when it is over.

Thanks for being happy for me when I finally beat you in tennis. Only now am I beginning to comprehend how strange that must have felt, but the only thing you showed that day was pride in my accomplishment. While you must have been churning inside, we talked about the match for an hour afterwards as though we had watched Connors win a big one.

Thanks for being my number one fan, yet not an overly involved one. When I had an upset, I couldn’t wait to call you because I knew you would know who he was and how big a win it was.

Thanks for teaching me to appreciate and understand the history of the sports we liked. There were so many lessons to be learned from past great champions: Johnny Unitas and James Brown in football, Dan Gable in wrestling, Rod Laver in tennis, and Vic Niederhoffer in squash. I can still remember the thrill when I called to tell you that I had lost to Sharif Khan in an actual tournament.

Thanks for putting your arm around me after I choked the interscholastics away. I had six match points and lost them all, but with you in the crowd, I remembered to smile and shake hands at the end. I wanted to cry, but I held it inside as you wiped the sweat off my face and told me that you were proud of me.

Thanks for knowing that when I lost the refereeing was bad and the fates weren’t with me, but also for reminding me that as far as anyone else was concerned, my opponent simply was better than I that day.

Thanks for being tough on me. You constantly corrected my grammar, you didn’t let me throw my racquet, and you questioned my desire to forego medical school to play squash. But you also gave me something that every son needs: someone I didn’t want to disappoint. And when I finally won the big one, the primary memory I always will have is being soaking wet with sweat and hugging you on the court while both of us wept in front of the still-clapping crowd.

Thank you for showing me all that a dad can be. I hope someday I am lucky enough to try to do you proud with my own children.

Young sons think of their dads as super-heroes. It comforts us. When you got cancer last year just after my stepfather died from it, your mortality momentarily was revealed (of course, you overcame it), and I found myself angry and disappointed. And then, all too slowly, I began to understand: the fact that you are just a man makes you all the more incredible. And I love you all the more.

You can find the obituary for William J.C. Carlin at