Five Famous Fathers, Five Questions – MICHAEL ‘PINBALL’ CLEMONS – CFL Legend

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Jun 16, 2010

In the lead-up to Father’s Day on Sunday June 20th, is featuring profiles of 5 Dads who are in the public eye, in our Five Famous Fathers, Five Questions series.  We asked each of them the 5 same questions about being a Dad.  Here’s Part 3.  

Whether on the field or off, keeping up with the man they call Pinball is a sport in itself!

His first CFL coach Bob O’Billovich game him THE NAME in 1989.   Pinball.   Not much explanation needed there, if you watched him on the field.   He ran circles around the opposition for 11 seasons in the CFL – most of that time spent as a member of the Toronto Argonauts.

Fearless, fiesty, unrelenting — all 5 feet and 6 inches of him.  Somehow, time and again, he absorbed thunderous hits from players seemingly twice his size. Somehow, he would spring back up to his feet from under monstrous piles of humanity. More often than not, Pinball would emerge with that effervescent, trademark smile, like nothing happened. Just another day at the office!

As a player, coach, member of the executive, a Hall of Famer, a television host and current Vice-Chair of the Toronto Argonauts – Pinball’s magnetic personality has transcended his sport.

An impact player with an impact personality who makes an impact wherever he goes.

That’s par for the course (bad pun!) for a man who, these days, tours as a motivational speaker, runs a charitable foundation and has turned down many offers, including running for political office, to manage his first priority – family.

Clemons and his wife Diane are the proud parents of three girls – Rachel (16), Raven (12) and Rylie (7).

We spoke to him in the car, on the way back from a motivational speaking engagement in Southwestern Ontario.

Here’s Pinball’s perspective on parenting in the first-person:

1.  What does being a Dad mean to you?   Being a Dad means no days off.  I’m always a dad.  When I tell people I have girls and they find out I have a teenaged daughter, they cringe.  We get out of it what we put in.  We don’t always get the fruit right away.  Regardless of what happens, I’ll always be there for them.

2.  What has suprised you most about being a Dad?  How much your kids love you and are committed to you.  I am so imperfect as a dad and they love me despite that.  It is amazing to see and understand that.  They still love me as Dad, as the guy and they give me knowledge that I don’t have.  It is amazing to see and understand that.  They still love me as dad as the guy and they give me knowledge that I don’t have.  And they give me respect that I haven’t earned.  Hopefully I’m giving them even more respect than they are giving me.   It is not something that is warranted from them.  They love just the way you are.

3.  What has been your greatest Dad moment that you can share?  My greatest moment as a Dad happens daily.  For me, my Dad moments are, my middle daughter.  I’m watching her study and prepare.   She is so studious.  And tonight to go and watch their soccer game and to see her in her element.   My greatest dad moment is not in an individual thing, because that’s so static.  For me, to say this is a moment doesn’t do justice for all the little things you see them do every day, some of which they did despite you.   For me it’s the joy and the pride that you feel in everyday moments.

4.  What has been your biggest challenge as a Dad?  I don’t know how to measure allowing them to grow, and pushing them.  I like to try and give them space to do their own thing.  In terms of encouraging them, they know and understand their expectations.  I try to measure that.  I’m not in there as much as I’d like to be because I need to give them space to figure it out.      I kind of believe that you need to be an example for them and be there to support them and give them as many opportunities as you can, but there’s another part of me that thinks I should leave them alone.  I can’t say that I’ve got the most pragmatic process of doing that.  I manage it by feel.

5.  What has been your secret to success as a Dad?   My secret to success is loving them.  I believe that is what you do.  I believe one of the greatest things we can do as dads is to love their mother.   Being a good husband is as important as being a good father.  Adoring my bride and loving and respecting them and teaching them how they should be treated by all people, but more sepcifically as a lady.  Love is it.  Love is that I put their interests before my own and that’s the reason I stopped coaching football.

Every successful man is not a successful father.  But every successful father is a successful man.

It’s tough balancing.  It’s not just something I say.   I try to put their interests before my own and do whatever it takes to love them and raise them them the best way I can.

Learn more about Michael “Pinball” Clemons:


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