I first found out about the legal issues Ryan Howard and his family were having before the sun came up on Wednesday morning, by way of a message from a co-worker. While a city slept, David Murphy discovered all of the very sad details in a series of lawsuits between the Phillies first baseman and his family.
Howard's twin brother, Corey, sued him for $2.8 million and his parents, Ron and Cheryl Howard, were demanding a total of $10 million to "walk away from Ryan's business affairs." The suits were settled out of court last month.
After reading through the suits Wednesday and thinking about Howard and the close ties he's always had with his family, I remembered what was probably the best story I had ever seen or read on the Howard family dynamic.
The story aired on HBO's Real Sports. This particular episode ran on Feb. 12, 2007 - a few short months after Howard won National League MVP honors and about 10 months before I'd begin my job as a Phillies beat writer.
With this week's news events, I wanted to re-watch the Real Sports story. HBO kindly sent me a DVD.
The 13-minute profile piece began with Howard's prestigious early career numbers, with reporter/host Bryant Gumbel talking of Roger Maris' and Barry Bonds' records (aside: weird that Gumbel would erase Mark McGwire from his memory, but not Bonds).
The story eventually touched on the steroid era and the distrust that came from the public any time a new home run hitter began to approach records; Howard was coming off hitting a Phillies franchise-record 58 home runs in 2007. Cut to video of Howard in the weight room, and Gumbel talking about Howard as a naturally large human being.
Gumbel went on to describe Ryan Howard as the "runt" of his family's litter, smaller than both his older brother, Chris, and twin brother, Corey. The last half of the Real Sports' story was almost entirely made up of how Howard was influenced by his family.
And, of course, the unusual dynamic between the rising Phillies star (he was 28-years-old at the time) and how his parents handled his finances.
Here are some outtakes from the story, which are more than interesting in retrospect:
Bryant Gumbel: 'You have said , 'My dad set the bar high for all of us.' What was expected?"
Ryan Howard: "He is very, very big on going out and earning your own keep. because nobody is ever going to give you anything, nothing is ever free."
Gumbel then talks of the influence Ryan's father, Ron Howard, particularly had on his son.
Ryan Howard: "When I was younger, I forget what age I was, my dad set the tone by graduating from Washington University here (in St. Louis). We got to see him graduate and I know for me that stuck with me, every day."
Gumbel asks Howard if he still intends on getting a college degree, even though he likely won't need one given the riches baseball will bring him.
Ryan Howard: "Oh definitely - no ands, ifs, or buts. … When I saw my dad graduate from college, my son will watch me graduate from college and that will instill in him hopefully the things that watching my dad did for me."
Then, a voiceover, "During the offseason Ryan lives just 5 minutes from his parents," and, in retrospect, an eery camera shot of Howard sitting in what appears to be a home office, with his father behind a desk and his mother sitting by his side. The room is adorned with bobbleheads, bats, Phillies hats and other baseball paraphernalia.
Gumbel says that Howard, in early 2007, "looks to (his parents) for professional guidance" and that "his mother even handles his finances."
Gumbel, in a one-on-one with Ryan Howard: "She's your accountant?"
Ryan Howard: "Yes. She handles the funds. Like, I'll get it, and then I won't see it. She'll let me look at the check, and then it's gone."
Then, Gumbel, on a one-on-two with his parents.
Gumbel: "I know I'm prying, but does he get an allowance?"
Cheryl Howard: "Yes."
Gumbel: "He does?"
Cheryl Howard: "Yes."
Gumbel, more than a little surprised: "You realize he might be the only major leaguer let alone the only MVP I've ever heard of who's mother gives him an allowance?"
Cheryl Howard: "I — I would beg to differ. I would imagine that there are quite a few, that, if they don't have a wife, they have a mother. There has to be someone there that keeps them on the straight and narrow."
Gumbel, incredulous: "I wish that were true. I wish that were true Cheryl! I'd be willing to bet you that there's not another MVP alive, dead, ever, who's mother gave him an allowance!"
Cheryl Howard: "Well, he's getting one. And he will continue to get one."
And then, that portion of the piece ends with another voiceover from Gumbel.
"Howard's financial future would seem to be secure," Gumbel said, "But it remains very much in the future."