ANTARCTICA — For years, on TV, I used the phrase, “No way, no how.”
Normally, it was to tell sports fans that their favorite team or player wasn’t going to do what they hoped for in an upcoming game. Ironically, many of my friends turned the tables on me and told me the same thing when I told them I was headed to Antarctica – my seventh and final continent.
Welcome Back From Antarctica Rob Parker !
— LA MAQUINA DE SOMBRAS (@FANalyst1) December 9, 2019
Most said there was no need to take such a pilgrimage, that six continents was an unbelievable achievement for such a world-class traveler. Some of my black friends were really taken aback. My vacation wasn’t going to be in Hawaii or the Caribbean, soaking up the sun and warmth. Instead, I was headed to snow and cold for five days on a boat.
They warned me: “You know brothers don’t do cold and water.” Sure, I hate the cold and yes, I can’t swim. They said I would be the only chocolate chip in a literally white world.
It didn’t matter.
The goal was to get there, see it and touch it. So few have been to Antarctica, the white continent- the end of the Earth. In fact, nobody I knew or anybody my friends knew had ever been there. For most in life, it’s just not an option.
The same could have been said about me. I grew up in Jamaica, Queens, a middle-class area in NYC. We owned our home, but we didn’t have a family car growing up after my mom and dad divorced.
We did like many New Yorkers. We rode the bus and the train to get where we were going. Our summer vacation usually was a trip to Atlantic City via bus. It wasn’t far, but fun and inexpensive. We weren’t poor by any stretch of the imagination. But kids growing up where I did, really didn’t think about traveling the world and seeing more than what Manhattan or Brooklyn had to offer.
I used to look in the World Book encyclopedia. I marveled at the pictures of that famed opera house in Sydney, Australia. And the Sphinx in Egypt. I used to say to myself, I will get there one day and see it up close and personal.
And I can still feel the goosebumps when I was on a boat in the Darling Harbour and could see the Sydney Opera House in front of me. Or the rush I had to see the Pyramids in Giza.
Spectacular, breathtaking. There I was on a camel out front in Egypt. Think about it. I had never been on a horse before. And these scenes kept happening all over the world. I rode the Bullet Train in Tokyo. I rolled in sand on a beach in Rio. I took a stroll through Old Montreal. And yes, I ate like a pig every night in Rome.
Still, nothing matched the excitement and experience of making it to the White Continent.
Imagine: it’s 4:30am, the sun is up already. It’s cold as hell. It’s damp. You can feel snow in the air. You’re on a boat. It’s December. Many would have never ventured outside in those conditions.
But I was there. My dream had come true.
We were approaching Antarctica. The scene is breathtaking. It’s nature at its best, clear and fresh — almost untouched.
I actually made it from Sayres Avenue and the Q42 bus to a cruise ship to a place that many couldn’t even dream of.
As we got closer and closer to land, I realized I wasn’t there just for me but for everybody I knew – my late mom and dad, my sisters and their families.
Also for the Blackcats – all the guys on my neighbor baseball team, my best friend, Fred, my friends from Van Buren HS, Julie at the corner store, all the people at the shoe store I worked with at the Queens Center Mall, all my college friends from Southern Connecticut State University and Columbia.
All the people at Sporty Cutz, the barbershop I co-own in Detroit, all my baseball brethren with the BBWAA, Skip Bayless and all my co-workers at FS1 in LA, all the listeners to my national radio show “The Odd Couple” on Fox Sports Radio and all the cooks that feed me for years at Comerica Park in Detroit.
Oh yes, it was monumental, that personal.
Believe me. I thought of all these people who have been along on my journey through life.
I’m 55, but felt nine years old. I was just a kid with a dream. And when I finally got off the boat and put my foot on land it was epic.
The tour far exceeded my expectations. We had made a quick stop in Cape Horn, the southernmost headland South America. It’s located in Chile.
We got to walk the snowy terrain, see wildlife up close. The penguins and elephant seals were so close you could nearly touch them. An amazing scene. The whales put on a nightly show outside our window as we ate dinner in the cruise ship.
Best of all, I wasn’t alone. There were about 70 people on this adventure from all over the world, most on the same quest as myself. And my friends couldn’t have been more wrong when they predicted that I would be the only brother on the trip.
Of the 24 Americans on the boat, 11 were people of color. What a strong representation. I wasn’t alone in my dreams and aspirations. So many, all over the country, had the same idea.
Somehow, someway, we made it.