After 59,000 Miles, They're Still Talking Hoops

March/April 1999

Reading time min

After 59,000 Miles, They're Still Talking Hoops

Photo: Peter fox

During countless hours on Interstate 5, Bruce Seaton and Arthur Lee Jr. have discussed everything from old girlfriends to their kids, jobs and futures. But the topic, it seems, always returns to Stanford basketball.

No wonder. The two men, often accompanied by Seaton's wife, Estelle, have made the 373-mile drive from Los Angeles to Stanford for nearly every home basketball game over the last four years. The draw: their sons Mark Seaton and Arthur Lee III are members of the breakaway men's basketball team. "When you are driving 300 to 400 miles together, you tend to create a bond," says Lee. "All of the guards come down. You are basically being yourself."

Since last May, Seaton has put 59,000 miles on his Lincoln Town Car. And the Cardinal has not failed them. Halfway through the Pac-10 season, the team had compiled a 19-4 record, including only one conference loss, to Arizona. A midseason disappointment was a nationally televised loss at home to No. 1 Connecticut.

To make it to all those games, the dads' pattern is precise. They leave around noon, arriving in Palo Alto with time to gas up the car, change clothes and watch the team practice before a 7:30 p.m. tip-off. Bruce Seaton drives the first and last legs of the trip; Lee or Estelle Seaton takes the shift down razor-straight I-5 through the Central Valley.

After the game, the road warriors say good-bye to their sons and head back south. Lee is usually at his home near UCLA by 3:15 a.m. Seaton's head hits the pillow in Orange County about a half hour later. The next morning, Seaton arrives by 8 a.m. at his office overlooking the Los Angeles harbor, where he is chief of operations, and Lee is back working the phones selling insurance.

Amazingly, they've hit only one significant speed bump. Driving to one game they got a flat tire. The dads put on a temporary spare and finally found a service station after driving 20 miles out of their way. They still managed to walk into Maples Pavilion as the players were about to tip off.

Why not just fly? The men say regular flights would be too expensive -- plus nothing leaves the Bay Area between 8 or 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., so they'd have to stay in a hotel overnight and wouldn't make it back for work in the morning.

The drives allow them to savor the little moments that make the season come alive. Seaton's favorite memory is of this year's Cardinal Chaos, the midnight workout session held on the first day the NCAA permits practices. During a dunking contest, his son, Mark, stood over a ball he had placed on the ground, kicked it into the air, caught the ball in flight and slammed it into the basket.

"To see and hear the crowd go crazy over that was great for us," Seaton says.

Lee has witnessed the transformation of his son from a kid who played just 20 seconds in his first Cardinal game in 1995 to the star of today's squad. The younger Lee is a candidate for honors including the John Wooden and the Naismith Awards, which recognize the nation's best college basketball player.

But both men feel connected to both players. In November, the pair was headed to the game against Southern Methodist University the day Sports Illustrated hit the newsstands with Lee's son on the cover. As the pair drove, Lee's voice-mail pager went off. It was another player's dad all the way back in Pittsburgh calling in his congratulations.

Even months later, the burly Seaton chokes up at the memory.

"It had nothing to do with my kid, but it shows how close the parents are," Seaton says, his voice tight with tears. "Because we've been together for four years, we are… really close. It was just a lot of joy for us."

You May Also Like

© Stanford University. Stanford, California 94305.