Darius Rucker: For the Love of the Game
Darius Rucker leans back in a hideaway that most men would envy. In the loft of his home near Charleston, S.C., he has six televisions on at the same time, each showing a different sporting event. The walls are covered with framed football jerseys. Signed baseballs sit on the bookshelves next to his Grammy and CMA awards. The room feels more like a sports bar than a den, which is just the way Rucker likes it. "I'll sit here and watch six games at a time," says Rucker, 44. "I love the fact that at the end of the game, there's a winner."
It's an appropriate pastime for a man who has had many victories in his own life. Rucker conquered the music scene in 1995 as the frontman for Hootie and the Blowfish, and then reinvented himself in the country arena with his 2008 release of "Learn to Live," which spawned three No. 1 hits. Now with his sophomore album, Charleston, SC 1966, hitting stores, Rucker sees the parallels. "There's not competition like there is in sports, at least not in the same way," he says, "but there's the importance of practicing and working towards perfection, even though you'll never get there."
Rucker's love of athletics began during the 1972 Superbowl. When his entire family cheered for the Dallas Cowboys, Rucker decided to pull for the Miami Dolphins instead. Although they eventually lost the game, they won the championship the following year. "They've been my team ever since," he laughs. "I've got their emblem tattooed on my body."
For Rucker, who grew up the child of a single mother in Charleston, sports were a way to be around male role models. Although he occasionally saw his father at church, they didn't have a close bond. "I couldn't just call my dad," he says. "I looked up to coaches and my friends' dads. They influenced me."
He also credits the character-building qualities of sports with making him who he is today. "There are a lot of positives about sports," says Rucker. "They help you strive for your best, to be part of a team, to practice and be committed to something. Those are valuable lessons for a kid."
Rucker learned those lessons early, playing at parks and recreation centers. In high school he played three sports-baseball, basketball and football-until he discovered music. Despite being the quarterback of his high school team, walking away from football wasn't a difficult decision for Rucker. "I just loved music," he says. "It took priority over everything else."
Rucker hopes that he can pass on his love of sports to his own children: Cary, 15, Dani, 9 and Jack, 5. All three are sports fans, and Rucker proudly boasts that Jack just started playing soccer. "Every minute of parenting doesn't have to be intense," he says. "Playing and watching sports gives you something to do together, a common interest. My kids are bigger fans than I am!"
The only holdout: Rucker's wife of 10 years. "I like to watch sports, but not like Darius," laughs Beth, 42. "I mean, six TV screens? That's crazy. But I love that his priority is spending time with the family."
Touring has lately meant less playtime than he'd like, but Rucker makes the most of his days in Charleston. "I love playing outside with the kids," he says. "It's the biggest blessing of my life."
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