Live to Forgive: A Family Story of Pain and Redemption (Transcript)

Dr. James Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk, a listener supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Roger Marsh: Hello and welcome. I'm Roger Marsh and you're listening to another installment in Family Talk's 2021 "Best Of" collection. Throughout this month of December, we have been sharing some of our most popular interviews from the past year. Now we've compiled these special programs into a "Best of Broadcast 2021" CD set. This collection contains 18 programs on six CDs and would make a wonderful gift for someone special on your list. And this CD set is available to you for a suggested donation of $50. Just visit That's, or call us at (877) 732-6825.

You know, sports has a way of bringing people together. The rivalries, the hard work it takes to succeed and the energy of the crowd. Those are just a few of the things that make watching and participating in sports so much fun. And playing a sport can also help us learn valuable life lessons about teamwork and perseverance and how to win well and how to lose well.

Our guest on today's addition of Family Talk has been a sports fan his entire life. His name is Jason Romano. And for 17 years, Jason was an Emmy award-winning producer at ESPN, the ubiquitous, they're everywhere, television, radio and content network, which is synonymous with sports programming. In fact, the initials ESPN stand for "exclusive sports programming network." In spite of how much he loved his work and sports, Jason Romano left that dream career at ESPN to follow the calling that God placed on his heart to host the Christian podcast called Sports Spectrum. The Sports Spectrum podcast features athletes, coaches, entertainers, and other personalities, sharing their stories about the intersection of sports and faith. His goal in this podcast is to point more and more sports fans to Christ. Now the popular interview that you're about to hear was recorded at the National Religious Broadcaster's Convention in Dallas, Texas, earlier this year. Dr. Tim Clinton, our co-host here at Family Talk, led the discussion. Let's go there right now.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, thank you for joining us on this edition of Family Talk, great to have you.

Jason Romano: Yeah, it's great to be here. Thank you.

Dr. Tim Clinton: What an amazing career. First of all, when I think of sports, everybody goes to ESPN, everybody goes to SportsCenter. And you start thinking about everything from Monday Night Football to Mike & Mike, you name it, all this stuff, and you were in the heart of all of it. And you spent how many years there?

Jason Romano: 17 years.

Dr. Tim Clinton: 17 years at ESPN. And anybody who lives in sports thinking, oh my goodness, you're going to stay there forever.

Jason Romano: Pretty much.

Dr. Tim Clinton: You made a decision to hang it up.

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: What was behind all that?

Jason Romano: It Was very hard, very difficult. You asked what's behind it, God is the number one answer because if it were up to Jason, I would've stayed for as long as they would have allowed me to. But in my faith and my journey with Christ, it started growing to the point where I felt, and I didn't know if it was from God, but you feel nudges sometime that you think are from the Lord. And it was a couple years before I left in 2015, where I started to have these nudges like "Jason, I want you to do more for me," that's what I felt like God was saying. It wasn't an audible voice, but it was something I just kept feeling like, "Oh God, okay, you want me to do more for you? What is that? Does that mean leaving ESPN?"

Dr. Tim Clinton: Wow.

Jason Romano: And I started to build some relationships with people who were in ministry, but doing similar work to what I was doing. And I said, that's really fascinating that there are people out there doing things that I do for ESPN as a producer, but for a greater purpose, fascinating to me. And so my interest starts to peak, could that be where the Lord is taking me? To utilize 17 years, really 20 years of production experience and broadcasting experience to work for him in ministry somehow. It's been such an honor to be a part of Sports Spectrum, sports and faith intersecting, but I wasn't actively seeking out Sports Spectrum. It's just, the Lord orchestrated and an opportunity to connect with the president of Sports Spectrum. And next thing you know, I'm taking that leap of faith and walking away. It was not easy though.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Tell us what's happening there. It's impressive.

Jason Romano: Yeah. So this is the intersection of sports and faith. Sports Spectrum's actually been around since 1985, a long time, with the sole goal to bring the name of Jesus into the sports conversation. That's what they've wanted to do for years. And I remember Sports Spectrum when I was younger, I got to meet some of the people who were behind Sports Spectrum maybe 10 years ago, and just was interested. And maybe God was planting seeds then, who knows, but was interested that this existed. But then when I was approached about coming and working for them, and really what they were doing at that time, new ownership had taken over Sports Spectrum in 2016. And they came to me and said, we'd like to rebuild Sports Spectrum back up, but with an eye on the future, on digital and media. And what do you think of something like that?

And I felt like God was saying, "This is the door I was telling you to wait on." And yeah, now we're a podcast network and I'm really fascinated by the podcast world and what we've built at Sports Spectrum. The magazine has been a staple for 35 years and still is going strong. We're telling stories through our website and online articles. It's just a blast.

Dr. Tim Clinton: What a gift to young athletes, to everybody seriously. Kids growing up, there's such an affection for sports and performance. You know that.

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: And they watch people on Saturday and Sunday and think, man, I just want to get there. I've learned through the years that when God has someone doing something really significant, there's usually a little bit of backstory that wires us all together. And if you begin to follow that narrative through, you can really see His hand at work. I want to go back because the heart of what we want to talk today is about something I've got in my hands.

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: It's a book you wrote called Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us. It actually opens up with a fascinating story. You grew up, by the way, it's a story about your dad who was an alcoholic. So you're an ACOA.

Jason Romano: Mm-hmm. That's right. "Adult children of alcoholic."

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yes, you are. And as an ACOA, you go back and here's this sports piece that opens up the beginning of the book, take us to the scene. I think you were so excited as a boy.

Jason Romano: So it's the first chapter in the book, first story you'll read in chapter one. And it's interesting that, that's what led the book, because that was my first memory of being scared of my dad and a little worry that something wasn't right. And I was nine, 10 years old. People would assume this being at ESPN for many years. I love sports, that's all I cared about as a kid. So, when your dad tells you, we're going to your first ever NFL game, you're excited. Now I'm not a Giants fan, or an Eagles fan, but I am a football fan and I am a sports fan. So this was a big deal to go to a game in person. So, we're in Albany, New York, we drove all the way down to Philadelphia, about three or four hour drive. And we're at Veterans Stadium, the old Veterans Stadium. And you go in there and you walk through the gates and you see a sea of green, a hundred yard football field. And you're just so excited as a kid. This is the greatest thing you've ever…

Dr. Tim Clinton: I remember the first time I went to a ballpark as a boy.

Jason Romano: Greatest thing ever.

Dr. Tim Clinton: My dad.

Jason Romano: And so you go in there and that's the last good memory I had from that day. Once they started playing and the kickoff happens, my dad, who was drinking at that time certainly in the stage of life that he was in, probably got two or three or four beers in him I'm guessing before the game even started. It didn't take long before my dad who, when he drank, he was very violent, not violent, volatile I should say, violent was not the right word. He was verbally violent if that's even the right way to describe it, but that's what he was. He became a different person. It was a Jekyll and Hyde situation for sure. And suddenly the Giants are not doing so well. And Eagles fans see that he's a Giants fan and they're yelling at each other and saying words that we'll never hopefully say on this show, but it wasn't great for a nine or a 10 year old boy to see.

But then it got worse because after the game we're driving home and my dad had been pretty wasted by that point. And this is 1984 and it's not right today, and it certainly wasn't right then, but I don't know why then it might have been more acceptable to just drink and drive, but he drove us home four hours

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. I remember reading the scene.

Jason Romano: ... fully intoxicated. And weaving in and out of traffic, and lots of horns and my stepmom was in the car and screaming at him to stop driving like a maniac. And I'm in the backseat just scared, I'm scared. And my brothers are younger, but I'm guessing they were scared too. And that was the first time I ever remember in my life being scared and knowing something wasn't right with dad. Before that I was young and naive and I didn't recognize it, but that day, which was supposed to be a really great day, turned out not to be one, unfortunately.

And that memory, it's funny that you bring that up because I hadn't thought about that game in probably 25 years until we started putting this book together, and I remembered the game and I called my dad who I've reconciled with now, I called my brothers. I said, do you guys remember this game? And they all had the same memory, they do, even my dad. And it wasn't a great memory for him, but they all remembered it, but it was there. It was this box in the attic that I had stored away. And when I took it back out, I'm like, oh my gosh, I hadn't dealt with this before. And so I had to get it out there.

Dr. Tim Clinton: It affects us.

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: It infects us. We're probably scratching a raw nerve here for some people who are listening, certainly as you go back and reflect on this, I know childhood storms are a part of life…

Jason Romano: Yeah, of course.

Dr. Tim Clinton: ... for a lot of people. And inside those storms, they're difficult to navigate. There's a guy named Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who talks about childhood trauma. In it he says, he's changed his thinking from, what's wrong with that kid? To what happened to that child? That's a mindset shift.

Jason Romano: Big time. Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. Take us a little bit more into that and what began happening with you?

Jason Romano: As I got older into my teen years, I started putting up my own walls, my own barriers with my dad. And I tried to allow him back into my life, I tried to have a friendship with him, a relationship, because he was around, he's not the one that abandoned us and took off and was gone for years. That's not my dad. My dad tried to be around.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Wow.

Jason Romano: But the alcohol consumed him to the point where he just couldn't function as a normal person, and he couldn't love his kids the way we were supposed to be loved, because he chose the alcohol over his two wives that he had, my mom and then my step mom, and then me and my brothers. And I understand it now the addiction cycle and what happened to him. But there's still part of me that remembers that he made that choice at some point somewhere. And so it was a choice that he had to live with. And I had to build those barriers up and allow myself, especially as I got older into my twenties, certainly into my thirties, and when I became a dad, to not let what happened to him in our relationship affect the way I was going to take the rest of my life.

So, I would put walls up. And like I said before, I would throw these memories and these things that were from the past into boxes and just store them away in an attic and never look at them again. But you know that those things in the attic are things you need to eventually pull out and figure out what's in there. They don't disappear. And that was really the process of writing this book, was pulling those boxes out of the attic.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. Yeah. That's it.

Jason Romano: And revisiting them.

Dr. Tim Clinton: The healing journey.

Jason Romano: Yes.

Dr. Tim Clinton: To bring hope and healing to people that you can break through these things.

Jason Romano: That's right.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Maybe yours and your brothers interest in sports really reflected a craving for connection and intimacy with a father. Maybe it drove you in a different direction, maybe toward it a little bit more, because there was something that you were starved for. A lot of people call it father thirst, or father hunger. You know that? What are your thoughts on that?

Jason Romano: It sounds right. It's funny because there were moments where I would've rather had nothing to do with my dad, but yet you still want that approval from your father. You want that dad figure in your life.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Of course, he's your dad.

Jason Romano: And when it comes to sports, that's the one thing that we connected with. I told people before and I wrote it in the book, the very thing that should have brought us together tore us apart, which is sports, because that was when my dad was at his worst. When we would watch sporting events on TV, when we would go to sporting events, the story I just shared in Philadelphia, when we would play sports as kids. I remember my dad showed up to one of my high school basketball games and it was like the movie Hoosiers. I don't know if you've ever seen that movie Hoosiers and the drunken dad shows up on the court and the kid's just like, oh my gosh, he's so embarrassed. That was me. That was my brothers. And so we've had those experiences, but at the same time, you're like, I just want him to be sober and enjoy this with me because we both love sports so much.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah, because there's a real gift in sports.

Jason Romano: There is, there's so many lessons in sports, people from all walks coming together for a common cause. It's still to this day now that we're reconciled, it's still the one thing we talk about all the time is sports. And I'm glad about that, but I understand that sports can't be my God, and for so many years it was. And I wanted my dad to be a part of that religion with me. And he was off somewhere else. And that really put a void in all of us.

Dr. Tim Clinton: The danger here is what we call multi-generational flow or transmission. It's the, "You're just like your father. You're going to beat just like him."

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: And somehow putting a clog in the wheel and saying, mm-mm (negative), not in my house.

Jason Romano: Well, I'll tell you with my daughter when she was born, and I even spoke at my church father's day message on seeing God as father in the prodigal son story that Jesus tells. We talk about the lost son and we talk about the older son a lot, but we don't look at it often from the standpoint of the father in the prodigal son story. And for me, I didn't have that father waiting with open arms for me when I would run back to him if I veered off, because my dad was off somewhere else. So I had had a terrible example of who God was as father, because I didn't have that father. And I know when my daughter was born, two things happened. Number one, I suddenly started to see God as father, how He loves us unconditionally in the same way that I care so much about my daughter.

And it was such an awesome, sweet thing to experience, but the other thing was, I didn't know how to be a dad to my daughter other than to do what my dad didn't do for us. And number one was drink, but I haven't drank since high school because of my dad. I just made a choice and I still don't to this day, because I saw the destruction that came from it. But my daughter, I just needed to spend time with her, have her know that I was there for her, have her know that no matter what she did, I was going to love her. It wasn't conditional. It wasn't based on performance. It was just her. I didn't have that with my dad, but I saw God as father through that. And now I said, oh I get it now. That's how He loves us. And I needed my daughter to experience something that I didn't.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Dr. Dobson for so many years who, by the way also has a deep love for sports and athletics.

Jason Romano: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Said, often we view God through the eyes of our father, and we got to be so careful.

Jason Romano: Oh my gosh.

Dr. Tim Clinton: And that's why I think Paul wrote, "Dads don't exasperate your children. Don't provoke them to wrath, but bring them up rather in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." You're listening to Family Talk, a division of the James Dobson Family Institute. I'm Dr. Tim Clinton, your host, our special guest today, Jason Romano. He is formerly with ESPN, he's done everything at ESPN, everything. Now with Sports Spectrum, he's a podcast leader there and a strong voice, a champion for faith in sports, in athletics. And I'm telling you what? This guy has a Rolodex that you wouldn't believe. Jason, it's just it's joyful. And it makes me happy to think about that kind of stuff. But Jason, you talk about, and I love this four step plan. You start with feeling the pain. "You can't heal what you don't feel" is an old AA slogan. You got it right here. Take us in there.

Jason Romano: Yeah. Feeling the pain that is transforming the wound, it's forgiving the abuser and it's evaluating the trauma. It's all of those four things. And the pain is the first part of this whole thing, to feel it and to acknowledge that it's there, we try to suppress, we try to hide it. We try to mask it.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah, or pretend it doesn't hurt.

Jason Romano: Pretend it doesn't hurt. I'm fine.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Doesn't matter.

Jason Romano: Even though you see me limping…

Dr. Tim Clinton: No big deal.

Jason Romano: ... really bad. I'm completely fine.

Dr. Tim Clinton: He's sick…

Jason Romano: We're good.

Dr. Tim Clinton: It doesn't matter yet.

Jason Romano: And I think we need to feel that pain and acknowledge that it exists before we can even enter into the true healing process. And evaluating that trauma is the next one and just go into what is that, that's there? There's pain, what is it? Transforming the wound is the key. That's really where Christ comes in and transforms us. And then we start to take that wound and understand that there's healing potential in it. And then it's the actual process forgiving the abuser. The hardest part of all, of course, is doing that. But remembering that it's not about the abuser when you're forgiving them, it's about yourself, because you are the one, like you said, when you drink it, that poison, you're expecting the other person to die when you hold that pain in and hold them accountable. And it's like, no, that's not how…

Dr. Tim Clinton: It feels like if I don't forgive, I'm punishing them.

Jason Romano: That's correct.

Dr. Tim Clinton: But we're not.

Jason Romano: No, it's the complete opposite. We're actually punishing ourselves.

Dr. Tim Clinton: You know what I always thought was fascinating about forgiveness too, Jason, is forgiveness only takes one person.

Jason Romano: It's correct.

Dr. Tim Clinton: And it's always my responsibility.

Jason Romano: Every single time.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah.

Jason Romano: And Jesus says we are to forgive every single time that we are wronged. That's hard, but that's truth. That's in the Scriptures. Just read Matthew 18. And when we don't, we're basically putting a hand up and saying to God, "No, I got this figured out," and that's dangerous. That's a dangerous place to be.

Dr. Tim Clinton: What about your mom in this story?

Jason Romano: My mom is the hero in this story. She was our rock. She was the one that stabilized the household, the Romano household as kids. She allowed us to honestly have a fairly normal childhood considering that my dad and this whole thing was looming. We went to school, played sports, had a lot of friends. She protected us, that's the best way to put it, and protected us from our dad, protected us from as much she could from all of what could come from that and allowed us to just be normal kids. I'm so glad for that and so thankful for that, because there's an aspect of that my childhood, that I actually have good memories of because of her, and you need some of those. If it's all bad memories, we're…

Dr. Tim Clinton: We're in trouble.

Jason Romano: That's not good. We're in trouble. So thank to mom. She's the hero.

Dr. Tim Clinton: You mentioned dad, and what about dad? How the story end up?

Jason Romano: The story, it's a long, long story that took 40 years in the making, but I'll give you the Cliff Notes ending. My dad in 2013 tried to end his life unsuccessfully, but strangely enough when he ended up in the psych ward of the hospital in Albany, New York, that was the last time he's had a drink in eight years now, and he's sober. And the one thing that if people are listening, they could pray for, is pray for his soul because he's not a follower of Christ yet. I wish that I could tell this story and say, my dad accepted Christ and everything changed. It hasn't happened yet. It's still a miracle. And I think he knows that. And he sees his three sons all walking with Christ and seeing that God obviously is real and has done something, but he's still hanging on. Maybe there's some shame in that. I don't know what it is, but he's sober.

And honestly, for many years, Tim, that was my prayer was for my dad to get sober. I never prayed for my dad to find Christ, even though I was a Christian for many years, I just prayed for him to get sober. And now he's sober. So God answered that prayer, but we still got a little ways to go. But that's continuously what I pray about. And we are reconciled, which is, again, this is a whole nother podcast but…

Dr. Tim Clinton: That's a whole nother story.

Jason Romano: ... forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things.

Dr. Tim Clinton: They are.

Jason Romano: But we're reconciled, and we have a relationship. It's not the greatest, but it's certainly not where it was.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Well, God, we pray that you would bring Jason's dad to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. God do that in the strong name of Jesus say. Amen.

Jason Romano: Amen.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, let's close the story this way. There may be some mom, dads out there listening right now and their kids are all right in the middle of that sports world.

Jason Romano: Yeah.

Dr. Tim Clinton: They would love to learn more about Sports Spectrum and this ministry and your heart. How do they do that? What can we do?

Jason Romano: So there's a couple things. I think if you have kids who play sports, support them in that, but remember don't let sports become…

Dr. Tim Clinton: God.

Jason Romano: ... the center of their life, let God be the center of your life and sports can overflow from that. Don't let sports become God. That's correct. And Sports Spectrum, what we try to do is show you that sports can have a place, but Jesus is where we all need to be pointing towards. And that's what we do. We bring Jesus into the sports conversation. They can go to our website, to learn about all the ministry, I call it ministry resources. They're really just, it's just a media company. We write stories and have podcasts and magazines just like other media, but I look at it, and it is, it's ministry and it's resource and it's all free for the most part, other than our magazine, that people can be a part of. And yeah, listen, if you love sports and you love Jesus, check out Sports Spectrum. That's my plug.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason Romano, his book Live to Forgive: Moving Forward When Those We Love Hurt Us, what a great story. Hey, notice Darrell Strawberry wrote the forward to this.

Jason Romano: Yeah, that's a whole nother story. He's my sports hero. And his name is on the same book as mine.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Darrell just wrote the forward to my new book called Take it Back.

Jason Romano: Is that right?

Dr. Tim Clinton: Yeah. He's a good friend.

Jason Romano: Oh, that's great.

Dr. Tim Clinton: Jason, on behalf of Dr. Dobson, his wife, Shirley, their family, the entire Family Talk team, we really salute you, appreciate the good work God's doing in and through you. Thank you for joining us.

Jason Romano: It's an honor to be here. Thanks for having me.

Roger Marsh: Jason is right, unforgiveness doesn't necessarily hurt the person who wronged us, ultimately it causes us much more pain and grief than it does anyone else. In Matthew chapter 18, the apostle Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?" To Peter's surprise, Jesus answered with a parable about a man who had been forgiven much, but refused to forgive even a little when he himself was wronged. It's a good story for us to remember. Those of us who are in Christ and have been forgiven of all of our sins are called to forgive those around us without reservation. Our guest today here on Family Talk has been Jason Romano. Jason is the host of the Sports Spectrum podcast, which features inspiring stories at the intersection of faith and sports. The podcast, Sports Spectrum Magazine and their online videos and articles are appropriate for all ages by the way. Your sports loving son, or daughter, or grandson, or granddaughter will really enjoy the stories about their favorite athletes and will be continually pointed back to Christ in the process.

To learn more about Jason Romano, his ministry and his new book, visit us online at, that's Well, Christmas is just a few days away and I hope that you've been blessed during this season with joy and peace and hopefully some good fellowship and good times with family and friends as well, but don't forget if you are doing your end of year financial planning right now, won't you prayerfully consider making a donation to the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute? We currently have a matching grant here at the JDFI, this means that any financial contribution that you make to the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute during the month of December will be doubled. That's thanks to some special friends of our ministry. To help defend biblical truth and the family, make your donation online when you visit That's, or call us at (877) 732-6825. Thanks so much for joining us here today on Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh, and from all of us here at the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute, God's richest blessings on your day and your week.

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