Being a better sports dad
Father's Day is Sunday. And while the day is seen as an occasion to celebrate dads, it also is a great opportunity for fathers to commit themselves to being better.
With that in mind, here are seven tips for effective (sports) fathering.
Set boundaries. You would never let your kid get near a hot stove. You put a gate up at the top of the steps. You lock up your liquor. Then why would you let your child become a Red Sox fan? Or a Yankees fan? Or whatever team your family is expected to hate to its core? No, IN THIS FAMILY WE ARE _____ FANS! NO EXCEPTIONS! Sure, if your hometown doesn't have a hockey or basketball team, your kid can seek out his own favorite team in that sport. And he or she can latch onto some random MLS or Arena League team if they want to. But beyond that, you need your kid on your side. It's about bonding. It's about blood. Every dad dreams of taking his son or daughter to the ballpark except those dads whose kids are %@$%#s who root for the wrong team. You must raise them up right from the start. Team-logoed baby apparel. A poster or two in their room. Subtle edits to bedtime stories. ("And then the monster, who was a prominent member of the Dallas Cowboys, ate the child.") Let them know they have freedom, but remind them there are boundaries. "Son, you can dye your hair pink. You can pierce your face. I don't care. But in my house, WE ARE MARLINS FANS!"
Front-running = grounded. No one likes a front-runner. No one. But how does a person become a front-runner? It's simple. Bad parenting. Their parents let them get away with it once thinking it was a passing, childish dalliance. But soon enough, their children were switching allegiances with every trophy ceremony. If you give an inch on this as a parent, you'll soon have a child who roots for the Lakers, Penguins, Phillies, Steelers, North Carolina and Florida; you'll soon have a child who will grow up to be a I can't say the word, but the second syllable rhymes with "bag." In fact, the second syllable is "bag." Be open with your child when it comes to front-running. Tell them you understand the allure. And use your own life as an example. "You think there weren't better options out there than your mother at times? That I could have gotten with hotter women -- you know, had they been drunk enough? But I stayed loyal. And it resulted in your birth. So by liking the Lakers, you are essentially killing yourself. Think about it."
Teach your child how to throw. Being able to look good throwing a ball is perhaps the most important skill an American can have. Forget being an NFL quarterback or playing in the majors; a good throwing motion is important no matter the career choice. You can stink at bowling and still become president. And say whatever you want about Bush 43; the dude could bring the first-pitch heat. But throw like a "girl?" No. You're done. Where has the political career of Cincinnati's mayor gone since this travesty? So please: Teach your child how to throw. Don't let their entire career, their entire life's work, be destroyed in a cacophony of mocking laughter one day at the company-picnic softball game. You must love your child more than that.
And urge your child to throw left-handed. Look, it's very unlikely that your child will grow up to be an elite athlete. You must accept that. But have you seen many major league pitchers? They are not elite athletes either. All you need to do is get your kid to throw lefty with decent velocity and keep his ERA around 4.95 or so, and you've raised a child who will make about $75 million over a 10-year career. Well done. No worries for you about ever getting dumped in some cheap old-folks' home. And all you had to do was duct-tape your kid's right arm to his torso until he was 8.
Don't go overboard on the fringe sports. I love all sports. But America is a baseball, football, basketball and hockey country. Soccer is great. Lacrosse is fine. But the more your kid starts talking about South American futbol, the more people will view him as a conceited #$!#@*.
No cheerleading. No exceptions. I can't believe this is still even a topic for discussion. You really want your daughter to think her purpose is to stand on the sidelines and look pretty and cheer on the boys? When she could be playing sports herself? No, no, no. I am quite happy to have the sidelines strewn with shapely, half-naked women. Just not my daughter. Cheerleading is a gateway drug to beauty pageants. Cheerleading is a gateway drug to clear heels and the pole. But cheerleading isn't just for girls anymore, you say. You're right. Cheerleading is now for girls and also guys no one respects.
Sports are not TV. As good parents, you and your child's mother likely have a limit in place for how much television little Johnnie or little Moon Unit can watch each day. And that's great. Television rots the brain. Especially the crap kids watch. As any parent will tell you, that TV limit is in place as much for the sake of the parent as it is for the child. I mean, have you ever seen an episode of "Barney" or the "Teletubbies?" Kill. Me. But there's no reason having a child should limit your enjoyment of TV. That's why, when your wife comes home and asks you how much TV little Kal-El watched today, you can proudly report "None." And you won't be lying. Because sitting beside you on the couch for 12 hours of NCAA tournament basketball does not really count as watching TV.
DJ Gallo is the founder and sole writer of the sports satire site SportsPickle.com. He also is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and has written for The Onion and Cracked. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is on sale now.
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