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Is it fair to my son to let him love sports?

Every time the fall approaches, I get excited for the new sports seasons and, since having my oldest son, I start to evaluate whether he is old enough to start tagging along with me to the occasional game. As an active three-and-a-half year old, I still have warranted fears of me jotting down notes and, in that 5-second lapse, him sprinting onto the field, possibly pants-less as play is halted to apprehend him. And yet, we're getting closer.

He is starting to develop a genuine interest in sports, wanting to understand the basics of the rules and actually watching a few minutes of contests with me before deciding that chasing our terrified dog around the house is more fun.

And, as his attention span improves and his questions become more cogent, I start to wonder if raising someone to be a rabid sports fan is a good thing.

With the addition of children to my life along with my San Francisco Giants winning the World Series in 2010, I thought that my own blind allegiances to

random conglomerates of athletes would have subsided in recent years. In some ways, I

wish that had been the case.

When my father was in the final months of his battle with cancer

there was a week-long period where he went into what can probably best

be described as a walking coma.

He lapsed at the beginning of the 2004 American League Championship

Series. As he started to get sick, we moved our television into the

living room so that my father, a die-hard Yankees fan who grew up in

New Jersey just across the river from the Bronx, could watch Game 1,

which New York won handily.

My father’s health deteriorated quickly and, for the next week, we

all thought he had just days, if not hours, to live.

But, after roughly a week, my father came back to coherence for a few months before passing away in February and when he did he was a completely different person. He was wildly

emotional, crying at the drop of a hat and exuberant about any extra

amount of time he had with his family and friends.

But one of the things I remember most vividly was, the night after my

father “woke up” so to speak, it was Game 7 of the historic ALCS.

Boston had rallied from a 3-0 deficit to force an all-or-nothing

showdown with New York for the pennant.

And my father, the man who taught me everything I know about how to

be a crazed, emotional and illogical sports fan, couldn’t have cared

less.

I watched the game on the small TV in my parents’ bedroom while he

stayed in the living room talking with my mother for hours.

When I informed him that Boston had won the game he smiled and said

“Really? That’s something. Good for them.” That single statement might

have been enough to revoke 50+ years of New York fandom.

With my father having been to the brink of death and back, he would

tell you that his priorities were finally where they needed to be. And

on that priority list, sports now ranked somewhere near the bottom.

I think back on his attitude and demeanor during that time when I am

bogged down with work or myriad other of life’s usual stresses to try

and re-center myself. But I have never been able to abandon life as a

sports fan the way my father did in his final days.

My first truly devastating sports loss as a father came last winter when the 49ers lost the NFC championship after a pair of muffed punts. My son, Elliott had been at least partially invested in the game, yelling “Go red guys!” at the TV at random intervals.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock and I was lying motionless on our couch, my wife lovingly tried to shoo my son out of the room for a few minutes. But he wouldn't have it.

He wanted to know why I was sad and was mortified when I told him the red team had lost. He takes everything to heart to say the least.

Elliott can't handle a loss at Chutes and Ladders without a genuine freak-out, how in the world is he going to take it when the closer from his favorite baseball team gives up a walk-off home run in a playoff game?

The concept of being a sports fan is borderline

idiotic because, far more often than not, you end up miserable at the

end of an individual game or an entire season. It’s like playing the

lottery only you’re investing considerably more time in doing so and

the pay-off is entirely intangible.

But fandom is often forged in childhood as mine was, and when

that’s the case, it can be next to impossible to shake.

So, as I watch my oldest son’s personality progress, I’m wondering if

it would be considered a form of child abuse to indoctrinate him.

And then I think back to my father again and when I think about some of my best memories with him, many involve sports in some way, whether it's playing pick-up basketball with him or watching bowl games on New Year's Day. Despite the irrationality of how invested we often get, the bonding that can occur from sports is undeniable.

So if Elliott enjoys sports and enjoys the experience of watching them with me, I couldn't possibly get in the way of that. And when he is brought to tears by one of his teams losing, I'll comfort him with knowing how much it hurts, even if it doesn't make sense.



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