Skip to main content

Basketball Diaries - Parental Edition



 My son played in a basketball tournament recently. Like any proud father, I love to watch him play. And like any red-blooded, North American father, I live vicariously through him when he is on the court. It’s hard to be a dad and not have flashbacks to the good ‘ole days when we were athletes. And had hair. When it comes to our kids and sports, only parents are privy to a unique perspective. It gives us a superhuman ability that when our son or daughter doesn’t make a play, we, as Super Parents, knew the correct play the whole time. Some of us, and you know who you are, must immediately tell them the correct play. During the game. While they are on the court. However, if they are make the right play, we know it is clear to all parents and spectators around us who’s kid they are and where they got their skills. In a nut shell, kid makes incorrect play, parents are guardians of game-time righteousness; kid makes correct play, parents acknowledge family resemblance.

 These wildly divergent behaviors happen regularly together, within a single game. Often on successive plays. One trip down the court, and we are astounded our child did not see their teammate wide open under the basket. (The teammate’s state of openness was so obvious from up here. In the stands. With no defending opponent.) The very next play, however, we extol the virtues of their ancestry because they made a 10 foot jump shot with the defender hanging all over them. (Did you not see that ref? Are you blind?!...Sorry, my vicariousness got the best of me.)

 The in-game on-again-off-again acknowledgements of paternity are intriguing. Can you imagine if this made its way into other parts of life? Dropping the kids off at school would be much more exciting.

  • “No, son, take the first stair with your right foot, not your left. Use the railing, do you not see it there? Nice job opening the door, very smooth. I remember when I used to open doors like that.”
Or setting the table for dinner.
  • “Your fork placement was way off. How will anyone be able to find that? Good work with the knife and spoon, though. Clearly you are my daughter.”
Who wouldn’t discuss that fondly with their therapist as they grew up?

 Tournaments add a second behavior that no normal person exhibits in everyday life. We vilify the players and parents of the other team the moment we lay eyes on them. Pass any of the opposing players on the street on a normal day and we would say, “What a nice looking kid.” Or we would smile and say, “Hi” to the parents as we stood next to them in an elevator. But meet them at a tournament, and they are the spawn of the devil. The casting of aspersions on the opposing team’s character begins immediately upon sitting down in the stands.

First, we observe the other players’ moves for a bit, sizing them up as though we are scouts for a professional team. We label the ones that will provide little challenge for our boys and the ones that, in technical jargon, “have game”. Personal qualities are then assigned. Those we deem “weak” are pitied. Clearly this isn’t their game. Their parents must be forcing them to be here against their.The other players, the ones with “game”, are too intense for kids this age. (“Wow, he’s too intense. It’s a game, have fun. I’m glad my son isn’t like that.”)

 The opposing parents are the next victims of our adrenaline-induced judgements. We feel sorry for the parents of the weak players. It must be so hard for them to watch. And we loathe the parents of the “game” kids because we know, deep down, that they are the ones who made these young, sweet, innocent children so intense about a game. Then we count our blessings that the kids and parents on our team are not like that.

 Once a game begins, our player/parent judgements setting like quick-dry cement, we turn our generosity of spirit towards the officials. When I was in high school, I was an umpire for youth baseball. I lasted three games. The job wasn’t difficult, I was just scared the parents would beat me up. Youth sports officials have the most thankless job in the world, short of being President. Everyone yells at them. Coaches, parents, players. Even their own mother would yell at them if she didn’t like the call. We begin by questioning their eye sight (“Did you not see that foul?”). Then their knowledge of the rules, (“Hello! That was clearly a foul!”). And finally their lineage, sanity and suspected allegiance to the other team. It’s as though they were born to ruin our kids’ lives by making the worst call possible. You know the amount of money they get paid is not worth the abuse they endure. I’ve tried to figure out why anyone would continue to allow themselves to be a receptacle of anger like they are. My first thought was they do it for the kids, but I quickly dismissed that as silly. I think I have stumbled upon the reason, though. They are aliens from another world, who came to earth to study our culture. And they chose their disguises poorly. If we are invaded by aliens in black and white striped shirts one day, you will know why. They assumed we were a warrior culture because they kept getting yelled at.

So they next time you see a referee on the street, after you asked yourself, “Why is there a referee walking the streets?”, be sure to thank them for sacrificing their time, and sometimes body, to make sure kids can play competitive games. Refs deserve love, too.

In the tournament, my son’s team placed second. They played well, but it was a tough loss in the championship game by just a point. It was the ref’s fault. They were horrible.

Comments

Susan said…
Seems all too familiar, once again you have a great way of putting it all together with your writing.

Popular posts from this blog

Don't worry. I'm taking care of it for you.

I am a worrier. If there is something nearby that can be worried about, I will find it and worry all over it. Often, the worry relates to money in some fashion. Have you ever noticed that we never worry about having too much money? I’ve never heard anyone say, “I was thinking about my paycheck and I’m concerned there are too many large numbers on it.” That is a worry I wouldn’t mind having. Can someone mention that to my boss?

Really, though, I can worry about money with the best of them. I am always looking for new and innovative ways. For instance, when selling a house, did you know you can worry about how much a potential offer will be reduced after an inspection finds a few things wrong? Did you know you can worry about it before you’ve even had an offer on the house? Or when your house isn’t even on the market yet? Yes, it’s true. This is the kind of leading-edge worry research that I have done for you, my reader.

The biggest benefactor of this worry research has been my wife. She …

An open apology to my blog

Dear blog,

 Where do I start? I am sorry for neglecting you for the past seven months. I know it has been lonely. I am glad to see your friends in Israel and Russia have been keeping you company in the meantime. I could make excuses about why I haven’t been around. Work got in the way. The kids had practice or Cub Scouts or help with homework. The dogs’ teeth needed brushing. My socks and tie didn’t match. You can see how any of these things could distract me from coming by and writing to you. I won’t use those reasons as excuses. Well, maybe a couple. But not brushing the dogs’ teeth. We both know that didn’t get done. Especially when they try to lick your face.

 But that’s beside the point. I have left you alone for far too long. And it’s not like I haven’t had ideas to write down. I mean, I’ve turned 40. My son and I went camping this summer for three days. My daughter turned thirteen and got a cell phone. That alone could have spawned dozens of entries. And how many stupid things …

I Run, But I Never Get There

Over the last few years I have become a runner. Not like a Nike commercial runner. I don’t run everyday for miles and miles. And I am not in Adonis-like shape. In fact, this winter I did not run at all (apparently my exercise style is similar to a bear, hibernating in winter). But, as I near the end of my fourth decade, my main form of exercise has become a good run. 

In my younger days, I hated running. If we had to go for a run at practice, I got that heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn’t want to go for a long distance run. I didn’t want to do sprints. The only reason I liked to run is when it was attached to doing something fun, like playing ball or catching the ice cream truck. I definitely did not understand people who would voluntarily go out and run for no reason at all. Like they had somewhere they needed to get quickly. They never seem to get there, though. They just end up coming back to the same place they started. Of course I realize now that at that age, I had…