When I wasn’t playing sports, I was watching them. I grew up near Cleveland, Ohio, so I cheered for the woeful Indians and the disappointing Browns. Despite their losing ways, I was a sports junky.
However, when I became a father something changed in me. I was less focused on sports. I found myself checking the box scores less frequently and instead making paper airplanes. The endless hours of “SportsCenter” on TV’s ESPN gave way to “Blues Clues” and “The Wiggles.” My priorities were changing.
I also started to notice all that is wrong with sports — the showboating, the lack of sportsmanship and at times, the behavior of the parents themselves.
So with those visions in my head, I didn’t push my son to join athletics. I didn’t push him to be competitive. I wasn’t one of those fathers who says we should keep score of every game because our children need to learn to “win,” because that is what matters in life, winning.
I am not sure I buy it. Call me a wimp, but I think life gives us plenty of lessons on competition. We don’t need to push it on our kids at an early age. There is plenty of time for that. I don’t think my kid will play in the major leagues. He might, and if he wants to pursue it I’d support him. But let’s be realistic.
I am not sure that yelling at your 4-year-old to “... get down on the ball!” during a T-ball game is giving your child the skills to excel in life. Sounds a bit like transference to me. I mean, the kid was drawing a rainbow in the dirt; “getting down on the ball” was the least of his concerns.
The commitment to multiple nights of practice and traveling all weekend to games in different cities is not a part of my family’s priorities. We love our home. We love our city and we love to be together, not in a vehicle driving hours every weekend to the next “ballgame.”
Yes, I’ve been critical of sports. But I might be wrong. I think I may be missing the valuable lessons that can be learned through sports — life-changing, perspective-altering lessons that can build a champion ... not a sports champion, but a champion in life. But most of all, I might be missing the passion and the love ... the joy of sports.
So when my son showed an interest in playing football, I agreed to sign him up and we went to the yard to have a game of catch. As I was out there throwing the football around the yard, teaching him the intricacies of a sport I once loved, all the memories of my childhood came rushing back to me — the “Home Run Derby” I played with friends at the local elementary school, the backyard football games, the pickup basketball games at the park, the lazy summer days at the ballpark excited about my next at bat, and most of all the many games of catch with my own father. Hours and hours of him throwing a football or a baseball, or shooting baskets with me in the driveway.
I am glad I remembered. I am glad for that part of my life. And now I can’t wait to get home from work tonight to have a game of catch with my son.
(Editor’s Note: Matt has a beautiful family — his wife, son ... who is learning that a “foul” is called in basketball and a “penalty” in football ... two daughters, Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. “Father Time” is published in alternating Wednesday editions of the Cleveland Daily Banner.)