It is said that some things skip a generation, and I think I’ve got the proof that it’s true. You see, I’ve never played a team sport in my life (outside of PE), and the last time my husband was on a team was the obligatory Little-League stint of his suburban boyhood (unless you count the highschool golf club.)
But somehow the two of us conceived a child obsessed with sports. Before our little one was even born, my husband announced that no child of his would play competitive sports at a young age. As an educator, he argued that it was developmentally unhealthy to teach children to focus on winning–putting too much pressure on them at an age where they should just be having fun.
Did you ever hear the expression, “We were great parents… before we had children”? While becoming a father didn’t change my husband’s mindset, having a son who thrived on competition did wear him down.
At two years old, we could get our little one to do just about anything by telling him not to do it. At three and four, he’d dress for preschool every morning in an attempt to “beat us” doing the same. In kindergarten, with no other outlet for his competitive drive, he took to harassing friends and cousins with his quick wit.
Although my husband continued to deny his son’s true nature, it soon became clear to me that this child was driven to compete–whether or not we exposed him to sports.
I began to press to involve this tenacious six-year old in some kind of team athletics. “He needs the physical outlet,” I said to his father. “And what exactly are we protecting him from? He’s already competitive!”
My husband eventually succumbed to enrolling our son in the local soccer league with the plan that we would avoid any other teams until he was much older. But as you might be able to guess–as soon as that kid got a taste of sports, he couldn’t get enough.
In the next season he begged to play t-ball, and in the following, basketball. We soon found ourselves on the sidelines of sporting events every season of the year, standing next to parents who seemed to know what to yell when their kid got up to bat.
Even our son’s grandmother was a savvy sports-parent, bellowing “SAFE!” from the bleachers whenever her grandson or his teammates made it to first–or even when they didn’t (a technique that was surprisingly effective on the calls of young umps.)
And just when I thought our lives couldn’t be more saturated with this alien world, our son learned to read. Once through the first set of chapter books in his classroom, our little reader discovered the library’s collection of books on sports. He began with the “how to” section, improving his understanding and skills with chapters on: how to dribble, how to hit a homer, how to pass and score a goal.
Soon after he discovered the sports section of the newspaper and then, Sports Illustrated for Kids. A whole new world opened to him then: the world of fame and glory–filled with millionaire players and winning teams.
When we visited his grandparents, he no longer begged to watch cartoons, he wanted to stay up on his grandmother’s lap and finish “watching the game.” He learned names like “Iverson” and “Schilling,” and when we returned to Vermont, he searched for everything he could get his hands on about these guys, researching all the greatest teams and players.
He soon traded in his Pokemon collection for basketball, football and baseball cards; spent hours organizing them, memorizing stats; spending every penny that came his way to get “just one more pack”–with the promise of getting a “good card.”
The following year he reached Sports Nirvana when his grandparents took us to a sports bar. I had hoped for that rare expensive dinner, but instead spent the evening munching on fried food while my son stared at suspended television sets beside groups of beer-guzzling men hollering at the screens.
Once exposed to the wide world of television sports, my son dreamed of owning a satellite dish of his own. He was devastated when the summer Olympics came around and he had no way to watch them. To compensate, he picked up an old video at the library, and proceeded to view every minute of the ’84 games in Munich. His friends refused to join him.
In just over a couple of years, our own child had transformed into one of those kids who grows up in a sports fanatic’s home. What happened, I wondered?
My husband and I love arts and literature, film and food. Even when we had cable before the kids, we never watched sports. Had this all been my fault for encouraging his first sports experience with the soccer team? I began to realize that this sports beast had a life of its own, and my husband and I had lost all control.
When the Red Sox made it to the World Series, our son began speaking a language that only he and his grandmother understood. Though we lived in “Sox Territory,” the Series meant little to my husband and me–and the world to his mother, a native New Englander.
As the Series heated up, my email box filled with messages that I was expected to relay from my mother-in-law to my son. As a writer I was fascinated by the phrases and references that made no sense to me…while my son hung on every word.
It was a bad two nights in the Bronx. But now that that the Sox are back in Beantown, there’s new life. The Red Sox nation must bring forth a mighty effort to cheer on their “idiots.”. The time is now to keep the faith. Tonight must bring victory or the dark forces of evil from New York will have their way.
Stay the course.
This Yankee/Red Sox series is getting to me. I thought I was used to being tortured every October, but I guess age is catching up. I’m either going to have a heart attack from anxiety and tension or keel over from lack of sleep. As you know by now, the Sox pulled it out in the 14th inning. It was the longest post season game ever. Over five hours. So the Red Sox nation lives to fight another day.Tonight it’s in the Bronx. The home turf of the evil empire. But, and it is a large but, Schilling is on the mound for the Beantowners. Keep your fingers crossed that his ankle holds up.
Keep on believing.
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 2004 21:27:50 -0400
Subject: THEY DID IT!!!
THE RED SOX NATION CELEBRATES! HISTORY IS MADE…..THE RED SOX DEFEAT THE YANKEES AFTER OVERCOMING A THREE GAME TO NOTHING DEFICIT! DAMON HITS A GRAND SLAM IN THE SECOND AND HOMERED AGAIN LATER ON. THEY NEVER LOOKED BACK, IT WAS A THING OF BEAUTY. I MUST GO TO BED NOW.
Suddenly I understood where it had all gone wrong. It wasn’t the soccer team or the baseball cards or even the sports bar that compromised my flesh and blood, it was his DNA! And there was absolutely nothing my husband and I could have done to prevent this current of passion. There was a line that stretched from one generation to another, somehow skipping over the two us.
There was no way we could have known of this inheritance the morning we brought our baby from the hospital in that sweet yellow bunting. He seemed so innocent then, so gentle, needing protection. But it was all different now. We had given birth to a sports fanatic, even without television or beer in our refrigerator.
The morning after the final game of the Series, our fanatic ran down the stairs to catch the last of the Sox messages, this one on our answering machine. It was his grandmother again–his sports buddy–the one from whom he had apparently inherited this passion.
Her voice sounded utterly exhausted and elated at the same time, like someone who’d had a sleepless night attending the birth of a child.
“Hello, is my grandson awake ?
Is anybody awake?
Does anybody know the Red Sox Nation News?
…A CLEAN SWEEP
…THE CURSE IS BROKEN!!!!!!”
Kelly Salasin, 2005