Sports, Society and Kids

If you’ve read my blog for more than a few months you know that there are few things I love more than sports. My wife and kids being one of them. And actually, that might be it.

As my eldest, Lukas, has gotten older he’s become more and more interested in everything sports. He loves playing competitive basketball (and actually was born with a decent shot), wants to get back into soccer, likes to toss the football, and he and I have gotten into some intense Wiffle ball games in the backyard. Not to mention his “imaginary” football, basketball and baseball tournaments he plays out in the front or backyard of our house. Funny how something as silly as “imaginary” sports and tournament brackets are hereditary. Without going too far off the rabbit trail, for five to six years – when I was a kid – I had an imaginary baseball league with imaginary players (and some of my friends, both real and stuffed), stat sheets, transaction reports, a postseason and more. If I find both the paperwork and courage to post them, I’ll definitely link them to this post.

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Thanks to my too-much-nonsense-knowledge of most sports, and his subscription to SI for Kids, he’s also gotten to know the players, teams and positions they play for, which makes me proud when he can look at a Carolina Panther Madden ’15 toy at McDonald’s and assume that the nondescript toy represents reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Keuchly.

This year I trained him in the nuances of fantasy football. He did multiple mock drafts, learned that kickers are always taken last, and don’t snag a defense before the next-to-last round, unless it’s one of the top five and you’ve already taken care of your core roster.

Now that the season is starting I’m trying to train him on the fact that nobody is going to trade Trent Richardson for Calvin Johnson. Sorry buddy!

And now that he’s more acute in following the NFL and certain players, I’ve had to introduce him to the reality of football, both on and especially off the field. There are some dumb dudes out there (SEE: Wes Welker, LeGarrette Blount and Le’Veon Bell) and there are some bad dudes out there (SEE: Ray Rice).

Which sucks.

These days drugs and abuse suspensions are mixed in with injury reports and box scores.

I’ve had to talk to him about the drugs that players like to sneak into their body, in hopes of making them indestructible, to “recreational” drugs that are frowned upon in football, but yet society seems to celebrate the use of it. (Have you watched a movie lately? Smoking pot has become the norm, it’s either used in a very amusing way, or used as a way for people to just “hang out”. It’s legal in Washington State, so it can’t be that bad right?)

And now Ray Rice.

Thankfully in fantasy land I told him to stay away from Rice. He’s old and will miss the first two games. He hasn’t asked too many questions – yet, but now I’ll have to explain to him that a player he once liked as a running back is no longer in the league because he decided to knock out his at-the-time, soon-to-be wife, and drag her limp body out of an elevator. The dude didn’t even have an “Oh crap!” moment after KO’ing her. He just stood over her, then dragged her out of the elevator.

As it always has, sport seems to mirror society, or in some cases, like of Brooklyn Dodger great, Jackie Robinson, changes society.

We introduced him to Robinson by watching 42 together, telling him if he had any questions, please ask. It was weird for him to see a time when blacks weren’t allowed to play sports, thankfully times have changed for the better, but unfortunately we still have to hear about ex-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, and most recently Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson, making stupid comments about race. C’mon now! Just treat everyone the same, it’s pretty easy. Dad loves Peyton Manning because he’s fun to watch, he loves Boyz II Men because he loves their voices, he married your mom because we love each other and have a great time together, not because Manning is white, Boyz II Men are black and your mom is Brazilian … okay, maybe the latter.

Recently Lukas started asking questions about Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player, mostly because Sam’s every move has been all over the news. They were all football related questions, thankfully, because I’m not ready to explain sexuality with him. And not just Michael Sam’s sexuality, but sexuality overall.

His good buddy talked about all the girlfriends he had in third grade – THIRD GRADE! – and Lukas just laughed it off saying he doesn’t ever want to have a girlfriend. His other buddy asked him if he’d rather kiss a girl or a boy. Lukas answered correctly by saying, “None!” It wasn’t until the fifth grade that I had my first crush, in eighth grade my buddies and I made the comment, “I’m glad I don’t have a girlfriend. Then we’d have to do what they want to do.” This was after we lost our lunch buddy to a girl. And it wasn’t until my senior year in high school that I actually kissed and dated a girl. Things turned out alright – I think.

I guess I should look at these opportunities as a way to open conversation with my son about drugs, abuse and sexuality. Sure Lukas is entering the double-digits in his age (he’ll be 10 in mid-October), and his eyes will be open to things like drugs, alcohol, abuse, and dare I say, girls and sex?! NO! But I wanted to keep my son pure and innocent for as long as possible, unfortunately the world seems to be moving too fast for me.

The questions about sexuality – when they come – may be more difficult to answer, but the answer about Ray Rice is much, much easier.

Remember never, ever hit a girl. And nothing good ever happens after 1am.

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