Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Apparently, the transition time is here. We are moving out from the Baseball season and into football. For my international readers, I’m talking about the proverbial “American Football” that really isn’t played with feet at all, as opposed to real football that we call “soccer” that is played with the feet. But if we called football football then what would we call football?
The strange thing is that you understood that question.
Sports holds a sacred place in the culture of American and the hearts of her people. I don’t get it.
I mean, actually I do. A friend of mine explained it in a manner that makes perfect sense of the sports fanaticism of our nation. It’s a bonding experience traditionally between father and son. Today, that definition is expanding as fathers are becoming more inclusive with their daughters than when I was a child, and more women are becoming sports fanatics as well.
I have friends who echo my sentiment, namely that they don’t follow sports but enjoy going out to the games. The difference between watching sports on television and going to a game is the social aspect. Spending time watching the game, talking with friends and making new ones, eating really greasy gross disgusting stadium hotdogs and getting sick from it are all part of a larger experience that you cannot duplicate in a home. Well, except the hotdog part. Okay, admittedly you can have sports parties, as often people do with the Superbowl, but it’s rare to get a large and animated crowd like you do at a stadium. Of course, in home parties also don’t cost so much that you’re forced to sell your children for medical experimentation. I mean, not that you can’t anyway. I know parents that would enjoy less chaotic houses and a sports car.
But, on a serious note, I truly believe this is where the passion for sports has its roots. Parents who include children in their passion for the sport will forge a connection that can last a lifetime. I have a friend whose father would take her to hockey games, and it’s still a strong bond between her and her father, a common interest that binds them together. That’s a beautiful thing.
It’s hard to tell if my father was a sports fan or not. He used to brag about his prowess on the football field when he played for his high school team the Batavia Bulldogs, but his sports enthusiasm was limited to laying on the couch quietly watching a football game with a beer in his hand. It’s not that I couldn’t sit and watch football with him, but there was really no point. He never explained anything with me, and because of his enormous dislike of noise, there were no celebrations. There certainly is no bonding going on if all you can do is sit quietly so you don’t bother your father while he watches a game.
When you’re a child, there is no greater man in the world than your dad (or greater woman in the world than your mother). Your parents can do anything, and my dad can certainly beat up your dad. This form of hero-worship is easy to understand. Since before I could remember, it was my mother who provided the food for me, and my father who protected me and fixed everything around the home. These days, fortunately, the line between duties is becoming fuzzier, so it might be the dad who cooks (at least sometimes) or the mom who fixes the furnace, but the concept is the same. These super-heroes are the ones who feed, clothe, protect, and warm you in the winter and cool you in the summer.
But these pedestal positions don’t last forever. As you grow older, you begin to understand how these things work. You eventually help with chores to keep up the house or do the cooking, and you learn about jobs and even get one for yourself. Those simple things that made your parents like demigods become your own tasks, and your parents seem less omnipotent. It’s in those short years that children worship their parents that the opportunity to forge these lifelong bonds are strongest. It’s raising children to root for your team, and to teach them how to catch and throw and kick that is one of the strongest possibilities to create a common bond for when the children do learn how the world works.
And it doesn’t have to be sports. In the brief time that I was married, I tried to forge a new bond with what I thought would be my stepchildren through games and gaming. I was hoping they would catch the love for these games as I did, but I was also working with a handicap. Being that they were older, and still had a bitter father who no doubt belittled me every time they talked about gaming, I didn’t have much chance. Just like taking a piece of iron to forge a new sword, it’s rough going in the beginning, and it takes considerable time, time my now ex-wife never gave me since we were married for less than two years before asking for a divorce, before the iron even gives the semblance of a sword. Still, I sometimes wonder if my efforts could have been successful, given the time I needed.