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The Worst Rule Ever (and 9 reasons why)

November 13, 2014 3 comments

Some parents have a dreaded rule forbidding their kids to play ball in the house. In some ways it makes sense, but let me explain why “No playing ball in the house” is actually the worst rule ever.

1. It’s going to happen anyway. Sportscenter legend Dan Patrick has a catch phrase that goes “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him.” The same is true when you have sports-loving kid. They’re going to find ways to play ball in the house, and times to do it when you’re not looking. So instead of banning the fun, you may as well just try to set some reasonable guidelines, such as limiting it to a certain area of the home, not playing too rough, and not using balls that are too hard.

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Our indoor baseball field, complete with bases and a batter’s box.

2. Things are going to get broken anyway. I’m guessing that one of the motives behind parents legislating the “no playing ball in the house” rule is that they don’t want things to get broken. That’s fine in theory, but in reality, while I don’t have hard evidence that there isn’t a kid alive who has never broken anything, I’m going with the educated guess that most kids have broken stuff, regardless if indoor ball playing was involved or not.

3. Kids are going to get hurt anyway. While we never want catastrophic injuries, kids get hurt. Whether it’s purely accidental, such as falling down the stairs, or self-inflicted, such as trying to jump off the back of the couch and landing wrong, kids bang things and scrape things. I’d argue the potential for major injury is greater while playing outside as opposed to inside.

4. Playing outside is awesome, but not always possible or practical. We just had the clocks shift back an hour, which means that by the time we all get home from work and school, it’s already dark, and depending where you live, cold. Kids still need/want to be active. Plus, being able to play indoors allows things like the quick 5 minute game before dinner to happen, whereas if it was outside only, they’d have to start in with tying shoes, putting on jackets, etc. and it would be time to come in before they ever got a chance to actually play.

5. Playing ballgames in the house sparks creativity. While I wholeheartedly respect houses with built-in gymnasiums, let’s face the fact that they’re only a fantasy for those of us in the 99%. So instead, kids are limited to smaller areas and have to be more creative and think outside the box when it comes to rules and boundaries. Household items enter the mix, like when laundry baskets get placed on their side to become goals, or clothing items become bases. Pseudo-sports such as “hall ball” or “balloon tennis” (both made up by my brother and I when we were kids) become realities.

6. Speaking of creativity, there’s nothing like indoor games of Nerf basketball H.O.R.S.E. Those of us who are old enough remember that classic McDonalds commercial where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan play horse and create shots over the rafters, off the scoreboard, etc. With nerf basketball, shots like “off the wall, off the ceiling, swish” are tricky, but entirely possible.

7. Playing and watching can happen simultaneously. Having just turned four, two things are true for my son: he learns by observing, and he doesn’t always have the ability to just sit and watch the game. No problem. If he sees a cool play in a football game, he doesn’t have to wait until he goes outside to mimic it. Also, playing indoor sports games is a great way to kill time during halftimes and intermissions of games on TV. Sometimes worlds collide, such as when I get named the Alabama Bruins on a Saturday in which college football and hockey are both on the agenda, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Floor hockey. Because the set only came with one goal, the other goal (not pictured) is a similarly sized cardboard box.

8. Playing ball in the house is a natural dad/kid activity. Of course, as dads we can always find different ways to spend time and do things with our kids, but for a sports-loving family, why eliminate something that’s so squarely in our wheelhouse?

9. IT’S FUN! I’m sure some of the “no ball in the house” legislators reading this are thinking of other things that might be fun, but not things they would let their kids do. I have my list also, for example I don’t let my four year old drive my car or paint on the walls, despite how strong his desire to do so might be. But as long as there are a few proper guidelines, indoor sports is not one of those things. So don’t be that parent who enforces the worst rule ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go play a quick game of floor hockey with my son. The Alabama Bruins need a win to remain competitive in their division.

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Richard Durrett

June 18, 2014 2 comments

I woke up to terrible news this morning.  While my son was eating breakfast, I went to Facebook and saw the words “Richard Durrett” and “died suddenly.”  It was a post in our Dad Blogger group by Carter Gaddis of DadScribe, who like Richard, was in the baseball media, but gave up what many guys would consider a dream job so that he could be around his family more often.  After reading Carter’s post, I just couldn’t believe it.  Shock quickly led to sadness, and that’s where I’m still at now.

I first became aware of Richard via Ben and Skin, two Dallas natives who host an extremely successful sports talk show.  At the time, their show followed Mike and Mike in the Morning on the ESPN Dallas affiliate, and Richard was often a guest whose appearance was preceded by this simple but unmistakeable intro song.  Richard’s appearances seemed somewhat out of place on the show.  The Ben and Skin show works so well because the two guys are engaging personalities and friends, and their brand of sports talk comes with lots of laughs in the process.  Richard, on the other hand, was plain vanilla in his delivery.  He just flat out knew his stuff.  He knew anything going on in baseball from both the on-field and front office perspectives and was able to break it down so that the average fan could understand.  With that as my intro to Richard, I periodically checked in to what he was writing on ESPN.com, and would read things just because he wrote them.

All of the above being said, I’m not going to front like I’m the world’s biggest Richard Durrett fan.  If he had gotten a better job in another city I would have been happy for him, but would have quickly gotten over his absence in the Dallas sports scene (which isn’t even really my scene, just where I happen to live now) without much further thought.  This is as much about Richard being a dedicated 38 year old father, just like me, whose time ended way too soon.  Calvin Watkins, a fellow ESPN Dallas guy, wrote that Richard was dedicated to his family first and foremost, with unique ways of balancing family time with the demands of his job.  Without knowing Richard at all, that’s not the least bit surprising.

While on the way to work today, I heard Colin Cowherd, another guy whose show Richard appeared on often, give a heartfelt tribute to Richard, ending with the words “a kick to the gut” to describe how he felt.  Obviously for Richard’s family and close friends, this loss is much more devastating than that.  However, for the rest of us, especially dads with young kids, it’s exactly how it felt.  A class act of a guy and a father was taken far too soon in a way that hit a little too close to home for me today.

Rest in peace, Richard.

 

I Think I’ve Created A Monster…

June 3, 2014 Leave a comment

“Do you want to watch the Longhorns play baseball?”

The question took him by surprise, and made him pause to process the revelation that, in addition to football and basketball, his beloved Longhorns also play his favorite sport (at the moment), baseball. Once it all computed in his little three and a half year old brain, the excitement displayed itself on his little face and his answer was an emphatic “Yes!” It was a typical weekend late afternoon in our house a few weeks ago, maybe 5:30-6pm-ish. My son had yet again refused to nap, and so we were just entering Crankytime, the overtired zone he gets into on days when he doesn’t nap, and everything becomes a whine, a cry, and/or a tantrum. My goal was to try to buy a half hour so that we could respond to the “I’m hungry” whines by getting dinner ready. And the random Texas vs. TCU baseball game I found on TV did exactly that.

Longtime readers of the blog know I love sports and actively share them with my son. We love it all…the Boston teams of pro sports, college football and basketball (and apparently now baseball too), soccer, tennis, golf, the Olympics, and all else.  We play it all too, both indoors and out.  Every Friday during basketball season when I’d pick him up from school, his first question would be if we could go see the Panthers (the local high school team) play that night, something we did five times this past season. Upon waking up in the morning, a typical question of his is if the Red Sox won the night before.  He used to get excited about wearing his Dusty Crophopper t-shirt, but now it sits in the closet while he requests to wear his Tom Brady jersey or one of his Red Sox shirts.  I love that my son loves sports, but am wondering if I created a monster.

Part of it is my own stuff.  I don’t have many hobbies or interests outside of sports to pass on to him. Back in Boston I was an avid fan of the hip hop scene there, and that was my balance to sports. I still love the music, but I moved far away and can no longer be out at a show that ends at 2am and still be able to get to work and be functional at 9am. The part of my life in which I was a regularly active participant has ended.

I don’t have the same interests that some other guys do. I lost interest in video games somewhere during the transition from the Sega Genesis to the first Sony Playstation, whose controller had too many buttons for me to try to master. Even as a kid, I was never into DC or Marvel comics. I played with Legos as a kid, but don’t understand why they’re now in video games and movies. I only know of the existence of shows such as Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc, because they trend on twitter while I’m on there trying to get reactions to the game I’m watching, while also wondering why so many guys I know are live-tweeting about those rather than watching the game that I am.  And, at the risk of getting my dad blogger card removed by some of the other guys, I could care less about Star Wars, Star Trek, or anything else intergalactic.

So perhaps it’s only logical that as my son grows out of the “big things that GO!” phase, he gravitates toward sports as a follow to my lead. He does love music, and we have and will continue to cultivate that. I am sure he will get exposed to some of the other stuff by friends, some of whom are already Spider Man fanatics at age three.  If he decides he doesn’t like sports anymore, or only to a lesser degree, he will have my support. But yeah, as of right now, I’ve created a monster and I’m okay with that. He’s not a big scary destructive monster, but rather a fun loving sports fanatic monster.  Kind of like the Green one in Boston, who also wants to wear his Red Sox stuff every day.

 

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The Classics…

March 12, 2014 Leave a comment

Tonight was a special night in our house, where my son got exposed to two classics from my childhood.  Now that he’s a little older and has enough of an attention span to sit through a movie, my wife and I have been thinking of different movies for him to see.  We’ve done “Planes,” “Cars,” Toy Story,” and most recently tried “Finding Nemo” (which turned out to be a big mistake, that’s the scariest animated kids movie ever).  When my wife noticed that the classic animated Disney version of Robin Hood was on TV last week, she set the DVR to record, so that we could watch it with him whenever we wanted.  With the culmination of me being able to unexpectedly come home earlier than my typical Wednesday evening work schedule and a relatively simple plan for dinner that could be eaten in the living room, tonight became the night.  Overall, I think he liked it.  It took us needing to explain some context to him, for example why when Robin Hood and Little John were taking the gold away it was for good, but when the Sheriff took the gold from the people, it was for the greed of Prince John.  I’m not sure how much he understood, however as with the other movies, I’m sure we will watch it again and again and eventually he will learn the whole story.

After the movie was over, I decided to lighten up the mood and have a few moments of silliness before bath/bed time.  Since my son was an infant, I’ve done a thing with him where I’ve had him stand up while I hold his hands and use my hands to dance him as I sing “The Hockey Song” by Stompin Tom Connors, ala the Bruins mascot in this commercial.  As he’s gotten older, it’s become less of a thing, but tonight I tried it for the first time in a while.  RJ is currently on a basketball kick.  We’ve done two sessions of a basketball clinic for toddlers at the local rec center, and after seeing how much he loved that, I took him to five of the local high school’s basketball games.  So when he asked for a basketball song rather than the hockey song, I figured it was the perfect time to pull out the phone and bring up the classic Basketball song by Kurtis Blow on youtube., and the result was two words:  Instant. Classic.

Baseball

July 15, 2013 2 comments

I was watching a little of the home run derby tonight before my wife took RJ up to bed.  It was really fun watching his reactions to the monster shots.  First, he was just impressed they were hitting the ball “high in the sky”.  Then, wanted each batter to hit the trucks behind the centerfield wall.  Then he wanted the kids in the outfield shagging balls to make catches and said “maybe they can try again” when they didn’t catch one.  Then he saw David Ortiz and said “I want Big Papi to hit ” (I won’t lie, I did too).

Of course at his age, he’s taking my lead and is under my influence.  Growing up in the Boston area, we were all big baseball fans, and the only time you didn’t see a bunch of us in Red Sox hats was during little league season when we’d sometimes be wearing the hat of our little league team instead.  A typical reprimand by our teachers was “put those baseball cards away!”  One of my favorite TV shows was The Baseball Bunch.  A typical weekend was riding our bikes to our school and playing stickball on the concrete schoolyard, in direct violation of the “no playing ball, police take notice” signs.  We may have forgotten our homework on occasion but we usually knew who was pitching for the Sox that night.  Getting to go to a Sox game, which I was lucky enough to get to do fairly often, was the ultimate way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon with my dad. When the Sox got into the playoffs, we each had the battle with our parents about how many innings we could stay up to watch on a school night before we had to go to bed.

I’m revisiting my youth in contrast to how kids are today.  Baseball is just not as cool with kids as it used to be.  There are plenty of theories why, from the emergence of the faster paced NBA and NFL with which baseball can’t compete, to the idea that baseball shot itself in the foot by having too many night games on weekends and not enough marketing to the next generation.  I was recently listening to Colin Cowherd’s show on ESPN radio discussing this, and when Colin asked a caller who had a connection to EA Sports how many orders of magnitude their football video game outsold their baseball video game, the answer was that EA sports doesn’t even bother to make a baseball game anymore.  Ouch.  Then there are also the societal differences.  Where I grew up was a very safe area, but many kids don’t grow up where it’s safe, leading them to spend less outside time than they used to.

Despite all of this, we will sign RJ up for tee-ball/little league, stay Red Sox fans (despite being in Texas now) and take him to a few minor and major league games.  That’s about the best I can hope for.   I’ve given up any hope of either The (original) Baseball Bunch series coming out on DVD, or that a new, updated version of the show will ever make a comeback.  I don’t even know what companies still make baseball cards these days, but in my entire career working with kids I don’t even need a whole hand to count how many kids I’ve ever seen have any.  I’m pretty sure that going to the local park to play informal baseball or stickball won’t be the cool thing to do among his friends.  At this point I just hope that they’ll want to be outside doing SOMEthing, and that as a parent I’ll feel it’s safe enough to let him go.

Categories: fatherhood, sports

Winning and Losing

June 13, 2013 2 comments

The following conversation happened around 5:45 this morning just after my son woke up and I was changing his nighttime diaper:

Me: “RJ, the Bruins lost last night.”
Him: (disappointed tone) “But they scored!”
Me: “I know, but after you went to sleep the Blackhawks scored more”
Him: “I don’t want them to lose”
Me: “I know, I don’t either. But it’s okay, everyone loses sometime. They’ll win again another day.”

If my son grows up not liking sports, it will be fine, but it won’t be due to lack of exposure to them. With him being an October baby, I did lots of “doing the football hold while watching football,” and most of his earliest pictures are of him in various Patriots/Celtics/Bruins/Red Sox outfits. As he has grown up, we’ve watched pretty much every sport there is; the four major sports, soccer, golf, tennis, and the Olympics. Through it all, I don’t ever remember talking to him about winning and losing. We talk a lot about the scoring plays, so he knows all about touchdowns, goals, baskets, and hits. I’m sure that incidentally, winning and losing has come up, and more recently I have thought about telling him if the teams won or lost when he woke up, but I also wasn’t sure he really understands the concept.

I’m also not sure how much to emphasize it. As I wrote in one of my earliest post on this blog, I feel I have a healthier attitude about my teams losing than I used to, and I don’t want him to get to where I once was. I also will NOT be one of those “everyone gets a trophy” types. There’s a healthy balance in there somewhere.

A Basketball Milestone

March 8, 2013 1 comment

Any basketball-enthusiast child has probably shot baskets in the driveway or at the local park pretending to be his or her favorite player. (And for some of us, reaching adulthood hasn’t been a mandate to stop doing this). Last night, my two year old participated in this hoop junkie rite of passage.

A couple of months after his first birthday, I bought him a Lil’ Tikes basketball set. When we opened it, he could barely dunk the ball on the lowest hoop setting. Now, at almost two and a half and with lots of practice, the hoop has been raised a couple of notches and he is able to throw the ball in from a short distance rather than just dunking. When he makes it in we cheer and high five, and when he misses, apparently a lot of the time I say “aww, man”, which I didn’t realize I was doing until he started mimicking me. We have also started to share the ball a little, passing back and fourth and taking turns shooting. After a few minutes, he goes on to something else, like his firetruck or bus.

In parallel, we have also watched the Celtics a fair amount this season. Being away from Boston, I usually try to take advantage of times when the C’s are on national TV if I can. RJ doesn’t have nearly the attention span to follow a game, but he does so in spurts, and during these times I point out the key players to him..KG, Rondo,the truth, Green, Bass, etc. He seems to have taken a primary affinity to KG, and my only guess why is that it’s an easy two-letter nickname. I also think he likes “Green” (i.e. Jeff Green) because it not only refers to a person but also the color of the uniforms. It’s not the most basketball-sound reasoning for picking favorites, but at age two it makes sense.

So fast forward to last night when he and I were playing with the ball and hoop, and I happened to be wearing a Celtics t-shirt. Instinctively, without any cue from me at all or any past times of doing this, RJ exclaimed “I’m KG!!!”. I asked him who I was, and he said “you’re Green!”. We continued playing, passing the ball back and fourth to each other, shooting, and rebounding as Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green. The moment lasted only a few minutes, but I will remember it forever.