I’m not a sports fan. Never played, never really cared.
But my father did. My serious, hard-working, man-of-few-words Dad was a major sports fan. Tennis, baseball, basketball, but most of all, football. He grabbed the daily sports pages to read on the train to work every morning at 6:45am. He participated in the office football pool for over 25 years, and once won the top prize of $700. He watched game previews, games, game recaps. When we got our first VCR, Mom and I complained about how he hogged it to record games he wouldn’t have time to watch till after he saw the news highlights. When cable hit the scene and he discovered an entire channel devoted to sports? ESPN became the background noise of my childhood.
Growing up, Dad and I didn’t talk much, but it didn’t matter. We were close in that easy way fathers and daughters can be. He was the only one who quieted my tendency to narrate every action and feeling, babbling endlessly about life. He showed me how to enjoy togetherness without having to talk about it.
And so, we’d watch sports. We’d cheer on Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. We’d chuckle at Bjorn Borg’s headband and John McEnroe’s tantrums and Martina Navratalova’s grunts. We’d argue over my Dad’s tendency to prefer winning teams. Seriously, Dad? The Celtics, the Yankees and the Cowboys? We’d listen to Howard Cosell’s blather and smile at “The Juice” and appreciate his friendly sports commentary. (People couldn’t understand why the whole OJ murder thing upset me so much; it was because he was part of some happy childhood memories.)
We watched the Super Bowl every year. And the Olympics, and Wimbledon, and the NBA Finals, and the World Series and the America’s Cup.
I never loved sports. But I loved my Dad. Those were good times.
Recalling those weekends reminds me how important it is to share our passions with our kids…and to be ourselves. They don’t need idealized, self-actualized, optimized, sanitized versions of PERFECT PARENTS. They need us.
Happy Super Bowl Sunday, Dad. I’ll be thinking about you.
Check out this Joe Montana-Jerry Rice “best pass combo” video! Several of those passes made Dad and me leap off the couch and scream. But if your kid isn’t as receptive to an afternoon of TV sports, over at Parent Hacks we’ve got ideas for how to keep the kids happy while you watch football.
Also: I’m pretty passionate about the importance of one’s passions.