Trial & Error- Tips & Advice For New Dads – Raising a Loyal Sports Fan
I live in enemy territory. As a fan of the University of Oklahoma I experience the full brunt of Central Texas' hatred of the Crimson & Cream to the north. If there's one thing that brings every university in the Lone Star State together is a hatred of the Sooners.
In addition to the ridicule and scorn to which I'm subjected, my two boys have also felt the wrath. Every member of my extended family seems to think we don't have access to OU gear since we live in Texas. There's this thing called the internet that means we don't have to actually be IN Oklahoma to purchase OU clothing, but that memo hasn't hit my family yet. As a result of this influx of OU memorabilia, the boys (and myself) are known from time to time to wear OU colors. Every teacher/adult has the same reaction to seeing my boys in the Crimson & Cream, saying, "It's borderline child abuse to put your kids in those clothes". Ha Ha.
What happens when the pressure of friends and teachers becomes too much and begins to brainwash my children? They turn. In the weeks & months following the national championship for the Longhorns my son came home giving me the "hook 'em" sign. He went to bed without dessert that night. As it turns out, Ramonce Taylor came to their daycare as a "celebrity" guest and taught them that vile hand signal. Luckily for me, Taylor's fall allowed me the opportunity to get him back over to "my" side. Like any child, he's rebelling in his pre-teen years and is now rooting for Wisconsin. That's fine. Anybody NOT in the Big 12 or a traditional rival is within the limits of good taste.
My younger son is a different story. Whereas my older son, Tyler, would root & cheer for a team just to be obnoxious, my younger son, Logan, is truly a fan of a different school... and it scares me. Thanks to a certain someone named Robert Griffin III, in Central Texas we're seeing an ever-so-slight shift in loyalties. As a four-year old my son saw RG3 win the Heisman, the Baylor men's basketball team make it to the Elite 8, the women's team win it all, and he saw his ol' man working for the baseball team that won 24 games in a row. It was a great year for Baylor athletics, and as a result my son is becoming a genuine Baylor fan. As a matter of fact he told me I should move back to Oklahoma with my mom since I'm an OU fan. Brutal, huh?
What you need to compete with school, friends & genuine interest in a team other than the "accepted" team in the house in a Three-Prong Approach:
1. Control the remote- This is something my father did extremely well. I grew up watching "MASH", "The Andy Griffith Show" and "COPS". There was never a chance of watching anything else when those shows were airing. You have to make sure your weekends are filled forcing your child's eyeballs staring directly at the TV. Make them watch your team every weekend, but make sure their eyes don't witness too many losses. That could make this plan backfire. Make sure there isn't overkill on this because you could burn your kid out and they could rebel against sports in general. Where are you left when that happens?
2. Control the Clothes- I'm not saying you need to openly burn clothes of opposing teams, but if your relatives & friends don't respect your allegiances (or do it to mess with your head) it might be time for guerrilla warfare. It's amazing how often socks disappear from a load of laundry. It's also amazing (in my house, at least) how often rival sports team shirts go missing. No one will ever know what happened to that Longhorns shirt my mother-in-law gave my younger son. No one will ever know because the outside trash (underneath left-over fish) doesn't talk. You're doing it for your child's future. They'll thank you later.
3. Their First Time- This is a very important step that I may have screwed up by jumping the gun a bit. We took the family to an OU football game a few seasons back. My older son was 7, and my younger son was 2. The 7-year old got a new-found appreciation of what OU football is really about. He loved the game day atmosphere, and he fell in love with the team (and the cheerleaders). As for Logan, he slept until halftime. At halftime the marching band woke him up. Five minutes into the 2nd half we exited the building with a cranky baby. That's not exactly leaving a mark. Since that day he's been to two Baylor football games, several Baylor men's basketball games and two Baylor baseball games. To make it even worse, one of those Baylor baseball games was against OU... and OU lost!! I took him to his first OU game too early. He doesn't remember a thing. He may be a lost cause.
Each step is crucially important if you want to prevent a divided house during football season. You're the dad. You can yell. You can punish. You can yell some more. But in the end, they'll decide for themselves. All you can do is nudge (push) them in the right direction, and hope to God they don't become an Aggie... or a Longhorn... or a Bear... or a Cornhusker... or a COWBOY!!