I had kids for lots of reasons. Tom had kids for just one: to turn them into tiny fans of the sports teams that he roots for.
It’s a full time job. I observe it all as an outsider, but from where I sit, it looks like exhausting work, pumping a five-year old’s brains full of all the useless trivia, stats, rules, and lore associated with his dad’s favorite sports teams. Overhearing Tom’s explanation of offsides this morning was enough to fry my brain, and I’m 34. Inexplicably, Finn, who has little patience for anything, is like a dry sponge when it comes to this sort of knowledge. So Tom’s finally got what he’s wanted his entire life: a willing and captive audience.
The problem is, all that info is an awful lot for a five-year old to process. Besides Premier League and MLS soccer, Finn hears a lot about football (college and pro), the NBA, Tar Heels basketball, and the Detroit Red Wings and whoever they are playing that week. Understandably, Finn digests the info, and then regurgitates it later, half-baked. Which is why I expect that in about a week or so, I will overhear him explaining offsides authoritatively to a friend, and it will sound something like this: “Offsides is when you stand in front of the goalie, and you are first in line and no one is in front of you…and then…you can kick the goalie.”
I have objected to Tom about his unhealthy obsession, many times. So now he just waits until I’m out of the room to do the indoctrinating. So it was that this morning, I overheard him and Finn, in front of the computer, deep in conversation:
Tom: “See, Finn…look…this is a wolverine. It’s a small but highly ferocious animal. Watch this video! It’s taking away food from two WOLVES!! See how tough he is??”
Finn: “Yes, Daddy.”
Tom: “And this, Finn–this is a picture of a buckeye. It’s, well…it’s a nut. Like a peanut or a cashew. So a wolverine is much better than a buckeye, see?”
Or last week, while making toast in the kitchen:
Finn: “Daddy, I can root for whatever team I want, right?”
Tom: “Well, yes, Finn. Except for certain teams. Like Chelsea. You can’t root for Chelsea. Or Tottenham. Or the Lakers. Or Notre Dame. And you probably don’t want to root for the Yankees, or the Dallas Cowboys, or the Sounders. And we never want to root for the Buckeyes, because their fans are just bad people. (Pause). Well, except for Renner’s daddy, he’s probably not a bad person. (Pause). You shouldn’t tell Renner his daddy is a bad person.”
Finn: “Ok Daddy.”
The time spent on this sort of education is especially galling because I feel that Tom’s time would be better spent instilling in his son the true virtues associated with sports, like, say, sportsmanship. Finn came home today from soccer practice, and said his team won 2-1. When I dug deeper, it turned out that his team had lost 2-1. When Tom asked him about the factual inconsistency, Finn blithely responded that the other team’s second goal didn’t count because he didn’t see it happen. Now, I’m all for teaching a kid why Tim Tebow sucks, but when your kid is saying the other team’s goals don’t count if the goals happen while his back is turned, it would appear that there are more urgent lessons to be taught.
So now it’s Super Bowl Sunday, and Tom’s beloved Patriots are playing (Tom Brady: Michigan alum). Who knows what lessons the day will bring?