It was a beautiful summer day. The sun was out. Kids were laughing. Everyone was in a good mood. The instructor then asked what I hoped to get out of the lessons.
As he said this my daughter, Maddo, was clinging to me in a combination of both excitement and fear as I held her in the pool for the first time. She splashed my face.
“Well,” I replied. “How about Gold Medals in the 2028 Olympics?”
And thus began the experience of our daughters learning how to swim, and my entry into the world of being a Sports Dad.
There’s no point in denying it: Men like sports. Sure, there are the occasional über-liberal, touchy-feely guys that say they don’t like, or worse, don’t care about sports. I live in Oakland, and I know that most of those types happen to live not far from me in Berkeley. For some reason, they also happen to ride bikes. Not for the sporting aspect, but because they really think that riding a bike is a political act that makes them better than me, who is drives a gigantic Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab truck with an Earth-destroying V-8, 5.7-liter Hemi engine. I hate those people, by the way.
But, back to sports…
I, like most men, love sports. Some of the greatest moments of my life have involved sports. Watching Gus Williams toss the rock into the rafters when the Seattle SuperSonics beat the Washington Bullets for the 1979 NBA Championship, then going outside to shoot hoops with my brother, is one of the happiest memories of my childhood. I started at left tackle for my football team my senior year in high school, and we went 2-7 [Which is what you get when you have 180-pound dude protecting your quarterback’s blind side] but I loved every minute I put the pads on. I burst out in tears of happiness in my parents’ living room when My Beloved Seattle Mariners clinched their first-ever trip to the Major League playoffs in 1995.
And when I knew I was going to become a dad, I immediately had visions of playing sports with my sons. I pictured taking my son out to the park to shoot hoops, toss the football around and teaching him how to throw a four-seam fastball, a 12-6 curveball, and a change up. I saw him years down the road, leading his teams to high school championships and, with hard work and luck, college scholarships. A guy can dream, right.
And then my wife and I had a daughter. And almost two years later, we had a second girl. The Heisman Trophy, NBA Finals and a possible baseballTriple Crown would not be happening for my kids.
Thus, the swimming lessons for our girls. We started with Maddo last summer, and sent her out as a four-year-old for a second round into the pool this year. Our younger one, Little Sis, got her first taste of swimming lessons just this month. And since she isn’t yet three, she spent most of her time in the pool wandering away from her 16-year-old instructor and chasing down rubber rings instead of working on her kicks or jumping off the pool’s edge into her teacher’s arms. I wondered out loud if Missy Franklin had that kind of attention span when she was first learning to float in the water.
My wife is already thinking about more swimming lessons for our girls next year, when Maddo will be five and little sis will be closing in on four. Will they stick with the pool? I have no idea. Like with 99.99% of all kids, they switch their focus on things faster than the potential speed of the proposed Hyperloop. This year may be swimming, next year, they might be into competitive double-dutch rope jumping. Down the road, it could be basketball, volleyball, fastpitch softball or [God forbid] even soccer.
But football? That’s not going to happen. I hate to say it, but it’s true. Nobody wants to see girls play football.
Yes, there is the occasional girl who runs out and kicks a field goal for her high school team. And then there are cases like this girl, who is challenging a ban on girls playing football for her Ohio school team. The American Civil Liberties Union is even on the case, which means there will be even more histrionics about “freedom” in this case than there need to be. And there will be plenty of those.
Nobody wants to see girls play football for the same reason nobody in their right mind wants to see Rihanna back together with Chris Brown. The thought a girl or woman taking a beating at the hand, or shoulder pad, or even worse, helmet of a boy or man, who most likely outweighs her by 30 pounds or more is reprehensible. I’d rather my girls face a 90-plus mile-an-hour softball with only their batting helmets for protection than have them covered in TWICE the armor that Peyton Manning wears and then get drilled by a free safety while running a sideline-out passing pattern.
We might be moving forward as a country in many regards, I don’t see things changing in the broader society on girls playing football. Hell, football is violent enough that Robert Griffin III’s mom almost didn’t let him play football. Does anyone really think America wants to see its daughters getting pancaked on a botched read-option play?
Not I, and I accept that.
Now, I might not have a son who will throw the winning touchdown pass at the homecoming game, but I do have two little girls who might eventually swim, run a fastbreak, spike a volleyball upon an opponent’s head or even throw a fastpitch no-hitter one day. I’ll have to revel in those sports victories in the years to come.
Besides, my daughters already know the best way for them to participate in a football game is at daddy’s side, on the sofa, in front of our 50-inch TV.