The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Tight Ends, Wide Receivers & Me

And so it begins. I guess we knew, or at least suspected this day was coming when we found out we were going to have a son. After all, chances are he’d be a proto-hetero (since orientation, I’ve been told, isn’t established until around two or three), and most heterosexual guys I know seem to have at least some interest in sports. (Some gay guys too. Not all of us break out in hives at the thought of having to perform athletically, I guess.) And the way Parker love to run and climb, etc., has lead both the hubby and I to think that he’ll end up playing some kind of sport at some point.

Now i’m wondering if it’s going to be sooner than later. See, Parker’s daycare takes a rather Montessori approach to learning, in which the teachers ask the kids what they want to learn about, and then taking off from there. It’s led to some interesting moments lately, like Parker telling us about chlorophyll and its role in the turning of the leaves in the fall. That was impressive. But nothing prepared me for the day he came home talking about football.

That’s right. I said football.

See, Parker’s class is mostly boys, and at least few of them are nascent football fans. They probably picked it up from their dads. In our house, on the other hand, we don’t even have the sports channels programmed into our favorites on DirectTV. (My niece came to visit once when Parker was a baby, during March Madness, and was dismayed to find we didn’t have any of the sports channels. We programmed them into our favorites just for her, and later deleted them.) My guess is that when the teacher asked “What do you want to learn about today?” one of the boys said “Football!” and that brought us to where we are now.

Parker came home on Friday talking about football. The teacher’s report said they learned about football and read an article about “santana moss.” The hubby and I immediately assumed that meant they learned about some kind of spanish moss. You know, like “Oh, they learned about football and gardening. How well rounded!” Not so. They meant Santana Moss, the wide receiver for the Washington Redskins, and the article was this one from the sports section of the Washington Post. I didn’t need to read the article because Parker relayed to me that Moss was hurt and wouldn’t be able to play against the Cowboys. Somewhere in there he also told me how many points a touchdown is worth.

Today he comes home with more information about the game including the functions of the center and quarterback. In the case of the latter he even assumed the position to show me just how the center “snaps” the ball to the quarterback.

If this keeps up, by the end of the Parker is going to know more about the hubby and I combined. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to a football game. For six years (which is another story), I went to a university with one of the biggest football traditions in the country. I mean big. The stadium was in the center of the campus. That meant if you weren’t going to the game, you got far away from the campus and even left town, because the whole place turned into a parking lot. Still, I only managed to attend two games. One I went to out of curiosity, since I got a ticket in the student lottery. The second I went because I happened to be sitting at a table for the Young Democrats during the 1992 campaign. Just before the game, a woman came up and said she was so proud to see us out there that she wanted me and my fellow table sitter to have two extra tickets she was holding. So, I went to my second, and last, football game.

Or so I thought. We may end up sitting in the stands yet. Though I think I’d encourage Parker towards another sport besides football, because I can’t imagine watching him get tackled. Maybe a nice indoor sport that doesn’t involve the hubby and me shivering in the stands. (Swim team, maybe?) Of course, whatever he ends up doing sports-wise, if anything, he’ll do with out support. If I have to learn the rules of football, basketball, etc. so be it.

And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Parenting has already led me out of many of my old comfort zones. It may also mean shedding my lifelong dread of all things sports related. Like a lot of athletically inept gay boys now grown up, I have surprisingly fresh memories sense of doom brought on by being forced to compete in an arena where I knew I didn’t have the skills and where things were bound to end with grand finale humiliation and heckling. Of course, that was after the ordeal of being the last pick for the teams in that day’s torture and before encore in the locker room.

Put it altogether and you get what I witnessed years ago when a gay group I was part of tried to participate in a gay softball league (there are gay men who didn’t have the experience above because they were successful athletes in school, and may well have snapped a towel or two at the rest of who were secretly lusting after them). You get grown men who, upon finding themselves standing at home plate are mentally and emotionally regressed back to the 8th grade. Myself included.

And chances are, the first time Parker asks me to throw a ball with him I’ll be transferred back to my 8th grade self, because I’m sure that my throwing hasn’t improved since then. I guess I’ll have to get over it. Especially if it means accepting my son for who he is, despite the fact that I didn’t get that when I was growing up. Or, better yet, because of it.

9 Comments

  1. I feel you. This is the time of year when the couch, and the TV, belong to my husband on Sunday afternoons. I just hang in there for February, when it will all be over.

    Also–I would be happy to teach Parker some UGA fight songs. Heh heh heh. 🙂

  2. I don’t even have live TV for my son to watch. But, given his proclivity for banging into things, fueled no doubt by the sensory issues related to his autism, I suspect that he may end up as a defensive football player. That or a professional wrestler.

  3. You need to find a nearby lesbian mom to teach Parker how to throw a ball. It takes a (queer) village.

    Having said that, I’m really rather dreadful at softball myself (and most other sports involving balls, come to think of it. Hmm. . . .) I have played a number of other sports, though. I’d encourage you and Parker to explore both team and individual sports, as both build different skills and may appeal to different personalities. You never know what’s going to click for any given child. Some sports, like rock climbing, also tend to attract a more lefty, crunchy crowd, which might make it more tolerable for you to attend than a football game. Find a nice indoor climbing gym so you can stay warm while you watch.

  4. Gabriel just started in a soccer league, I highly recommend it. They run around for an hour, have a fabulous time, and no one cares about the score. He comes home nice and tired and doesn’t climb on the furniture quite a much for the rest of the day.

    On another topice– WOO HOO we took back the House!! I have been thinking about you and the ED gang over the last few weeks. I hope you are all doing well and basking in the victory for a bit. Law school is a grind, but I’m almost half-way there.

  5. I loved your article. Your son will make you both very proud. I am a gay man who played football in HS and rugby in college not too long ago. (I’m a young 32) It will teach teamwork, and values that will help him through the rest of his life. I wish you best of luck, and I hope that my son will follow in my athletic footsteps, but for now, my partner and I can’t wait for him too take his first steps!!!

  6. “If I have to learn the rules of football, basketball, etc. so be it.”

    “The first time Parker asks me to throw a ball with him I’ll be transferred back to my 8th grade”

    Good for you! I say take your fears, grab them by the ankles and drag them kicking and screaming behind you. If you don’t you’re liable to pass your self doubts (about sports) on to Parker.

    One of the things that make children so special, and there are many. Is, as we watch them grow and learn we are also growing and learning ourselves. Raising a child forces you to think of things differently.
    During a child’s growth and development the parent has two options.

    1. Accept and feed the open mindedness and desire for exploration into new things, or…

    2. Stifle the child’s growth by forcing the child to live by and accept the the parent’s views, way of life and opinions.

    T: You and I are all to familiar with number 2 and understand the long term damage it can do.

    I’m so glad you chose number 1 for Parker

  7. I don’t think most young kids are even allowed to play tackle football anymore — too many liability issues. Your boy will end up playing soccer instead, at least until he enters junior high.

  8. Do they teach how many people are permanently injured and killed playing football? A dirty little secret you might want to consider. Some sports teach cooperation, others teach violence. Lets see how much hate mail the truth attracts… Good luck.

  9. I completely freaked out when my son told me three years ago he wanted to play football in jr. high. I had all these visions of him getting wiped out by kids larger than him. Now I’m your typical sports-loving, football-Sunday lesbian (and so is my wife), so while I was scared at the thought of him getting hurt, I also knew that we would have something to bond over.

    That level of rationality is after putting him in a soccer league, watching him trip over his own feet and falling all over the place, him taking headers into blackberry bushes because he wanted to “try a new trick on his mountain bike”, and spending tons of money of boxes of band-aids from Costco, all just for him.

    Even though I’m in to sports, I thought since I was a lesbian, that I wouldn’t be able to adequately be there for him in the way that a boy needs (in his case, anyeay) to help develop his sports/athletic interest and prowess. Now in 9th grade, he plays football, basketball, wrestling and track – and I try to make it to every event.

    Parker will be fine – you don’t have to be an expert on sports, just be there for him. There will be tons of moms on the sideline who will be learning right along with you. Heck, I can’t even throw a spiral – my 16 year old daughter can. 🙂

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