Start 'Em Young: How to turn your kids into diehard sports fans
As surely as a man longs for a son to carry the family name forth to future generations, he also desires for his progeny to cheer alongside him on the couch, at the ballpark, and in the sports bar. That one’s own flesh and blood might consider donning the colors and threads of the enemy? Unacceptable, of course, but certainly preferable to the little whipper-snapper taking in the big game with a glazed look of indifference.
Parental affronts like these cannot stand. Worry not, though, for the following (patent-pending) tips are guaranteed to brainwash your kids into loving your team(s).
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Yeah, but doesn’t it make me a bad [mom/dad] to force my kids to like anything, let alone a sports team?” The answer: No, no it does not. Think about it this way: Questionable ethics aside, once you substitute “indoctrinate” for “brainwash,” you’ll find yourself on firm footing if and when that pesky school psychologist calls you in for a surprise meeting.
Remember, parents: You are the most important person in your child’s life. Anything you say goes. So, let’s begin, shall we?
5. Control the wardrobe
Despite the modern-day proliferation of a certain everybody-gets-a-trophy-no-matter-what attitude, it remains your inalienable parental right to force your kids to wear whatever the hell you feel like. So, please, by all means, exploit that right. That said, be smart about it. If you try to put your kindergartner in a [Cardinals/Diamondbacks/Coyotes] jersey five days a week, people are going to start getting wise to you. Yes, because those teams are mostly terrible, but also, more crucially, because subverting a child’s mind needs to be handled with a degree of moderation and subtlety.
Carefully select children’s clothing that matches your team’s colors, thus flying stealth-mode under your spouse's radar while subliminally conditioning your young subject(s).
4. Abolish bedtime on gamedays
Back when I used to take my kids to the pediatrician, there were these charts on the wall listing the amount of sleep kids are supposed to get at certain ages. Something like 10 to 11 hours a night for children aged 5 to 12 years old. The hell? That was the primary reason I stopped taking them there — along with the doc’s constant advice to keep kids away from electrical outlets and lawnmowers. A guy hangs some fancy degrees on his wall, and all the sudden he’s better than me?
Look, there is simply no reason to make your child lie in bed accomplishing nothing when they could just as easily be supporting your team. Sleeping is overrated, and watching sports into the wee hours will not only provide your kids with a great education, but it will also forge a lasting bond.
Plus, a child is never too young to learn about the real world; how dragging at work the day after a late game is but one example of the inescapable and interminable slog of life. Get used to it, kid. You’re not gonna Benjamin Button your way out of this one.
3. Exempt games from all groundings.
When punishing your child, always add the qualifier, “Except when the such-and-such game is on.” Not only will this carrot take some of the sting off that stick, but you don’t really want to be the bad guy, do you? This technique allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds: No-nonsense and the “cool” parent.
Plus, your child will always associate your team with getting away with something. Really, is there any better feeling for a child than knowing they’re pulling one over on mom and dad? If you can exact discipline while simultaneously tricking your child into cheering for your squad, well , you’ve executed the perfect coup. (#BehavioralScience.)
2. Load your kids up on stadium junk food.
Sometimes, subversive tactics aren’t enough. For the more stubborn children, you’ll need to resort to flat-out bribery. See, stuffing your kid’s face with cotton candy, ice cream, and pizza will trigger his or her dopamine receptors, causing a near-irreversible association between the chemical high and the team on the field. It’s like Pavlov’s dogs, except with messier, less-intelligent subjects.
Don’t worry about those purported “health issues” that can arise. If Jay Cutler can play quarterback with diabetes, surely your kid can put on a replica jersey and scream at the TV with prediabetes. Besides, mankind is sure to invent a vaccine for that stuff in the next 15 years or so, anyway.
1. Name your child(ren) after your favorite team(s).
While most of these tips require actual parent effort, this one requires nothing of the sort. That is, unless you consider the eventual fallout. Deciding to name your kid Wrigley Fields or Krimson Tyde or Camden and Yardley won’t come without consequences.
I named my kids Addison (as in the street along which Wrigley Field sits) and Ryne (as in Sandberg, who was himself named after Yankees reliever Duren) in an effort to fit them with metaphorical cement shoes, and toss them into the cesspool of Cubs fandom. Nine years into this project, the plan has been executed with aplomb.
If you’ve already slipped up and given your kids meaningless names like Jaxon or Aiden, that doesn’t mean hope is lost. After all, that’s what the courts are for. This is America, and fixing mistakes is never further away than some paperwork and a nominal fee.
And yes, I get that many parents want their children to grow up and become semi-productive members of society. But when I’m yelling at the television 20 years from now, wondering whether that pain in my chest is the extra brat I inhaled earlier or something more nefarious, I’d prefer have an equally committed son or daughter there to dial 9–1–1.
In that respect, indoctrinating kids into the fraternity of die-hard fandom isn’t merely a way to enhance your life; it might just be a way of saving it.